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Product review: Echo Smartpen by Livescribe

For many high schoolers, college is right around the corner. Are you getting a little nervous about keeping up in class? Note-taking skills not up to par? This is a problem area that it seems every college student experiences. Students with disabilities face even greater challenges in the traditional classroom setting. But there is help available.

Enter the Echo Smartpen by Livescribe. This lightweight pen looks like a traditional pen, but it’s anything but normal. This pen comes with its own paper in a very traditional looking spiral binder. As you take notes on the special paper, the pen records what the professor is saying. Lose your place? Don’t fret. When playing the recording back, place the tip of your pen at the point where you got lost. The pen, when placed on the paper, will bring you right back to the point at which you stopped taking notes, enabling you to finish your notes without error. When playing back the audio, you also have an option of adjusting the playback speed. This helps particularly when there is background noise in the room or even if the professor talks at a rapid pace.

In a large lecture hall? No problem. The Echo Smartpen has adjustable settings, one of which is strictly for this use. The pen can change the microphone settings to adjust to the larger environment. The ability to return to the lecture in the privacy of your own home is great because you can listen as many times as you need to clear up any questions or to be reminded of any last-minute instructions from the professor.

This pen works along with an application that you can download for free on your computer that allows you to transfer your recordings. Once you do this, you have the option of taking it off your pen but keeping it on file for future reference to free up the recording space on the device. This application also allows you to send notes and audio directly from your smartpen to other destinations such as Evernote, Facebook or your desktop.

Antoinette Galyen, technical assistant for the Student Access Center at Erie Community College, North Campus, said, “The Echo Smartpen can hold up to 4.5 hours of text and audio, 6.5 hours of just plain text and 7.5 hours of just audio.”

Galyen said students at ECC do not have to pay for the pen if they qualify for student accommodations. But she recommends buying your own pen if you like it.

This device also has about 70 applications including Wikipedia, games, dictionaries and the ability to convert to a foreign language.

Heather Hewson, a counselor in ECC North Campus’ Student Access Center, said during the fall semester, 19 students received Echo Smartpens.

“The pen is available to anyone with a disability impacting the ability to take notes,” she said. “It is especially helpful for students with learning disabilities, auditory processing issues and attention difficulty.”

Both Hewson and Galyen recommend the Smartpen and say it can help people not just on college campuses but in the workplace as well.

The pen can be purchased on Amazon starting at $118.

Molly Teti is a freshman at Erie Community College.