Archive for December, 2009

SAT Math Practice – Interactive Pencasts from Rose-Hulman’s Homework Hotline

Once again Indiana and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and service – This time by providing free online SAT practice/tutoring vis-à-vis  dozens of pdfs and interactive pencasts available at

Each pencast and pdf was created using a Livscribe Smartpen by a student or students with lots of tutoring experience and vetted by an amazing team led by Susan Smith, Director and Janie McNichols, Assistant Director, of the Homework Hotline provided by  This award winning non-profit is funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Free math/science tutoring for K-12 students in Indiana!
If you’re lucky enough to live in Indiana and have children in grades 6-12 that need math/science tutoring then be sure to visit and take advantage of the free homework hotline that Rose-Hulman offers.  In 2008 over 44,000 students took advantage of this and I’m sure the number will be much higher in 2009 which is drawing to a close as I write this.

If you’d like to learn how all this got started read more under the image below.

In early 2009 Janie McNichols stopped at CIM Technology Solutions’ booth at an educational technology conference in Indiana where she met JR Gayman (VP of CIM, someone who really understands cutting edge technology). JR asked her what she did and was interested in and Janie replied that she co-directed AskRose, Rose-Hulman’s Homework Hotline, and was looking for tools that might help with it (math in particular). JR shared with her about how the Livescribe Smartpen could be used to take notes with voice & to create and share pencasts/mathcasts online and encouraged her to contact me (I worked for JR and CIM at the time) because of my long work with mathcasts and knowledge of the Smartpen. So Janie and I met online – only once or perhaps twice and she caught onto everything I shared about it a hurry (pencasting/mathcasting with the Smartpen and/or using Jing/Camtasia Studio with graphics tablets to create/share mathcasts).

How to quickly record without using Livescribe paper

How to quickly record with a Pulse Smartpen without using Livescribe paper

  1. With Smartpen turned off.
  2. Press and continue holding power button until Smartpen starts recording.
  3. Press power button to stop recording.

Direct link to YouTube video:

How to hide previewing of ink in pencasts

By hiding the previewing of ink viewers of pencasts get more of the experience of seeing notes as they are written and won’t see “ghosted ink” (previewing ink).

Since it’s not yet possible (as of 12/27/2009) to get custom embed code for pencasts with ink previewing turned off here’s what you have to do.  Be sure to show this to your students and/or peers to make sure they know how to do this.

I created the image using Snagit from TechSmith. I could have also tried doing this using Jing (free from TechSmith – but it was much easier with Snagit as I needed to put 2 screen captures together along with text, arrows, and rectangles. I also needed to cut out various rectangular sections of the original images.

Recording and Sharing In-Class Observations

Dr. Andrew Van Schaack, a professor at Vanderbilt University and Senior Science Advisor to Livescribe, has written a Teaching Strategy Guide (TSG) for the Livescribe Smartpen. This guide is available through Educational Representatives along with professional development.

Livescribe has made 4 chapters of the TSG available at no cost along with videos that share the main ideas in them.  The full TSG is available along with professional development from a Livescribe Educational Representative.

Below the video is a link to the pdf version of the Teaching Strategy Guide that goes along with the video.

YouTube version of video with translatable captions (new window): version (new window) – with link to downloadable version of video:

Sample Teaching Strategy Guide #3:  Teacher_Guide_3_In-Class_Observations.pdf

Smartpen Technology and Revitalization of the Myaamia Language

Suppose your goal was to help re-establish a language that was no longer spoken and bring it back into everyday useWhat if you knew this work could help bring about cultural revitalization?

  1. How would you do it?
  2. Would you consider using a Livescribe Smartpen and creating custom penlets using the Livescribe SDK?

This is what Victor Obonyo, a Master’s Degree candidate did recently at Miami University (Oxford, OH).  His extraordinary 82 page thesis shares many details: and paints a vivid picture of how the wise application of technology can help do things that are difficult at best in other ways.

