‘Smartpen’ Pilot Program Helps Students with Disabilities

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We often get questions about the legality of using a recording device or pen in class.

Parents ask this question when schools tell them “recording devices violate the confidentiality” of other students in the classroom.

Digital recorders or recording pens are Assistive Technology devices. If your child is eligible for special education services under IDEA, the school is required to consider the assistive technology needs of your child. The law requires schools to use assistive technology devices and services “to maximize accessibility for children with disabilities.” (20 U.S.C. Section 1400(c)(5)(H), Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, p. 47)

These devices can “transform the life of almost any child with learning disabilities who struggles with notetaking.

What about using a recording device for class lectures in a postsecondary setting? Is it Legal for a Student to Record Class Lectures?

Ask Penn State.

The Office of Disability Services (ODS) at Penn State recognized how AT could benefit students with disabilities by improving their classroom and studying experiences.

While the use of the smartpen is advantageous to anyone who uses pen and paper, the benefits it has for disabled students are vast. – Terrell Jones, vice provost for Educational Equity at Penn State.

Last fall ODS began a program to loan recording pens to students. They “introduced a pilot program to loan ‘smartpens’ which use unique paper to record audio and digitize the notes written and the audio heard. The resulting digital content can be uploaded to a student’s computer.”

“In addition, the department is realizing cost savings for the University by offering this technology in lieu of contracted note-taking services made available to those students. Students have said that their classroom experience has been enhanced with the use of the smartpen.

Sixth semester student Anthony Demchak enjoys the versatility and customization the tool adds to his day-to-day academic schedule. With the smartpen, I can focus on what the professor is actually saying instead of focusing on getting down all the notes, he said.

We’re sure to see many more benefits in the future from this and other technology-assisted study aids, including the ability to help disadvantaged students have a greater chance of academic success.”

‘Smartpen’ Pilot Program Helps Students with Disabilities published October 26, 2012 in the gantdaily.com

More Examples Nationwide

Rutgers – Helping You Succeed: The Office of Disability Services offers students the opportunity to borrow LiveScribe pens, as availability allows. We highly encourage any student approved for note taking services to speak with his/her coordinator about its use.

Southern Oregon University: SOU uses a traditional notetaker program in many instances [Livescribe], and for some students that’s a perfect accommodation.

Wagner College – NY: The Office of Disabled Student Services provides the following assistive technology for students with sensory, memory, or learning challenges: Livescribe Pen.

California Polytechnic State University: Livescribe Note-Taking Services.

ASU – Note-Taking Services or use of Smart pens.

UC Berkeley – Note-taking Services.

University of Central Arkansas – Disability Resources Center.

Dickinson College – Note-taking Accommodations.

  1. Smart Pens are a bit of a scam, in my opinion. 1st they assume skills on the part of the user that most children, let alone those with learning disabilities and or dysgraphia do not have. The only people I’ve encountered who use them consistently are adult professionals and smart pen salespeople. 2nd the cost of the item, cost of the dedicated paper and the maintenance and adoption process mitigate against success.

    Simple apps, for a tablet or smart phone, articulately ‘AudioNote’, ‘Noteability”, ‘OneNote’ and ‘Evernote” are easier to understand and use and at prices from free to $5 or so; well it makes no sense to waste money on a single device like a smart pen when for the same price and less a tablet and a variety of supportive apps can be purchased. I can’t understand why Smart Pens keep being offered as a useful solution.

  2. Under my children’s 504 Plan, can we get our school district to pay for a Smart Pen they can use in class?

  3. Thanks for this article. It points out the positive impact that technology can be in helping students learn. It also addresses their strengths rather than weaknesses.

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