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Smartpen merges doodling with serious note-taking

Jan. 21, 2010

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Courtesy Photo
The information written with the Smartpen can be uploaded onto a person's personal computer along with the audio recorded at the time of the writing.

By John Elizondo
Reporter

There is a new and improved note-taking utensil that could benefit all Baylor students.

Livescribe has been selling the Smartpen since March 2008, but it just recently arrived one store in Waco: the Best Buy at 4627 S. Jack Kultgen Expressway.

"The Smartpen is the perfect study tool for the college student," Best Buy sales associate Ivan Olvera said. "We have sold 45 to 50 Smartpens since we began selling the pen last month."

The $169 pen can record audio while a student writes notes on Smartpen paper and then plays the audio back from the exact moment something was written down.

"[A student] draws a picture of what the professor is talking about, and then when they go back to the notes all they have to do is double tap the drawing, and whatever the professor was saying while the student was doing that, [the audio] will come out perfectly synchronized to the notes," Livescribe customer service representative Carolyn Diepsteraten said.

Diepsteraten said that the intention of the pen is to help the student take notes, and one professor believes the tool would be great for students.

"I am a large proponent of students trying anything they can to take good notes," economics professor Dr. Kent Gilbreath said. "Although I personally put my notes on Blackboard and video record my lectures for my students to use."

Gilbreath said that students whose professors do not give them lecture notes and recordings of the class at their disposal, the Smartpen would be beneficial for them.

Both the audio and the notes that are written are stored within the pen, which can hold up to two gigabytes of memory--the equivalent to a maximum of 200 hours of audio.

The notes do not have to be stored only within the pen but can be transferred to a computer by using the provided Smartpen docking station.

Once the notes are transferred to the computer, they will be re-created on the computer screen exactly the same way the notes were written with the audio that accompanies the notes.

Just recently, Livescribe introduced its own applications store that can be bought and downloaded into the pen.

The applications vary in use, but the educational applications really stand out, Diepsteraten said.

"If you're in a Spanish class and you write your notes in English then we have an application where the pen will recognize the word you wrote and can give you the translation in Spanish," Diepsteraten said.

The applications can also be used for recreational purposes; from Blackjack to Hangman, a student could be easily entertained by the gadget and the many applications that make putting pen to paper a bit more interesting.

Diepsteraten said she has even seen a student play Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" on the pen using the guitar application.

"[Students of] any major could use the pen and see definite improvement in grades and performance. If I had used it in college I would have graduated Magna Cum laude," Diepsteraten said.