Thanks to Annie Krespil and her presentation during the SPEAQ campus, I had the opportunity to discover an incredible teaching tool : the Smartpen. The Smartpen is not just a simple pen, hell no ! It is a computer which combines all four mode of communication (reading, writing, speaking and listening). When you buy the basic Smartpen which has a storage of 2gb, you will also receive a special paper with features already on it. For example, in the lowest part of the page, you will find a small ink and every time you will touch it, it will record what you say. There are many ways to use it effectively in and outside the classroom and some of them will be presented in this blog this week. I want to specify that, in this text, I will only talk about the advantages if a teacher has it because I think it is unrealistic to think that all students could have their own.
The first benefit from using the Smartpen is the fact that, in your class, you can ask a student to take notes on the course that you give. For example, if you talk about the rules of plural, he will write the categories on the paper (and click on record) and then everything that you will say will be recorded. Then, it will possible to put the sheet on the portal or on google docs and it will be accessible for the students and the parents to go take a look at what they have learned during that day. The student can revisit instructions and particular points of a course as many times as needed to understand. We have to take into consideration that, as a teacher, some students are shy and will never ask a question if they don’t understand. By making the course notes available online, it will allow this kind of students to understand and to have access to help as much as the others. Furthermore, like I said if it is available online for the students, it is also for the parents who will be able to help their child in their homework because it will be possible for them to see exactly the explanations he received at school. We can also think that the Smartpen will be very useful for a student who missed the class because he won’t only receive a small review of what was seen in class and the exercises, but also spoken explanations of the teacher. Dr. Sam Patterson, an English teacher at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto, shows that it can be really effective in a school context because he says that he uses the Smartpen “to improve their understanding of difficult subject matter, such as antiquated vocabulary used by Shakespeare and Homer. The students write with the pens to augment their notes, while Patterson uses his to generate comprehensive files that he then shares with students who need help or were absent. He also creates mini-tutorials for certain lessons that students can refer to outside of class. Using the Smartpen clarifies instructions for students who might not have initially understood them” he explains.
From a psychological perspective, I think that the Smartpen will also allow the students to listen more to what the teacher says instead of copying what he writes on the board or on his powerpoint. Indeed, the Smartpen will make note-taking less stressful because it will eliminate the fear of missing something important that the teacher could say because they will all have access to everything on the net. The comprehension will be then, their major preoccupation. Like Andrew Leibs from assitivetechnology.com says “[The Smartpens] also remove the time-consuming task of transcribing a complete lecture by enabling students to access any part of a recorded lecturer by merely tapping on words.” Students with learning disabilities will truly benefit from that technology because if they struggle to follow the teacher or the lectures, they know that they will be able to listen to the lesson as many times as they want at home. Andrew Leibs says the same thing because he knows in class, “students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia sometimes struggle to keep up with class lectures. In the time it takes to hear, process, and write down information, the professor has often moved on to the next point. Giving an equal chance to succeed to every student is a value that every teacher should have.
Many students will also improve their listening comprehension by using the Smartpen. The fact that the teacher can put the instructions of a work online will give the students another opportunity to improve their listening comprehension because the more input you have on a particular thing, the best it is. Like Stuart Knox says in his essay about Smartpens in second or other language learning environments, “the analysis of recorded native English speaker speech and analysis of their own recorded speech produced benef its in the areas of pronunciation, intonation and accent improvement. When students failed to understand native English presentations, they could repeatedly play back recorded presentations in order to achieve understanding. “ Listening to English speakers such as the teacher in a recording for example will provide learning benefits because things will be clearer for them. Encouraging the students to listen to a language in class, but also at home will help them in their development.
Finally, the Smartpen can improve the students speaking skills because they will be able to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses by listening to their interventions in a group for example. Like Annie Krespil told us during the Speaq, when she asks her students to do a group talking activity, she asks one student to put a check with the Smartpen, every time a person talks. The result of this action is the fact that all the interventions of every student can be recorded. The students can thus have the opportunity to evaluate their skills and try to see where they have to improve before the teacher tells them. It can also resolve a conflict if a student says that he did say something during an oral presentation, but in fact he did not. You have the proof in your pen. Like Livescribe education says “ By expanding the use of evaluation form to include audio recordings, the evaluator can then go back and make instructional use of the recorded segments to reinforce positive behaviors or to instruct in areas that need improvement.” Sometimes the students will improve if he feels that he is not that bad after all and one way to make him feel like that is to show him that he is able take his place in a discussion. Furthermore, having the possibility to evaluate the students after the class (by listening to the recording of the teams) will allow the teacher to help teams the ones that are struggling and will incite the students to talk in English during all the period because they will be evaluated on what the teacher will be able to hear on the pen and not only what she hears during class. It will be the end of students who only talk in French or about their weekend.
As you see the Smartpen can be magic, but you have to know how to use it properly!