Spotlight on: Livescribe electronic pen





I recently bought a Livescribe pen from a friend. She was no longer using it, and I had an idea thatit might be useful both for my phd and for my therapy training.


This is a pen that will write like a normal pen. It’s a bit chunkier to hold than a standard pen, but for anyone who’s ever employed the ‘think pen/fat pen’ ethod for exams, it’s just a different size of pen. It’s not too chunky. The pen writes on to specific dotted paper (that you can print yourself if you don’t want to keep buying the books). When you’re finished writing, you do a short underline of your work and write the command it needs (PDF will send it to the livescribe software) on the sheet and, providing you have had the pen switched on, it will save everything you have written into your pen and will transfer it to your computer when it can (either via wifi or by docking). The livescribe 3 will transfer your writing in ‘real time’ to the livescribe app. any other users have to transfer to the computer, but still great!


It can also record as it writes, and you can play it back either from the paper itself


Livescribe pen and paper

or within the computer program. The clever thing is that if you set it to record, you can then find out exactly what you said at any particular point – so if you were to draw a diagram and explain it at the same time, you could touch the diagram and it would play your words back. Here is a quick YouTube video (not by me) that talks through some of the options.





I have messy handwriting – much messier than the image above and so far, the computer has been able to find every word I’ve written. It doesn’t have OCR recognition (that is, it won’t transcribe your handwritten notes into text), but it will find anything you’ve written. You can also export your notes out as a pdf, which will include audio if you ask it to, so the whole of your ideas are encapsulated. If you wish, there is an app that costs about £12 that does OCR. I’ve just downloaded the trial version and I would say it’s about 85% correct. Probably worth upgrading for. I’m not sure yet!


It costs (depending on the model you buy) around £120 new, and 4 60 (doublesided) A4 notebooks are abuot £20, but I have seen pen+books go for £40 on ebay. As mentioned before, as long as you have the right printer (a laser I think), you can also print your own paper and save o the expense, although £5 for a large A4 notebook doesn’t seem bad value to me.


You can also hook it to evernote (which will be a future ‘spotlight’) and arrange work into notebooks there (that don’t have to be the same as your physical notebooks. If you use evernote, you can write over the scanned images also.


I plan on using one for counselling training and one for my phd. I shall be journalling with it. So not only do I have a paper copy if I want to physically write, but I can also just use regular evernote to make other entries if I prefer to. The whole thing can be bundled together and sent in for marking that way. For me that feels like a great compromise – before I would do it all on my computer (or phone), and there was no point writing something down because i wasn’t doing it often. That’s because I can’t go back and look at it easily – I can’t do ‘ctrl+f’ and search for the word I knew I’d written on a block of text. But  now I will be able to do just that.


I’ll also be using it to make notes on papers I read. I am still figuring out exactly how I will do that, but I am thinking that it will involve writing the paper title across the top of the page and then noting where I am making comments (paragraph 2, page 1 etc). Then I won’t have to worry about searching each paper manually (or even the little sticky note things. Equally, I can get a sticky-out notelet and write the page information on, so I know where I’ve made notes. If I’ve printed it. I keep all my papers filed in Mendeley (also upcoming), and there is a ‘notes’ field in that program also, so I can easily move between evernote and mendeley to find what I’ve said in the past.


If it all goes horrendously wrong, I’ll let you know. But I think it’s going to be fine!


One thought on “Spotlight on: Livescribe electronic pen

  1. […] – Livescribe electronic pen – or how to make college and uni work […]

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