Livescribe and Smartpens in Math for supporting notetaking/alternative assessments/flipped classroom model

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I met Ian Bryan (@sensiblecity) at TEDActive. We’d been Twitter contacts for a few months, and I’d attended TEDxDenverEd without fully appreciating his role or his work. (Note: Ian is now organizing TEDxPhiladelphiaEd, and I hope to attend on June 24th.)

On Sensible City’s website, they succinctly state their mission:

Our Work: To advance positive change by giving a powerful voice to the idea whose time has come.
Our Sweet Spot: Helping people converge and collaborate on transformative projects, products, institutions and ideas.

Ian recently introduced me to LiveScribe and the Smartpen. With Ian’s help, my school got hold of a few Echo Smartpens; I placed these in the hands of:

The Smartpen is like Polyvision’s Eno pen, only with ink. It has a camera at the tip and a microphone in the barrel, so it can simultaneously record everything the pen writes (in a special notebook) and all of the ambient audio. The recorded content is then uploaded to a computer using a cable, though the next version of the pen will be wireless. Additionally, all of your chicken scratches are synced to the audio, so you can later review your notes by scrolling anywhere on the audio’s play bar or anywhere on your writing. The Livescribe system encourages users to “write less and listen more.” Our model of pen is the 8GB Echo Smartpen, which can record up to 800 hours of audio.

David Bell posted a great CNET review of the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. In it, he wrote:

Ultimately, though, any worthwhile idea committed to paper in the digital era needs to find its way onto a computer. Notes get retyped, voice recordings transcribed, drawings scanned, and hours are lost to tedious analog-to-digital conversion.

With the paperless, human-computer singularity still a few decades off, the Echo smartpen has arrived to address the lingering analog/digital dilemma of capturing handwritten notes and voice memos in a convenient digital format.

My goal is for the teachers and the students to share responsibility for taking notes, solving problems, and posting these recordings (or pencasts) to a shared space. Also, students can be recorded verbalizing/demonstrating how they solve a problem, thus tracking their fluency with the language of mathematics and their own understanding of the learning. These pencasts can be assessed and added to the child’s portfolio. I also want the class (and/or our school) to generate a digital archive of pencasts that we can use to catch-up students who miss class for any reason, to empower kids to teach each other, to further the idea of using multiple methods for finding a solution, and to engage students in the learning process.

On the Livescribes site, you can access thousands of pencasts which reminds me of the astonishing collection of resources on the Khan Academy website. Thus, the classroom teacher can create a learning environment that embraces the flipped classroom model – encouraging students to learn at home at their own pace and free up classtime for more meaningful problem solving and projects with the teacher.

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