Category Archives: Apps

What is a Smartpen?

At St. John Fisher College, Office of Academic Affairs supports students with disabilities by loaning Livescribe Smartpens. The smartpens enable users to capture, search, and share handwritten notes. The smartpens synchronize handwritten notes with recorded audio. Currently we have three models available for loan; Echo, Sky Wifi, and Livescribe 3 smartpens.

How do smartpens help students with learning disabilities?

  • Note-taking help, homework help and before a big exam
  • Tap your notes and the smartpen will play back the professors explanation word for word
  • Organize your notes; play back controls allow you to slow down or speed up the audio recording, even bookmark key information
  • Capture everything you hear and write – be confident never miss a word
  • Capture words, scribbles and diagrams & syncs everything to what is said

Not all professors allow students to use tablets or mobile devices during class, students take notes via pen and paper.  It is still the most popular method of note-taking. Shocking but true. Reading your notes and/or listening to your recordings within a web based application such as Evernote allows users flexibility and control when reviewing what was captured, making the Livescribe pen a useful tool for today’s digital lifestyle.

The smartpens have an embedded infrared camera that detects pen strokes on special Livescribe paper. Below are my reflections on the 3 models and best use practices. More detailed information can be found at livescribe.com.

The newest smartpen is the Livescribe 3, this pen uses bluetooth technology; notes appear on your tablet or smartphone instantly when paired with the Livescribe+ mobile app.  Your notes are organized, tagged, searchable and can be converted to text.  Turns your words into action!

smartpen3Livescribe 3 smartpen

To transfer your handwritten notes to Livescribe+, connect your Livescribe 3 smartpen to an iOS device that is Bluetooth ready.

  • iPhone 4S or newer
  • iPad 3rd generation or newer
  • iPod touch 5th generation or newer

Notes:  Need iOS device and Livescribe+ app (free), additionally if your iOS device is NOT bluetooth ready, you can still use the Livescribe+ app to open and review pencasts that are send/shared with you by other Livescribe+ users.

Ease of use/setup:

  1. Download the free Livescribe+ app – via App store designed for both iPhone and iPad
  2. First time, pair device.
    • iOS device- ensure Bluetooth is on
    • Turn on your smartpen, by twisting the middle ring clockwise
    • Open Livescribe+ app – device automatically detects your smartpen
    • Tap/touch Pair when prompted, after it connects the LED on smartpen turns blue and  smartpen icon appears top right corner of Livescribe+ app.

smartpen3onFeatures of Livescribe+ app:

  1. The app can be installed on multiple devices- up to four.
  2. Real-time transfer of notes to supported devices.
  3. Enable sign-in and send notes to an existing Evernote account, as well as OneNote.
  4. Send each page or snippet as an image file, or PDF.
  5. Notes can be sent directly to your OneNote Notebook and/or Evernote app.
  6. Notes taken while audio is recording appear in green on your pages and you can play the recording while in Pencasts view.
  7. Rename, delete, and share pages of your Notebooks.
  8. Add content to handwritten notes, add photos, text, and audio as well as converting handwriting to text. Swipe from left to right- reveal the converted text.

My observations:  At first review of this product I was extremely excited not having to be dependent on Wifi and the ability to sync my notes to OneNote.  The students ( I worked with) who wanted to try the newest smartpen used their cell phone- none had an iPad.  I use this pen for meetings, conferences, and other business situations during my work day.  If you are asked to be a note taker – the smartpen can be a life saver!

The Sky WiFi smartpen records everything you write and hear using WiFi technology.  This smartpen can also connect to the internet through your computer and the Livescribe Helper application. This is an alternative for updating and synchronizing your recorded notes and audio with Evernote. Your words, your ideas, any time, anywhere!

skypenSky Wifi Smartpen

It takes 4 simple steps to get started:

  1. Create a Livescribe account- it is free  www.livescribe.com/setup
  2. Link and/or create an Evernote account – its free and need to authorize (link Evernote and Livescribe accounts)
    Both of the steps above need to be done before you can begin to use your Sky Wifi pen.
  3. Activate your smartpen- enter the characters displayed on the screen of the smartpen and connect to WiFi.
  4. Download and Launch Livescribe Helpter – I use the helper app to update the firmware on the smartpen.  If you don’t have access to WiFi this app is a convenient way to backup/synchronize your notes and audio.

helperRecording audio using the embedded microphone for smaller recording environments such as classroom or conference room.  For larger lecture hall, use the Livescribe 3-D Recording Headset, which contains a microphone in each earbud.  I recommended that students sit close to the front of the classroom to ensure that the audio is captured clearly.

