Livescribe use models in special education

Livescribe use models in special education

Summary: Livescribe's echo smartpen has implications for students across the educational spectrum and may be particularly useful to kids with special needs.

TOPICS: Mobility

Since I posted my review of Livescribe's echo smartpen on Wednesday, I've received several emails, talkbacks, Facebook postings, and tweets about possible use cases of the device for students with special needs. I was so excited about the device itself that I overlooked one of the most important markets for the pen.

No smartpen will be the magic bullet that lets a child who is struggling because of a disability suddenly succeed. Success is based on a lot of hard work for the student and parents and complete commitment for the teacher. The right resources and supports have to tie all of these elements together. That being said, there are several classroom models where students with disabilities can easily benefit from the echo smartpen.

The first case is actually being used in both regular education and inclusion settings right now. Some progressive teachers (in fact, whole schools have started doing this) have been willing to let students turn in their assignments as a LiveScribe pencast (via the web) in which they speak out loud as they work through assignments. Thus, if a student did a math problem with the pen and described his steps out loud, the teacher could hear what he was doing and provide feedback or partial credit even if he couldn't read the assignment or the student could organize speech better than written work. Even for regular education students, math teachers constantly struggle to get students to show their work; with a pencast, students must show and explain their work on the fly.

Taking reasonable notes can also be a serious struggle for students with disabilities. The average kid with attention deficit (speaking from my own experience here) won't be able to concentrate on both the writing and the speaking. If the student can be taught to focus their writing on a few big ideas, then the spoken lecture is always available to students and their parents.

The parental component is worth highlighting as well. Whether parents simply need a refresher on trigonometry or need to reteach and reinforce for students who struggle to comprehend in class, a recording of the lecture tied even to a few headings or key words on a page can make a parent's life much easier.

Finally, for all the talk about multimodal learning, it's a difficult thing to implement in class. Teachers using the echo immediate tap auditory and visual learners who can review with the sensory input of their choice at night if the instructor uploads pencasts to the web. Students using the echo, on the other hand, can receive the kinesthetic feedback they might need, again related back to auditory and visual cues later on.

The echo has the potential to level the playing field in many ways, not only for kids with specific disabilities, but for kids with learning styles that don't match an instructional style or who simply need to access and recall information in a non-traditional way.

Topic: Mobility

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • RE: Livescribe use models in special education

    I've a student teacher in my maths classes (dyslexic) who has been using one of the original ones over the past year to take notes (including my pearls of spoken wisdom!). Enables her to revisit the material easily.
    I've also bought one but haven't really found the killer app for me as a tutor. I have access to a tablet pc or a scanner so the only advantage so far is the notebook organisation facility. Our printers aren't postscript so I'm not able to generate my own notepads which would be good.
    'Pencasts' have potential but I have access to a visualiser unit and am exploring that for this purpose.
    I can see it has potential for anyone who is expected to take notes of meetings or at tutorials as it's less intrusive than a tablet pc.
  • RE: Livescribe use models in special education

    I was an early beta tester of the product and have been telling everyone about the potential on college campuses for this technology.
    Routinely colleges must match a note taker to a student with a disability. This is usually done "in the blind" where neither student knows each other or meets. The notes are exchanged via the office that administers the effort.
    With Livescribe a single student could take notes, upload them to the shared environment and other students could be granted access. The entire process would be online and automated.
    I don't know if schools have adopted this model yet or not but I've pushed it at the three schools my sons have attended.
  • Livescribe Echo Smartpen

    I am a professor of education as well as an assistive technology specialist an have been working with the Livescribe Smartpens since it has been released. I am amazed by its feature set and what it can mean for students who have difficulty taking notes. I have documented some of my experiences on my blog using the Echo and Pulse Smartpen. For students who have learning disabilities the Livescribe Pen can play a significant part of the school day. Additionally, innovative teachers can develop multi-modal presentations and post them on the web as Flash videos which is ideal for learning. For more information- you can access my blog at :

    Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D.
    AssistiveTek Blog