Smartpen: First impressions

Well, I mean, these aren’t technically my first impressions as I first heard about these types of pen three years ago. It is also not the first time I experience such a pen; one of the more proofladen courses used pencasts, or indeed the first time I try such a pen; for one of my exams they made us use a Logitech IO2, which occured about three months ago. I currently own a Livescribe Echo (8GB). I’ve owned it since the beginning of July but only really used it since the beginning of September, so for a couple of weeks thus far. My main reasoning for purchasing this pen (besides the fact that it suddenly came on offer, and I’m a sucker for those) was the fact that it can record both sound and text.

However it can also play sound attached to text and I have thus far experienced three mishaps of the kind where I’m idly taking notes and suddenly everyone in the room can hear the pen playing audio. Admittedly, the first time this happened could be called my own fault as I was trying to get my money’s worth out of the paper, hence, scribbling all over it; not just in designated areas. Since then I’ve been wary to avoid the bottom of the page and it still happens every now and then (on average once a week, which is terribly high). I have also experienced that it stops recording while I’m using it – no idea what causes that.

Another error I’ve had to come to face with recently is this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 8.46.14 which basically means your audio has not been transferred from the pen to the computer.

Things I find worth considering moving forward in these endeavours:

  • Is it best to stick with what I already have, i.e. Livescribe?
  • Or swap to the other product I’ve tried, i.e. IO2?
  • Would it be better with a product which doesn’t actually need its own special paper, e.g. the Staedtler Digital Pen?
    (I’m seriously tempted to try this!)
  • Do I want to create spreadsheets and write emails via a pen instead of a computer (or phone/tablet), e.g. the Oxford Easybook?
  • Or do I instead plan on giving snazzy presentations, e.g. Oxford Papershow?
  • Do I go back to regular pens and just buy a dictaphone instead, e.g. Olympus VN-713PC?
  • How important is audio for courses without oral exams?

I found that the ink ran out after a week and the starter notebook lasted just over two, which means this is not really an economically feasible way for me to take notes.

One positive thing I’ve managed to gather from this entire experience is that not being worried about missing out on little oral tidbits of knowledge means I spend more time listening to my TA/lecturer than scribbling frantically, which in turn means I spend more time understanding what is being said.


Addendum stationery solutions: the Line

Line informed me of the existence of a highlighter-version of the type of pen Marie uses. It does not erase quite as well as the red pen and its colour is slightly darker than a ‘regular’ highlighter (or, at least, the yellow ones):

I think it is a clever invention! However, I think I will stick to regular highlighter pens for my highlighting needs…

This is a post about portable document…

…format. Otherwise we would be considering printouts. Which is not the case. As mentioned I store my notes in a non-accessible manner. This means I rarely (if ever) reread them. In the summer of 2011 I scanned all the notes I had taken during my first year and sorted them into files on my computer. The following summer I did not do this, due to not having looked at those notes or scans since the previous scanning session, which took a couple of days.

Emilie told me that her sister (not Marie, another one) had spent a lot of time and money searching for the best note taking/PDF reading app currently on the market. Apparently it is Notability. Another honourable mention for Malene, as she managed to find an app which can open word documents, Goodnotes.

I shall be trying these out over the summer to see whether or not I think they are worth using when the next academic year rolls around (which is always sooner rather than later).


So far I have tried Notability and I really like it. One thing worth mentioning is that the app will not be fully satisfying unless you have a stylus! Two rather clever functions that I am enjoying at the moment are

  1. Ability to merge several PDFs into one (this is useful when downloading books via the university library as they are only available as individual chapters)
  2. Ability to export PDF with scribbles on it

Indexing your brain for a closed book exam

If you are unlucky like me and are faced with closed book exams, try this:

  • Buy some index cards (preferably as environmentally friendly as possible, hence the swan on the packets).
  • Write the terms you need to know the front of the card.
  • …and the meaning on the back.
  • Turn it into a memory game, see how many you know without having to turn the cards.
  • Play the game. A lot.