Update on the Livescribe Pen

May 31, 2008 by

There are a few of you who have been anxiously awaiting my report on the LiveScribe pen. So, here is a brief report!

I convinced one of my Calculus students, who wished to remain anonymous, to take notes during a small section of class. The lesson was on odd and even functions.

I’ve uploaded the written file to my server showing the writing quality of the PDF file that is created by the Livescribe software. You can see it by clicking here, or look at the sample below:

You can see the live Livescribe file (with audio) by going to this page. When you’re looking at the page that has live audio, it is just a thumbnail (a little fuzzy) of the actual page, so I think you would want to print the PDF of the file and then click at different parts of the lecture to use it effectively.

The Livescribe “Community” appears to be a place to share files. This is really going to be interesting, because there are already a lot of folks upset about some websites (like ShareNotes) allowing students to make money by selling the notes they take in class. If lecture notes are property of the professor, and not the institution, then I think it is a serious copyright question that students are making money selling them (not that they are sharing them). If Larry Lessig wasn’t on vacation, I’d ask him about this … maybe someone else can weigh in here.

So now, in addition to sharing notes (although unpaid on LiveScribe), students will be easily sharing the audio files from your lectures. Think on that one! This is, I think, going to curtail a lot of free speech in the classroom. All your administration has to do is go to LiveScribe and find your lectures to hear what goes on in your classroom. While, personally, I don’t care … it could be touchy for those who teach more politically charged subjects. I can see it going awry.

I do think they are going to have more organization to their “community” than simply a general category for “Academics” … that will be a nightmare in no time!

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  1. mathfaery

    Thanks for the update. It looks to be very interesting. I was able to see the notes with live audio in full screen mode, making the written notes very readable. Just click the arrow in the upper right corner to put it into full screen mode. It’s pretty cool how you can click on different parts of the lecture and have the audio pick up from there.

  2. Anonymous

    I love it…it is so cute….but call me old fashioned, I think my tablet is better. 🙂

    Still I want one of these pens, maybe I could use for committee meetings?


  3. Derek

    I’ll have to agree that the Livescribe pen produces a very handy document. Being able to click anywhere in a set of notes and (almost) instantly hear what was going on in the class would be a very useful tool for students.

    As for sharing audio from class, I’m pretty sure that in many states you have to obtain permission from the person you’re recording in order to legally audio-record that person. Not doing so might even be a felony in some states. And that’s permission to record, not just permission to share a recording online. This would mean a student using one of these pens would need permission from anyone in the class whose voice they capture using the pen, teachers and students alike.

    I’m not 100% sure about this. I’m not a lawyer, but I spoke to one about a podcast I produce that features interviews with faculty members. This kind of thing came up then.

  4. Maria H. Andersen

    I looked up the state of Michigan on this site, Can we tape? and for Michigan: The state supreme court stated in a July 1999 ruling that a participant in a conversation “may not unilaterally nullify other participants’ expectations of privacy by secretly broadcasting the conversation” and that the overriding inquiry should be whether the parties “intended and reasonably expected that the conversation was private.” Therefore, it is likely that a recording party may not broadcast a recorded conversation without the consent of all parties. Dickerson v. Raphael, 601 N.W.2d 108 (Mich. 1999).

    I know taping is not the same as recording a class conversation, but if the intent has to do with whether there was a reasonable intent that the conversation was not private, and took place in a public place (a state college), it might be allowed.

    Any lawyers out there reading this that could help?

  5. Derek

    That’s a very useful web site, Maria. Thanks for linking to it.

    I would think most faculty and students would have a reasonable expectation that a class session would be private–that is, that it would not be recorded nor would that recording be made publicly available. If that’s true, then taping without permission would be a problem.

    On the other hand, if there’s a big video camera in the back of the classroom or if a student tells everyone about her new Livescribe pen, then perhaps that would be sufficient to create a reasonable expectation that a class conversation isn’t private?

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