I recently acquired a Livescribe Echo Smartpen to use and found it to be very useful. The Livescribe smartpens are pretty cool. They record what you write, and hear, and then you can load this into your computer to keep a digital copy of your written notes and even share your notes with others.
The ability to record your hand written notes is very useful in Math and Science, since it’s very hard to take notes in these areas with a keyboard or even a tablet/pad. It can also make an audio record of what you say or hear as you are writing and it timestamps and syncs the written notes with the audio notes.
Your notes get synced to your computer using a mini-usb cable and the Livescribe desktop application. There is also an application that you can get that will transcribe your handwritten notes into digital typeset notes. You can even search for words in your notes. The desktop application allows you to organize your notes and shows a thumbnail of each notebook. You can then view each notebook page and page forward and backward.
The pen is controlled by tapping on certain symbols in the notebook, which is pretty cool. You use this to select other applications in the pen, start, stop, and playback audio recordings and more. Inside the front cover of the Livescribe notebooks is a “calculator” that allows you to use the pen as a calculator. There are also controls on each page that allow you to change the volume on the pen, jump around your recordings, and even bookmark a spot in your notes.
You can share your notes and recordings as a pencast, PDF, or audio file. The desktop application has one-click sharing with Evernote, Facebook, Google Docs and Email. This means you can always have your notes available to you. You can also sync your pen notes to multiple computers. During meetings, one person can be the official note-taker and then share the notes out with everyone else.
There are apps available also that you can download to add more functionality to your pen, including dictionaries, translators, games, productivity tools and more.
There is a vibrant user community and support team as well as resources for using the Livescribe Pens in Education. These pens are great for taking notes and then sharing and saving them. I can see a lot of great uses for these in education. The site has some great tips and uses for using the pens in school and even has reports of how the pens have helped increase student achievement. The Livescribe help website is easy to use and understand and makes using these pens very easy. Set up only takes a couple of minutes.
I had seen an early model a few years ago, but wasn’t interested because you needed to buy special paper in order for it to work. While you can still order the special paper, you can now print out your own too (as long as your printer is an Adobe PostScript-compatible color laser printer with a print resolution of 600 dpi or greater, which, luckily, mine is.)
The model I have is an 8GB pen. You get the desktop software, stylus tip, two ink cartridges, the cable, a starter notebook, and 500MB of personal online storage. The 8GB Echo retails for $199 so it’s not cheap, but it is another tool that can be very useful in education, business, and even just for taking personal notes. The 2GB pen is only $99. There are discount prices available to educators, anyone interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
UPDATED: You can get 15% off the price of a Livescribe Pen by using this link (directly to Livescribe, not secondary vendor)
The main reason that I see these as an essential tool for many people is the ability to record hand written notes. Many people, myself included, take notes very efficiently with pen and paper, using symbols, diagrams, arrows, and the like to make the notes more meaningful. It’s also great for people who have to take notes using math and science equations and symbols. Being able to easy capture, save and then share those notes is a great thing.