Academic Outreach

Faculty Focused

Review of the Livescribe Smartpen

Posted on: August 5th, 2014 by

Written by Randy Uncapher

You may have seen ads lately for the Livescribe Smart Pen and wondered what it is all about. The Online Design and eLearning (ODeL) Department has used the Livescribe Smart Pen for several years now and would like to share some of what we know about the tool.

Image of a Livescribe pen

If you have not seen the Livescribe Smart Pens (LS pen), in action, they are pretty impressive. The LS pen is slightly larger than a typical pen, and when you write with the pen, it records what you write and what is said.  It then stores both the video and audio recordings in the pen, which can be sent to you computer for playback later. One version of the pen, Sky, uses a wifi connection to place all your notes automatically in Evernote, a free cloud notebook/storage system. You must use specialized paper with the pens, but it is not prohibitively expensive, and you have the option of printing your own.

One great feature of the LS pen is its ability to instantly replay the audio track of an event. The user can go back into the paper notes, place the tip of the pen anywhere on the notes, and the pen will start to play the audio from that point forward.

The recorded notes and audio are combined into a “Pencast”, which can be downloaded to a computer using the Evernote software. Pencasts can then be shared via the internet through the Evernote web site, or you can package the recordings into an advanced PDF format which can be emailed or shared with anyone.

In addition to note taking the LS pen is a nice option to have in an online math or chemistry course. Instructors have used the pen to record presentations where they write out a formula on paper as they discuss the logic. The new pens feature instant broadcast capabilities that will open up more opportunities to use the LS pen in online teaching. They have also helped some students overcome certain learning disabilities. Dr. Steven Davis in UM’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry demonstrates how he uses the pen in his online classes in a YouTube video.

There are 3 styles of Livescribe Smart Pens:

Echo Smartpen – the original model with the basic features.

Sky WIFI Smartpen – a wireless version of the Echo pen that is compatible with a variety of computer and mobile device platforms.

Livescribe 3 Smartpen – is a mobile friendly pen which can instantly communicate your writings and audio back to a MAC device via the “cloud” for storage. This means that as you write, your information could simultaneously be displayed on a remote device screen. This pen can only be used with Apple systems and devices.

All 3 models offer free or premium subscriptions to the Evernote software and web storage space. There are several options for data storage on the LPS. Sizes start at 2GB, which stores about 200 pages of notes with audio, and go up to 8GB of storage.

To see a detailed breakdown of the models, go to:  The Livescribe web site also has an entire section dedicated to ideas about using the LS pen for education.