Friday, April 27, 2012

Mr. C meets Livescribe

I recently discovered and learned about smartpens thanks to Aviva Dunsiger (@Grade1) and Zoe Branigan-Pipe (@zbpipe). I consider them to be master tech-integrating educators who find the time to share their amazing work on Twitter and a website called Live Learning with Livescribe. Since discovering the 'smartpen' - which is a pen that records audio and links it to what you write - I have spent some time communicating with Aviva to really understand how this type of technology works and the impact it can have in a classroom.

Thanks to both of these ladies, I finally felt comfortable to take the risk and get my own smartpen. I have the 2GB Echo Smartpen and I am really excited at its potential for my students and myself. After reading this article I decided to use the pen for a guided reading session with one of my students. I asked one of my students to choose a book close to her reading level and read to me. She chose "Pooh's Hero Party" and here is the text and audio of what occurred: 

brought to you by Livescribe

This was such an exciting experience for my student and myself. Before she read to me I asked her why she chose the book, what she thought it was about, and whether she had ever read any other books about the main character - Winnie the Pooh. Looking back, I wish I had taken notes/audio of that brief discussion. You have just experienced some of what occurred during her reading, which is what normally occurs when I meet with a student for such an activity. What happened after her reading is where the smartpen assisted both of us.

When she stopped reading and I stopped taking notes I reviewed my notes with her. You see, when you touch the words on the Liverscribe dot paper the audio that was recorded when I wrote that word will begin to play so that you can hear what was said when that word was written. POWERFUL! My student and I reviewed the connection, prediction, re-reading, self-correcting, retell, recommendation, and favourite part together. The audio served as a wonderful way for her to engage in reflecting on her reading but it also allowed her to think about her thinking. We spent some time talking about the word 'proudly' which she decoded as 'probably'. Once she heard the audio of that error she asked if she could go back into the book and find that section. She couldn't believe that she had made such an error! She then told me that the word looked like probably (visual miscue) and that it made sense for her to call it probably (meaning miscue). I then talked to her about how awesome it was for me to hear/see her re-read text to make sense of it and self-correct. We talked about what she did well and what she needed to work on.

Although this was the first use of the smart pen with one of my students, I am impressed. For my student, it allowed her to hear herself read - which rarely, if ever, happens. As she heard herself, she could identify the reading strategies she had been taught, what she did well, and what she needed to work on. She also had the opportunity to engage in meta-cognition. It seemed a lot easier for her to talk about what she was thinking at the time when she read the particular text that she was listening to.

For myself, the audio/text connection allowed me to engage in a more precise assessment of/for student learning and my descriptive feedback to the student was a lot richer. The ability to playback what was said when I wrote certain text was as helpful to me as it was to my student. Moreover, the ability to share this experience with her parents is available to me as well as being able to store this session on my computer. I can see the advantages of this technological tool for teaching and learning. 

Having has some time to reflect on this experience, I have questions like: How would this work with a lower-level struggling reader? Would it be as beneficial to them? How much time would I be spending on uploading data from the pen to the computer? Would I be able to keep up with it? Would I be able to roll this into my guided reading component of Language literacy instruction? Can I find the time to do this will all my guided reading groups the way I did with this one student?

Don't get me wrong, I am not discouraged. I am simply thinking out loud - it helps me. Have you/do you use a smartpen with your students? Did this blog post raise any questions/comments/concerns with you? I would love your feedback - I welcome it!   


  1. Thanks for mentioning me as part of your post! I love how you decided to get a Livescribe Pen and then share your learning with it as well. Here are some of my thoughts on your questions:

    1) Yes, this pen could be used with a lower-level struggling student. I have done this many times before. It's great for them, as they can hear their reading too and start to figure out how to improve. Maybe their goals will be different than this student's goals. Thinking of the goals before reading with the student and then focusing on these goals, may help. Even giving the student the pen to record his/her own reading independently later may help. The more he/she hears his/her own reading, the better! Then the student can really figure out how to improve and become more independent at doing so!

    2) The data uploads quickly from the pen. I usually upload once a week, and then go through my new uploads and send them to Evernote (and tag them) for assessment purposes and send them to My Livescribe for sharing purposes. It usually takes me about 15 minutes a week to do all of this, and I use my Livescribe Pen A LOT every day!

    3) I use the Livescribe Pen a lot for guided reading. I take notes with it the way that I used to with a pen and paper. Now I can play the notes back to the students, and even record the students discussing their own goals and how they did. I take a couple of minutes at the beginning of the next session to review these goals with the students and then move onto our next activity that will help them meet these goals. Your discussion here might not be quite as long as it was in the other 1:1 case, but it's still powerful. Students are listening to what they said and making changes based on their individual goals: to me, this means a lot!

    I hope this helps! If you have any other questions, please just let me know.


  2. Great work. Very exciting for students and feedback in "real time."

  3. @ Aviva, thank you for your comments! They are very helpful. I like the way you deal with your smartpen uploads - makes sense. I will keep you updated on my progress. I will figure it out! :)

  4. To Anonymous (aka my Principal): Thanks for commenting! We really need to have you do a guest post ;)