Digital Pens

As I continue to explore assistive technology devices I decided to focus on digital pens.  The pen that you need depends on the purpose you need it for.  I have created a comparison of six digital pens on my wiki page ‘Digital Pens Compared‘. The purposes that most use a digital pen for are:


  • Scanning and converting handwritten notes to digital text so it can be stored and searched for easy retrieval
  • Scanning and reading text  for those who might be having difficulties in reading
  • Recording what you write and hear (say during a lecture for instance)

As you can see from my comparison chart Livescribe pens have the most functionality, basically fulfilling all of the purposes above.  On a downside though you have to use specific paper for these pens. If your only purpose is to convert your handwritten notes, many of the other pens do that and since they use the same software probably all would be comparable.  If your specific purpose is only to read (and look up unknown words using a built in dictionary) then the Reading Pen is the one for you.

Why use a Digital Pen? Personally I am faster at keyboarding then hand-writing, so if this is you then probably getting a tablet with a bluetooth keyboard would get your notes into a digital format just as easy. Some students might feel self-conscious with a note-taking device (tablet, netbook, alpha-smart, fusion…). For them I could see a digital pen as being a possibility, and probably less conspicuous.   Unfortunately some of the reason students need a note-taking device is because their handwriting is hard to read.  If the handwriting is too hard to read, it probably will be too hard for the digital pen to interpret as well.

If the teacher agrees to being recorded I do see digital pens being great for students who have difficulty writing their notes, and listening to lectures. With a Livescribe pen you could do both at the same time, download your notes and the audio of the lecture into the computer and use them to study from. I can think of some of my professors in college that I would have loved to have this for.

The Reading Pen would be great for students who need a text to speech conversion on every day text, ie chapter books, tests, and/or other school handouts. The pens are pricey, but I’m thinking about getting some to assist in testing modifications. If a student has ‘read test’ on their IEP, why not give them a Reading Pen with earphones and have them use it right in their classroom, taking the test while everyone else does and not needing to have the test read during a separate class period. The Reading Pen does have a dictionary feature, but if you are concerned about students using it during a test, you can turn that feature off and password protect it.

As an assistive technology device, digital pens do have their purpose, and for those who need them they can bring great learning success.

Check out @terryfreedman’s post Digital Invisible Ink for more on the Livescribe pen. Or check out 8 Reasons Why Livescribe is the Best Tool for Taking Digital Notes.

If you have experience using a digital pen please comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “Digital Pens

  1. At first when my publishing company decided to bring on this technology, I was a tad bit skeptical. After a year though, I would have to say it has made some tasks a lot easier for us. We used this digital pen for our bills of ladings, agreements, signatures, and a few other formal documents. It has definitely reduced costs and made the shipping of our books a lot easier. I am glad the company went with a pen that could be used with plain paper, unlike some other pens that need specific paper like you stated above. I really enjoyed browsing your blog Dodie! I see an option to follow you on twitter, but do you have a facebook account to follow you on ?

  2. Love your information. My 16 year old son could benefit from this technology. He has cerebral palsy and cannot write. His aide must handwrite all of his notes (while he listens) and then I have to retype them in my computer when he gets home from school. This is a lot of work! Could you please help make a recommendation on what pen would be best for our situation? I think the audio component would be an asset to help him study/refresh what he’s learned. Thank you!

    1. @Jerie I would have your son’s aide use a livescribe pen because then you can download the audio and notes making it easy for your son to listen to the lesson, as well as search keywords for concepts he wants to review. Livescribe is the only one that has the audio feature as well as the ability to download the notes. Of course you will probably need to get the teachers on board with being recorded, that has been an issue in some school districts. But with that said most teachers that typically have issues quickly realize that the benefits for students far outweigh anything else.
      Good luck!

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