I revised the original very short version of this post after Dr. Andrew Van Schaack commented so helpfully on it. I’d like to recommend that you read his comment first (and follow the link he shares there to learn A LOT more), then experience the YouTube video (with or without translatable captions), and then read my post below. Last summer at NECC (2009) I was honored to meet Jim Marggraff, Dr. Andrew Van Schaack, Holly De Leon, and others at the Livescribe booth. Andy, as Dr. Van Schaack, graciously asked me to call him, showed me early prototypes of both a talking Braille Periodic Table and a TalkingScientific calculator. I was blown away by these because of what they would surely mean to students with vision loss as these students must struggle to understand relationships and properties of the elements in chemistry and/or might not be able to afford talking scientific calculators (the latter typically cost at least $250 U.S. each). Andy also told me how it might also be possible to create a talking/audible graphing calculator. Later he shared some really helpful advanced techniques for using Livescribe Smartpen & paper which he details in the Teaching Strategy Guides he has authored (more about these in separate posts). The talking periodic table "knows" a lot about the elements. With clicks of the Smartpen it can yield the following information about any element: Symbol, Name, Atomic Weight, Density, Melting point, Boiling point, Atomic radius, Ionic radius, Electronegativity, Ionization energy, Electron affinity, Heat of Fusion, and a few (?) others. Andy explained that he and Dr. Josh Miele of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute had been developing these tools with funding from an NSF (National Science Foundation) grant. He also shared that one of the most challenging issues with developing these applications wasn’t necessarily the programming but rather with finding just the right paper that would last reasonable long with frequent use (tapping of a Livescribe Smartpen with either an inking or preferably non-inking tip). Although the talking periodic table and talking scientific calculators aren’t yet available (as of 12/28/2009) I was delighted to find a video on YouTube by CrunchGear in which Pulse Smartpen inventor, Jim Marggraff, demonstrates this ground-breaking tool. So hopefully it’s okay for me to help "spill the beans" about this extraordinary forthcoming tool which I actually see as a tool that supports UDL (Universally Designed Learning) as all chemistry students and teachers would undoubtedly find it invaluable in their studies and work.
Braille on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braille