Livescribe Pen as a Special Education Resource/Tool

The Livescribe is a pen that simultaneously records written information and sound. A scanner in the tip of the pen allows it to record and read hand-written text, while an audio recorder syncs that written work with whatever you say while using it. The pen uses special paper found in notebooks specifically designed for audio capture, using the basic “play, pause, stop” symbols commonly found on IPod and DVD systems. This paper can also be printed off using free software that comes with the pen. To see a video of the pen in use (and how you could potentially use it in the classroom) please see the YouTube tutorial I created:

Who is it for and why?
Livescribes have opened up new possibilities for dynamic classroom activities that engage oral and visual learners in particular. While the pen can be used for running records, audio tests/diagrams/flashcards, and learning centers, it has found a welcomed home in special education where it can be used to help children on I.E.Ps and those with specialized programming. The pen benefits a variety of students with different needs and exceptionalities, including those with learning/developmental disabilities, autism, language impairments, and giftedness. Students who need to hear instructions, sounds or particular verbal cues repeatedly benefit from this kind of technology. Check out these two videos of a school in Collier County Florida that actively uses the pen in their special education programs:

How can it be used?
The pen can be used for independent, classroom and resource activities. It is a versatile piece of technology in that it can be used one-on-one with a child (running records/DRA), in groups (learning centers/collaborative work/brainstorming) or in specialized programming (personalized audio lessons & anchor charts). With minimal training, students are also able to use the pen independently to record their own work, whether that be story writing or math computation. As a teacher tool, many educators also choose to use the pen to record assessments and keep their own daybooks organized and fluent. At the Brock Tech showcase I did a presentation on how the pen can be used in learning centers, the pencast of which you can watch here: I have also made a video on how to upload pencasts into your personal/classroom blogs:

General Information & Spec Ed Ideas/Applications
The intersection between special education and the Livescribe are really only limited by your imagination. Personalized audio anchor charts, flashcards, diagrams and schedules that are interactive are really only the beginning. The special paper provided in the Livescribe notebook can be cut up and used to transform the classroom into one large interactive audio space. I recently presented at the DSBN Connect Conference in Niagara Falls on the pen and was pleased to speak to several Special Education teachers who were excited to try the pen in their own practice. One teacher and I discussed the compelling possibilities of labeling manipulatives bins, book boxes and other classroom resources with pre-recorded audio files, wherein students would then have to simply tap the pen around the room to navigate themselves orally. This means that audio scavenger-hunts are also a dynamic possibility, not to mention what the pen can also do for ESL learners. The pen can also slow-down and speed-up playback, further differentiating instruction and also allowing students to create unique and alternative voices for creative story writing. Additionally, the pen can be used to create agenda booklets complete with audio files, that parents can then listen to at home, whether this be a recording of their child doing work or a verbal note from the teacher. The pen also has Apps available for purchase and a piano feature that comes directly with the software, allowing students to draw their own keyboard and actually create different sounds and songs: This is particularly excellent tool for those Spec Ed students who are musically inclined and also proves to be incredibly cost effective, as it doesn’t require teachers to have an actual keyboard in their classroom. It should also be mentioned that all Livescribe files are easy to upload to your computer and do not require special software to watch. These files can be attached to any email and can even be viewed on Google doc, making student information easy to share with parents. Livescribe also makes special sticky notepaper you can purchase to further lesson possibilities and liven up gallery walks and banshos.

Who makes it/Where is it available?
The pen is made by a company of the same name and more information about it can be found on their website: You can the buy the pen from this website, or it can also be purchased at any Future Shop location. On the website pens start at $119.00 American for a 2GB ranging up to $179.00 for an 8GB. Future shop lists the 2BG pen at $129.00 Canadian and an 8GB at $219.00

I am a huge advocate of the pen and really believe that it should be included more in the classroom, as it benefits not only special educations students, but all those learning. It is an accessible, user-friendly tool that is cost-effective, durable and extremely useful. I have done a lot of work with it personally with autistic children and have had much success. This said, two of the children I have used it with have had difficulty speaking while they are using the pen, that is, they have tendency to draw a picture/write words and then explain its meaning/read it out loud. The pen is thus not a good fit for all special needs children or cases, and often is activity dependent. While some children benefit from the above kind of activity, others flourish more in lessons with the pen that are preplanned and have a lot of interactive audio already recorded on the page for them to engage with. As the Livescribe is such a new resource in schools, research and stats involving its use in Spec Ed classes are limited. Livescribe, in fact, is asking educators to submit their stories of how they use it in their classrooms so word can spread about its effectiveness as a teaching tool: Professional teacher blogs are a great source of information on how to use the pen as a special education resource. A simple Google search yields many new and exciting ways 21st century educators are using Livescribe in the classroom.  

F.A.T. City Workshop: How Difficult Can This Be?

At Brock I had the opportunity to watch this amazing video in my Special Education class. In the video, Spec Ed guru Richard Lavoie facilitates a program that allows viewers to experience frustration, anxiety and tension (F.A.T) similar to that which a child with a learning disability experiences in their daily lives. While this program was developed in 1989, it is still a fantastic resource and had a huge impact on my conceptions of what it means to be LD and the ways in which I, as an educator, can help my students with learning disabilities learn and grow. My Spec Ed teacher Sharron Stasuik not only showed our class the video, but also put us in the position of those in the workshop by pausing the film and allowing us to experience Lavoie’s exercises ourselves. We re-enacted several of the exercises in order to have a first hand experience with the challenges that come with being LD. One of these exercises involved looking at a picture that was difficult to perceive and trying to determine what the image was to give us an idea of what it feels to be a child with perception difficulties. Lavoie highlights how as teachers we often tell children who are struggling with perception to “look at the picture harder” or attempt to motivate them by bribing them with rewards. Lavoie explains that motivation only enables children to do the things that they are capable of doing and that what the LD child needs is an educator that, with direct instruction, teaches the child how to see and perceive.

Another exercise we did was one that allowed us to get an idea of what it feels like to have dsynomia, a word finding problem that happens to the LD child hundreds of times a day. We were instructed by both Lavoie and Sharron to contribute one sentence to a round robin story without using any words that contained the letter “N”. Needless to say, the exercise was very difficult because we were going through a process similar to the LD child where we were having difficulty retrieving the proper information from our storage and communicating it. It was embarrassing to be put on the spot and forced to articulate ideas immediately. I can only imagine what it feels like to experience this kind of anxiety everyday. As Lavoie explains, this round robin activity allowed all of us in the class to simultaneously have difficulty, while the real experience of being LD is being the only person that cannot do something. It would be extremely scary to be isolated in this position and Lavoie goes onto explain that it is in this way that we, as teachers, knock the risk-taking out of LD children at a young age as they are afraid to participate and contribute to the class. He explains that in order to be fair to everyone we have to treat the LD child differently. Fairness does not mean that everyone gets the same thing, but rather that everyone gets what they need.

I highly recommend this video to any educator as it is an eye-opening, interactive experience that will change the way you think and feel about learning disabilities and your own teaching practice. 

Watch it online:

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