Digital Pens – should you or shouldn’t you?

Yesterday’s Sunday Times had an article predicting the end of the textbook because now reading and writing can be done on digital devices. The main drivers for this change are the great cost saving but also, they argue, because students are much happeier to use something if it is digital.

If this arguement is true then availabilitu of e-pens or digital pens may be useful classroom resource. Typically these pens have relied on certain kinds of paper to write on that helps the pen index the notes. This is how LiveScribe works, http://www.livescribe.com/uk/

The other option is Logipen, http://www.logipen.com/, which records the pens movements to a receiver which can then be uploaded to a computer later. The advantage is that there is no paper which must be continually bought and it also uses standard pen refills.

The benefits seem to be:

1. Portability – It is easier to bring a pen to the classroom and record notes and diagrams for uploading later.

2. Cost – At £99 per pen it is cheaper to buy enough for a class, although there still needs to be good access to computers to enable work to be uploaded.

3. Creativity – A pen allows students to express themselves in images as well as text.

4. Motivation – As I said earlier there is still a degree of motivation that comes from using digital devices. This is always shortlived, as with Interactive Whiteboards, and in the end the benefits and purposes must be sufficient to continue after this initial novelty has worn off.

One question would be whether many of these benfits could be achieved through providing each student with an iPad or anotehr tablet – at less than £350, with little setup and multi functions this may be a better investment.

I think in the first instance I would buy a small number for some staff or a small group of students and let them experiement with them. I would also want to see how effective the handwriting recognition is. These students will enjoy the benefits and you can see if they are a worthwhile investment.

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