Abstract: The main purpose of this research is to determine whether appropriate technology can contribute towards revitalization of the Myaamia language. Language revitalization refers to the development of programs and other learning opportunities that result in re-establishing a language, which has ceased being the language of communication, and bringing it back into use in everyday life. Although it seems possible that various technologies can play an important role in these efforts, a survey of language revitalization programs has shown little assessment of the role of technology in language revitalization. In this project, a case study was done to determine, to what extent, if any, appropriately designed technology (in this case a Smartpen) can be useful in Myaamia language revitalization efforts. The result collected, after participants had used the research material, showed that technology, if configured appropriately and made interesting and purposeful, can play an important role in language revitalization efforts.

More about the Myaamia People and Language Project:

  1. The Myaamia Language Project:
  2. The Myaamia Foundation:
  3. Wikipedia – Miami Tribe:

Digital Ethnography using the Smartpen

Professor Michael Wesch, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University,  posted  “SmartPen as Digital Ethnography Tool” to his Digital Ethnography Blog.

10 million views on YouTube?! Before you quit reading this post consider that Michael’s video, “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us” (released on YouTube in 2007) quickly became the most popular video in the blogosphere and has been viewed over 10 million times.

So when Michael began his post with “This little smartpen from Livescribe just might revolutionize my note-taking in seminars, …” I had to keep reading until I read ‘I feel like this is one of those “Rear View Mirror” moments in which a new technology comes into our lives with enormous potential and we just don’t know what to do with it yet.’  Michael’s quote also reminds me of when I hacked the Logitech io Anoto pen years ago to get it to replay ink and emailed Logitech multiple times desperately trying to get it to add voice recording to no avail and why I rejoiced that Jim Marggraff and Andy Van Schaack figured out why this was so critical and labored hard and long to make it so.

Professor Wesch shares more about his experiences with the Smartpen including his first pencast created with one in “SmartPen as Digital Ethnography Tool“.

Ethnography (from Wikipedia: Ethnography)

is a qualitative research method often used in the social sciences, particularly in anthropology and in sociology. It is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies/cultures.  Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing.

Categories: Ethnography Tags:

Digital Voice Recording – Livescribe vs 2 Others

Cathy Frank, one of my Livescribe educational colleagues in Kansas, recently authored “Comparing Audio: Livescribe Pulse Smartpen vs Other Digital Recorders“.

This excellent post shares information from multiple sources about how well voice recording with the Livescribe compares to recording done with two other tools (the Livescribe comes out on top). It also has a link to where you can listen to and compare the audio recordings of all three of the recorders shown below (LiveScribe Pulse SmartPen, Olympus WS-450S, iProRecorder) – recording from the back of the room, the middle of the room, and the front of the room.

Livescribe Talking Braille Periodic Table

 Direct link to video: Non-captioned version of video: Direct link to video:

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:

How to Embed Larger Pencasts

  1. Examples

How to embed larger-sized pencasts:

Create 3 different sized pencasts (small, medium, large – see below)
using James Socol’s Pencast Embed tool:

  1. Copy pencast URL to the clipboard.
  2. Navigate to James Socol’s pencast embed tool:
    1. Paste in URL.
    2. Choose Small, Medium, or Large.
    3. Click the Push Me button.
    4. Copy the embed code generated to the clipboard.
  3. Paste the embed code into your blog, Moodle Bb, wiki, web page, etc

Recommendation: If you embed medium or larger sized pencasts be sure to tell
viewers to go full screen and turn off the previewing of ink by clicking
Set Preview Mode and then clicking Hide Preview.


  1. Small:
  2. 228 x 316

  3. Medium:
  4. 342 x 474

  5. Large:
  6. 456 x 632

Categories: Embed Larger Pencasts Tags:

Pencasting with the Smartpen (by Steven Diaz)

Steven Diaz, a math instructor for the Academic Enhancement Center at St. Thomas University, has created a very nice SlideShare presentation.  I’ve embedded it below along with an example pencast by Steven.  Learn more about Steven on his Ed. D Journey blog.


View more presentations from Steven Diaz on SlideShare.

11.20.2008 1:05p
brought to you by Livescribe
Original smaller pencast was enlarged using James Socol’s free Pencast Embed Tool