The Echo smartpen uses USB technology to transfer notes from smartpen along with Livescribe Desktop software.  Notes can be shared to Evernote and exported in PDF format.  Capture it, Replay it, and Send it!!

echoEcho Smartpen

Get started by:

  1. Download Livescribe Desktop software – available for Windows or Mac OS.
  2. Connect the Echo using the USB cable to your computer. Connecting the smartpen will transfer your notes and audio to Livescribe Desktop automatically.   Don’t disconnect until transfer is complete.
  3. Register and rename smartpen.

My Observations:  I found this pen more time consuming when loaning out to students, depending on the age of their computer, installing the software can take time.  The Echo smartpen ties the student to their desktop/laptop to transfer/sync notes & audio files.  I have students who prefer this model, but struggle when their computer isn’t working or when they purchase new a computer and transferring notebooks/files.

What do all the smartpens have in common?

  1. Sync and transfer notes from smartpen
  2. Use the Livescribe Dot paper
  3. Search handwritten notes
  4. Replay audio from devices
  5. Direct sharing to Evernote
  6. Send/Share via email
  7. Export audio files
  8. A great tool for everyone- no student should go to college without one!  (my opinion)

Livescribe has a great Comparison Chart for you to reference/view all 3 smartpen features side by side. – See more at: http://techtips-rs.blogspot.com/#sthash.P2rrHoX3.dpuf

Resources:

Livescribe Smartpens. (2014, October 17). Retrieved from Livescribe, Inc.: http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/smartpen/

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autotext apps are a shot in the arm for your grading blues

Barney’s and Jeremy’s posts about electronic grading got me thinking:  is there an autotext app that would work across platforms, whether we’re grading in Word or Blackboard or googledocs or Pages?  For years I’ve used the Quickwords function in WordPerfect – I type a short word like /awk and it inserts an entire comment about what’s awkward about the sentence in question.

Program-linked utiliies have their problems, though.  My Quickwords don’t work when I’m grading in Blackboard or turnitin or Word.  And every time I update my software or hardware or use a different computer, I have to remember to recopy the template file, and it’s buggy and doesn’t always work properly.

The freeware utility PhraseExpress is the solution to this dilemma – and almost too good to be true.  Download, install, and, from the system tray (remember to turn on the icon) it allows you to copy frequently used snippets of text and insert them into any document, any program, any platform. . .except, naturally, Macs (see alternative below).  Now, no matter what program I’m using, when I type in the word “orgno,” PhraseExpress inserts my suggestions about how to reorganize a chaotic paragraph.  I have a library of these snippets from my 25 years of teaching, and it took me about half an hour to insert all of them into PhraseExpress.  When I create new ones, all I have to do is click the icon, select “new snippet,” and it’s added to my library.

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There’s a USB-based portable version of PhraseExpress if you use multiple computers.

PhraseExpress also allows you to import a variety of files like Word AutoCorrect and AutoText entries so that you don’t have to retype the snippets you’re already using.

A couple of suggestions:

When you name a snippet, give it a name that doesn’t correspond to an existing word.  My system of naming enlists an abbreviation of the issue (such as “org” for organization problem) plus the word “yes” (for “you’re doing it well!”) or “no” (with instructions about how to do it better).

I keep a list of these snippet names next to my computer for easy access when I’m grading.

For Mac users, AutoTextExpander is a similar utility.  I found it slightly less intuitive than PhraseExpress, and it costs $29.95 after a brief trial period, but it’s a full-featured alternative that works in both Mac and Windows.

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Happy grading!

– Lisa

Geeking Out In the Cloud with Evernote

Last week my parents brought a dusty box to my home. “What’s in here,” I asked, as I looked around my den, already cluttered with magazines and random papers. “It was in the attic.” Ugh. I don’t have anywhere to put this, and if I haven’t needed it for 18 years, why would I need it now? I opened the top of the box and discovered notebooks and binders and papers from my undergraduate studies. That got me thinking about how over many years, moves, and changes in technology – it has been awhile since I’ve worked from a 3.5″ floppy disk – I lost some good work, including graduate research and writing still relevant to my professional work today. I wish I knew where it was and could access it with ease. I also wish that the students with whom I work had a simple way to archive and access their college work. And that got me thinking about Evernote.

What is Evernote? This 50-second video explains the cloud-based storage service for information and ideas.

Evernote’s best features include ease of depositing information and easily retrieving it anytime, anywhere.

