My initial thoughts on the Livescribe Sky Pen
I’ve been using Livescribe Echo pens for quite some time. Most often I use them for personal note taking and for creating pencasts for my students. I teach at an alternative school for part of the day and have something like 10 different math courses going on in the same room. I then teach a science course up at the high school. Here is how I was using the pens before the Llivescribe Sky:
- To create math tutorials and put them on our blog.
- As an assistive device. I use the Livescribe stickers and record myself reading all the paper material in class.
- I make tutorials that are accessible anytime and anywhere for chemistry unit. For creating any lessons, I use my iPad to create videos because I can use graphics and images. For simple skills tutorials, however, the pen rules.
- To record all on-the-fly mini-tutorials, conferences or help sessions in class. This way I can put the pencast into the students Evernote folder after (which we use for feedback). They can then share these with other students or refer back to them at any time. It also allows me to look back and see which topics were most confusing for students and which ways of explaining concepts helped them most.
- As general classroom support devices – my science students know that anytime they like, they can use a pen to help them communicate their understanding of a concept. Even if they simply want a digital copy of a handwritten note, they can grab a pen. We have four of them in my classroom for this purpose. Some days they are used, at other times they go for a week without being used. Most often, students choose them when they want to make a tutorial for our blog.
- With sticky notes for feedback. When I return paper assignments (like lab or inquiry notes) there is often a Livescribe sticky note attached. It says “Pen #3” and student just grab the appropriate pen to listen to their feedback. I have also put a copy of the sticky note into their Evernote folder.
Personally, I always put any important notes into Evernote. So, the transition to Sky for my own pen just makes sense. That being said, I predicted (and was right) that the Sky pens would be useless as school devices. I got a 2GB Sky pen to replace my own personal pen and simply put my previous pen into my collection of classroom devices. Here is a summary of the pros and cons of my Sky pen. Overall, I quite like it as MY pen. I would not, however, get any for my classroom as shared devices.
- pages automatically go into Evernote – no work involved
- don’t have to use the very unstable and frustrating Livescribe desktop software
- pencasts now work on any browser (even iOS), so you can simply share an Evernote link and anyone can view them without any special apps
- pencasts simply update if you add more to a page. The next time it syncs, it simply adds new material to the Evernote note
- no way to embed pencasts (that I know of). This is a big deal for e-Learning.
- pens cannot connect to any network that requires a website to connect. This means that school, hotels, hotspots are all out. The only networks I have connected it to so far include my house and iPhone hotspot
- no way to change the title of the Evernote notes created by the Sky. They are automatically titled with book and page number of the page and will not let you change them within Evernote
- not working with any other programs yet. The only way to share a file is to share an Evernote link. No direct to Facebook, nor Google, etc.
- no way to create offline files. Unlike the Echo, you cannot save the files onto your computer for offline use. You cannot put files onto a USB drive to give to folks to use offline. I have a high number of students without internet access. This is a barrier.
- no easy way to connect pages into one note. If an audio file goes between multiple pages, you can access all the pages from one Evernote note, but you cannot (or, at least I have not figured out how to) combine different pages into one note after. This makes for messy Evernote organization, and more difficult when sharing pencasts to students. Especially because you can’t change the title of the notes.
- doesn’t work with the sound stickers
I quite like the pen for my personal use. Mostly because I’ve had a love affair with Evernote for years. However, there is still a lot of work to do. They are truly not educational devices as of yet (very much like the Echo pens, there are large barriers). They would be great if owned by the student personally, but they do not make very good shared devices.
To be honest, I’d much prefer my students or school save up and purchase a $200 netbook opposed to a $140 pen. I’ve read a post saying that smart pens could make 1:1 more attainable. I struggle to see the value in having 1:1 smart pens over more robust creation devices at a lesser ratio. As a student, I would personally want a Livescribe Sky pen to support my learning, however they simply to not make sense for the school to be purchasing as a shared device yet.