Universities across the country are adopting a new technology to accommodate many types of students in the classroom. On a recent visit to the AccessibleNU at Northwestern University, I got a chance to see a live demonstration of this new note-taking technology that is also in use by the Office of Disability Services here at Ohio State. The Livescribe Echo Smartpen can be loaned out to students who would have previously been paired with a note-taking volunteer or classmate. The smartpen records the audio in an environment as soon as the user clicks the “record” icon on the smart notebook that corresponds with the pen. After a student has taken a few notes and the recording has ended, clicking back on a section of the notes starts the audio playback from that point.
View a demo of the Livescribe Echo Smartpen:
Specifically, note-taking becomes an accessibility issue in classes with long lectures that don’t distribute notes or slides to students, and especially for students with attention or mobility differences. As the number of these students grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to set up that peer note-taking relationship as the only form of accommodation.
As with any disability, the increased demand for improvement and universal availability creates a window for what we call “assistive technologies” to step in. These are both software and hardware that are constantly improving and range from the variety of screen reader software, braille typewriters, and adaptive mice.
The Livescribe Echo Smartpen is a hybrid of software and hardware, is relatively affordable and like many accessible technologies, could benefit all users, not just those with a disability.