A few quick examples of things that you can do with Evernote (occasionally referred to as “EN” from this point forward):

Academic – Professionals
  • assemble content (PDFs, Word and Excel docs, etc.) for use in lessons, write and store lessons and syllabi
  • quick access and easy retrieval of ideas: thoughts typed out, pictures taken with a mobile device, articles (full or snippets) seen on the web, musings recorded on smart phone – a great help in the car, EN can even transcribe your long voice note into text
  • record audio from a student presentation with a smart phone, reference it for grading and send back to students for their review
  • collect e-mails, papers, and other items to reference for annual performance review

Academic – Students
  • store scans or photos of returned papers, tests and quizzes for future reference, creating a simple to use, easily accessed e-portfolio
  • using a mobile device, take pictures of the white board at the end of class and pay more attention to the lecture (with instructor permission?)
  • type outlines for class notes and readings – review anywhere
  • rehearse for a presentation by creating an audio note on a smart phone
  • collect research materials for papers – Evernote automatically records the URL of all saved content

Personal
  • keep pictures of a driver’s license, ID card, library card, medical insurance cards, important receipts, contents of a suitcase, closet, or other valuables in a residence hall or home
  • storage for all instruction manuals (PDF, scanned, web) and warranties
  • recipes clipped from the web, scanned from a recipe box or as pictures taken from a magazine with a mobile device
  • lists containing long term goals and checklists of things to do and items to pack for different kinds of trips
  • pictures of price tags for items when you’re comparison shopping – should I buy razors at Target, BJ’s or on Amazon?
  • record audio notes and capture artwork from young children, automatically stored in the cloud and easily shared

Getting information into Evernote is easily accomplished with desktop, web and mobile applications. You even get your own Evernote e-mail address: anything sent there goes right into your EN account. Notes can be placed into a specific notebook, much like a folder on a PC, and individual notes can also be assigned tags. For example, I have dozens of notes in a “Tricks” folder where I keep different activities for warming up a group, goal setting, decision making, self-disclosure, etc. Some of the activities are specific to only one purpose, and are tagged as such. But I can use my “Face to Face” activity as a general group warm up or to focus specifically on disclosure, so that note gets both tags.

EvernoteScreenShot1

As you can see, this note was once an index card, one of many, but the EN version also contains my notes on uses for the activity. Now that I’ve scanned my “bag of tricks” index cards I can easily search for a group activity or study strategy at home, in my office on campus, or in the classroom.

Organizing notes can be as simple as throwing everything into one notebook, or more complex by utilizing multiple notebooks nested into different stacks. No matter how you work it, EN’s search functionality makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. It even recognizes pictures of handwriting and typewritten words, so if you’ve taken a picture of a poem that you scrawled out on a napkin a couple of months ago, just search for a word from that poem and the note with the photo should show up. Here’s the main page of the EN for Android app looks like. To take a picture of that napkin and automatically send it to EN, I just press “Snapshot.” 

EvernoteAndroid1
If the note wasn’t legible, search all notes with pictures by date – it’s in there!

Notes can be shared by e-mail and to various social media hubs. My Freshman Seminar Peer Advisor and I would meet to discuss upcoming classes, and I’d take notes during those meetings in EN. From those notes, I’d write a lesson plan, complete with all attachments and links to other relevant notes that I had already created. Then I’d e-mail my Peer Advisor the link to that note, which brought her to a neatly formatted page, locked from editing. I wrote this blog post in Evernote – here’s the shared link: http://www.evernote.com/shard/s55/sh/393ed150-445c-4982-8285-952e1c27f46c/69f4b8a06381209c5551fbd144d74ade. If I want to break the link, I can tell EN to stop sharing.

You can even share an entire notebook, giving individuals various levels of access: view, modify, and invite others.

Notes can also be linked together. Students who take pictures or scan their returned papers and tests into Evernote could link them together to create a coursework master note, allowing them to easily reference those materials as they prepare for a final. If students were encouraged to use Evernote to do this with all of their work, they’d be developing their personal e-portfolios.

Evernote has a number of companion products. I recommend Web Clipper, a browser plugin that simplifies importing web content, and Clearly (Chrome and Firefox), which creates a distraction free web page reading experience. They’ve also developed partnerships with existing companies and software that you might already use. Check out what they’ve done with the iPad in Evernote PeekLivescribe and Moleskine. The company has done a nice job cultivating communities (education, organization, parenting, etc.) with Evernote Ambassadors. Foodies will like Evernote Food, a separate but similar application that is especially robust on the iPhone and iPad.

Concerns about privacy are addressed in a reasonably written privacy policy. Your information is password protected and your password is protected by encryption. That said, Evernote is among the most recent victims in a history of hack attempts on major web service providers. They responded quickly by notifying all users by e-mail and forcing password resets. They are aggressively pursuing two-factor authentication for their users, a security option that Google, Dropbox, and others offer. Evernote also allows you to selectively encrypt text in individual notes, but there’s no way to retrieve that text if you lose your special encrypted password. If you ever want to pack up your data and go elsewhere, you can export your notes.

