Digital Pens Overview and Comparison

Digital pens, using real ink and real paper, allow you to handwrite notes while at the same time recording the speaker. Later you can hear again what the speaker was saying while you were writing a particular note.  The recording is time-stamped and coordinated with your written notes. These pens are getting better all the time.

Thanks to Wink Harner at Southern Oregon University for this summary (edited) of the top pens:

Livescribe has several types of digital pens that require specialized paper and pen refills. The handwritten notes and the audio recordings can be synced – the student taps the pen on the paper where the notes are written or clicks the mouse on a line of the uploaded note file and the audio recording will play what was being said while the notes were being written. The pen links to the computer with a USB cable and the sync is automatic once you have the desktop version installed. If the student needs to have text instead of handwritten notes, a low-cost handwriting recognition program (MyScribe) is fairly accurate in converting to text files. The audio link remains intact. Students can also add additional notes to the file once the transfer is done. If they review the notes and listen to the audio, they can add additional information to the notes after listening to the audio file.

The Neo SmartPen uses regular ink cartridges and specialized paper. A free app for printing your own paper is available. The pen records digital writing and audio, using infrared technology to video-record the handwriting. It syncs to a variety of devices via Bluetooth, not Wifi, which saves battery life. It’s smaller than most other SmartPens making it easier for people with small hands to use.

The Equil SmartPen uses regular paper and regular ink in a triangular-shaped pen. You clip a Wi-Fi receiver onto the paper at the top of the page and hold the pen in a specific way for the receiver to work. While less expensive to keep supplies on hand, it’s biggest drawback is that there can be serious interference with the receiver clipped on the paper for people who adjust their grip on pens frequently or for people who are left-handed. It syncs audio and handwritten notes to a variety of devices.

What device you purchase depends on which feature set will best meet the needs of your student. There are specialized apps for music composition (the pen plays back the actual note!), as well as math and science apps, depending on the pen you choose.

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