Monday, September 8, 2014

School Tools: SmartPen for learning disabilities

By Kent Remund

Q shows Bond a super pen.
Q would be impressed with the SmartPen.
Growing up, I loved James Bond movies. My favorite scene in each movie was when he would visit “Q” in the lab to see the latest gadget that had been created for James to use. 

When I first saw the Livescribe SmartPen, I was placed in the moment feeling like I was visiting “Q”. This pen has become one of the most demonstrated and recommended pieces of assistive technology for students within the complete range of learning disabilities. What makes this pen so great?

LiveScribe SmartPen
The LiveScribe SmartPen is a great tool
for people with learning disabilities.
While the SmartPen allows you to take traditional ink notes, it also has the ability to capture audio simultaneously while taking notes. Here’s where the real magic happens: the pen is combining written notes and anchoring them with the audio happening at that exact moment, bookmarking it for later. What does this mean? 

This allows you to go back in your written notes and tap on something written, and the pen will playback the audio from that exact recording within the pen. No need to search through hours of a recording. The pen requires special paper that has thousands of dots that the pen uses to track writing and anchor it to the audio that it records.  

How is this such a powerful tool for people with learning disabilities? For many, it is completely transforming the way they pay attention in class, retain information, process information and study using the audio from notes they have taken.  

We teach the individual to keep key notes during a lecture while are paying attention rather than worrying about keeping overly detailed notes. For most students with learning disabilities, auditory learning is their biggest strength and most struggle with the stress of keeping accurate written notes. This pen allows a student to go home and play back audio from a specific point to help retain the information that we being presented. 

The Livescribe pen can be purchased at many major retailers such as Office Depot, Staples, Office Max and online from A 2 gigabyte pen can store up to 200 hours of audio and is reasonably priced at approximately $120.00. The paper that is required for the pen costs $20.00 for four books.  

The pen does so much more and must be seen to believe - this YouTube video demonstrates the pen in action.

This video shows how students with dyslexia are using the pen to be successful in class.

Please contact me if you would like a demonstration, be evaluated or have questions regarding the SmartPen. There are a couple different versions of the pen and we can help determine which one would be best for you.

Kent Remund is part of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology serving Utahns with disabilities, and a member of the Utah Assistive Technology Teams serving Utah school districts, helping people with disabilities identify and obtain assistive technology that will enhance the quality of their lives. 


  1. I loved my smart pen and used it all of the time until I purchased the WIFI version and can't seem to sync it to account. Do you have any ideas of how to get school to agree to allowing students to use the smart pen. Most schools I have worked with use "privacy" concerns as a reason NOT to allow them in class.

  2. I've heard of that happening before. I think I'd talk to (if it is a college or university) your school's disability resource center and they should be able to help you get the permission to use it as an accommodation tool.