LiveScribe pen offers assisted learning for students at Rutgers


tech_1naaz
Photo by Naaz Modan |

Photo Illustration | Kelsey Mulgrew, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, writes in the LiveScribe Dot Paper notebook with the partner LiveScribe pen issued to her by Rutgers’ Office for Disability Services to help her with her Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). 


From childhood, Kelsey Mulgrew’s teachers suspected that there was more to her incessant chattering than just being bored during math class.

“I couldn’t focus at all,” said Mulgrew, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “Like, I was talking non-stop and whenever the teacher told me to stop talking it would last for, like, a minute, and then I would be talking to someone again. It was awful.”

Mulgrew, who was first formally diagnosed at the age of seven with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a variation of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), struggled to cope with the condition which affects up to 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17, according to a November 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From the age of seven and onward, she was prescribed Ritalin, homeschooled and assigned to meet with various counselors and therapists, but she only encountered a new tactic to manage living with adult ADD when she arrived at Rutgers and was offered a smartpen to lease, courtesy of the Office of Disability Services.

Photo: Naaz Modan

Photo Illustration | Student Kelsey Mulgrew holds the LiveScribe pen and the pen’s companion notebook.

The device, the LiveScribe 4 GB Echo Smartpen, which can capture thousands of pages of notes and more than 800 hours of audio for $270 on the online marketplace Amazon, measures about seven inches in height and sports a glossy black body with a rubberized grip.

The power button sits at the top of the tool, which measures about an inch in circumference, and the “LiveScribe” logo and large microphone sleekly trail down one face of the thicker-than-average pen.

“You can write with it normally, like a normal pen,” Mulgrew said, as she scrawled the word “hi” across a sheet of paper in a notebook that accompanies all LiveScribe pens.

The notebook is lined with LiveScribe Dot Paper, or regular paper printed with an inimitable sequence of microdots that operates as a type of pen GPS so it can follow what the user writes, draws or, indeed, casually scratches across the paper to show a fascinated observer across a table.

When the tip of the pen presses an icon — including but not limited to the record, play, stop and jump buttons — from a printed dashboard of icons that run along the bottom of the paper and the writer proceeds to scribe on the paper, the pen records everything the user hears, says and writes and plays it back with another tap on one of the icons.

Better, the pen, equipped with a 3.5mm audio jack and a Micro USB connector, allows the user to hook the LiveScribe pen to a Mac, PC or Apple iPad to review notes leading up to a big paper or exam.

“I’m surprised it exists, honestly,” Mulgrew said. “I didn’t even think anything like this would exist.”

Despite her general positive impression of the LiveScribe, she found a problem with the tool that marginally dampered the overall practicality and effectiveness of the pen.

“You can buy more (LiveScribe Dot Paper) online, it’s not that hard,” she said. “It’s just a little annoying that you can’t use any notebook or find your own organization or whatever it is — like if you had your own specific way of organizing things you’d have to revamp that for this type of notebook.”

Organization — or at the very least, routine — as it turns out, is of particular importance to Mulgrew.

Since her brief stint taking Ritalin as a child, she said her mother assigned her various therapists over the years to assist her with organization skills in the face of hyperactivity and forgetfulness.

Now as a college student, she said she has her own way of organizing her school work after honing a certain method, and says the LiveScribe pen is another tool for her to remember to use to help her with her ADD in class.

“I have a notebook with sections per subject and I’ve been using that for a while,” she said. “It’s not that inconvenient as a weakness, it’s just a little annoying if you’re used to a certain system. But besides that, it’s a pretty cool tool.”


Katie Park

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