In my last article, I mentioned going to SPEAQ Campus conference, which is, as I said before, an ESL teacher conference in which teachers come and talk about either special activities they put in place or their different way of teaching. In my last blog, I also mentioned a seminar called “An old story made new”, in which two teachers were talking about integrating technologies in their classroom. Another tool they came up with and I had never ever seen before was the SmartPen. I was blown away when I first saw what it could do!
What is it?
To summarise, the SmartPen is a tool that has two main functions. The first one is to remember important things for you. It records something while you write something else or simply because it’s faster to record it than writing everything. For example, as a student, I could use it when a teacher says something very important in class and I don’t have time to write everything down. As a teacher, I would use it to evaluate C1 and C2 (interact orally and reinvest understanding). By using this SmartPen, you don’t always have to be with the students and you know they are making efforts even if you are not right behind them. Also, I believe it gives you more opportunities to hear them speak English than simply a few times in the year when you try to hear them and it might not be representative of what they can really do.
The second main function of the SmartPen is Capture, Replay, and Send. Basically, once you have written or recorded something in the special book going with the SmartPen, you can listen to it simply by “clicking” on the related words in your book. You can also connect it to your laptop and transfer all your writings and recordings. Then, not only you can replay everything, but you can also share it. As a teacher, it might be very interesting to send the students what they talked about to either explain them why they had a certain grade or simply if they have to do a written task related to what they talked about and they would like to listen to their conversation again.
Ways to use the SmartPen?
Obviously, using these two functions, there are a lot of possible uses with the SmartPen. As I said before, students can take notes or record a teacher an listen to the class again when doing their homework. Also, it can be useful for the parents to know how their child is doing in English, and why he had a certain mark. It can also be useful for students who have more difficulties at school and need to listen to something many times. This is why the sharing part of it is very important. All students do not need to have a SmartPen, the teacher can simply have someone in the class record, and send it to the class after. Another really important thing to know is that the pen is a bit like a USB key, so you can empty it in your computer to put more recording in it.
How much does it cost?
Obviously, this unique tool comes at a price. According to me, it is not too expensive considering all the uses it has and how much people it can help. You can find it between $150 and $200, depending of the memory size of the Pen, I believe.
There is a very simple reason why I put my opinion after the price. Considering I am a student at the moment, I did not have the chance to buy it and have a real try at it, so I had to base my opinion on what I saw and heard at the SPEAQ conference, and what I saw on my favorite source to learn new things: YouTube.
At SPEAQ campus, the teacher said she was using it because the way her class is organised is that students are separated in competencies. Every class, students do something different, related to improving a particular competency. For this reason, she cannot always be with the students practicing oral skills, which is why she decided to buy the SmartPen to follow what they talked about and to make sure they did not lose their time. Also, every task they were doing in the different competencies were related to each other, so she sent the conversations to the students so they can use it for the written competency.
I believe the way she used the SmartPen was clever and useful. However, I didn’t see how I would use this pen at an elementary school level. I thought students needed to have a certain level of maturity and autonomy, but a YouTube video changed my mind. A teacher had his or her elementary students draw a rain forest and, with the help of the SmartPen, they added sounds of the rain forest, vocabulary words, etc. It is very interesting to see how much possibilities there is with this pen. On this website,there is a lot of different ways to use the SmartPen, not all related to ESL teaching, but it gives new ideas. For example, there is an video called audio study guide, in which a science teacher printed a skeleton and had students study the bones with it. As said in the video, this way of studying might not be useful for all students, but some of them benefit of hearing the words more than reading them. As an ESL teacher, I could do the same thing, simply for the students to learn body parts for example.
Finally, I think I would not buy the SmartPen straight away after finishing school, I would wait to have a bit more experience and see if the students would respond well to using the SmartPen. It is not free and, before buying it, I would like to be sure I would use it properly and students would benefit from it. I need to know it would add something to their learning before simply buying it because it’s cool. However, I thought it was worth making an article on it to inform people of its existence and of its possible uses. I will let you on this video, which is more of an advertisement for the SmartPen, but it shows you how to use it, and it is well-explaned.