Want to try Evernote for yourself? Get started with a free account for basic use. Overall storage is unlimited, but the amount of synchronized data that you can add in any given month is capped at 60MB/month with a 25MB limit per note. There’s no limit to local storage. You can go premium for $5/month or $45/year and enjoy 1GB of uploads each month, single notes up to 100MB, and a number of other features. I started as a basic customer, but after a year I decided to upgrade when I scanned my wife’s grandmother’s recipe box into EN and then shared that folder with her. She still uses the box, but when she can’t find what she’s looking for I swoop down to the rescue.

So what of that box from the attic? For now I’ll just wedge it into a corner in my attic. Maybe someday I’ll get a scanner with auto duplex and stuff those papers into Evernote.

What uses have you found for Evernote?

Who’s there? Do I want to know?

Getting to know your students’ names and work ethic is always an important task in the first couple of weeks of the semester.  But how much information is useful and what is too much?

Last spring I began using an iPhone app called, appropriately, Attendance.  At $4.99, it’s proven to be a worthwhile and remarkably functional tool.  Not only does the app maintain attendance records in your phone, but it also delivers reports delivered to your e-mail and more significantly, offers a means to easily learn students’ names.

By integrating with the iPhone’s camera, you can take a photo of each student directly from the app. The picture is then displayed next to the student’s name (and can be enlarged when necessary).  On the first day of class, I take the students’ pictures, explaining to them what I’m doing and why.  I make sure to take everyone’s photo, even if I know several of the students from previous classes.  Everyone has been accepting of my mildly intrusive behavior.

The app offers multiple features.  Prior to the start of the semester, you can set up the names by typing each of them into the app (which is time consuming) or by importing a class list using Blackboard to download an Excel file of the class (using the download button in the Grade Center); you can manipulate this spreadsheet to include three columns: “first”, “last” and “email” (not “e-mail”, as I learned the hard way).  The students’ usernames are included in Blackboard download, so you paste “@sjfc.edu” after each username to create an e-mail column.  Finally, by e-mailing this revised spreadsheet to yourself in .csv format, your iPhone mail program offers the option to open the attachment in Attendance.  The inclusion of the students’ e-mails allows you to send an entire note to your class from your phone.  (Car broke down?  Have to cancel class at the last minute?)  Then, an instructor either can add all the class dates in a few minutes time prior to the start of the semester or simply add the current date each day before taking attendance; with a touch of an onscreen button you set everyone to “Present” and then switch any missing students to “Absent”, “Excused”, “Late”, or “Unknown”.

In the App Store, you can learn more and see images of the app, which is satisfying to use, saves paper, makes the attendance task a bit more fun, and makes learning names a snap.

However, sometimes technology tells you more than you need to know.  Just as the Attendance App helps me learn the students’ names and faces, I find using Facebook as a platform for discussion helps students to not only access our workspace easily, but also to become familiar with each other (since profile pictures are part the layout).

Specifically, I create a group and require the students to join.  This process does not require “friending” students.  (As for the students who don’t have a Facebook account, I suggest they make a FB account with a fake alias—I just ask them to reveal their real identity to me and their classmates.)  Facebook is very effective for distributing articles of interest published during the semester.  It also offers a highly intuitive discussion board interface.  (Some of my colleagues have chosen to use Yammer, which offers a similar experience, matching the Facebook interface within a closed environment.  While you have greater privacy and a more clearly defined academic space, there’s also less convenience in that you must access yet another site.)

This semester, I had a new experience.  During the first weekend after classes began, my phone vibrated with every discussion posting, offering a notification of who had made the post.  These intrusions gave me an interesting overview of the work habits (or at the least the work times) of my students.

In the end, I’m uncertain about what to do with this newly gained information.  There’s something to be said about the leveling of student effort when one simply collects papers on the due date.  On the other hand, most online discussions include a time stamp, but these more easily go unnoticed.  Ultimately, getting up-to-the-minute notification of student achievement offered added weekend entertainment (“when will it vibrate next?”) and insight into the variation of student work habits.  (More students worked Saturday night and fewer completed their work late Sunday than you might expect.)

But, before the following weekend, I readjusted my Facebook settings, mentally wished my students well, and left the knowledge of their work habits behind me, allowing them to work with greater anonymity and myself to enjoy some peace.

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Thanks to Joellen Maples for joining our blogging team.  Todd Sodano is up next in a couple of weeks!