Whatever happened to …

… the Livescribe Pen?

I was doing some archive editing and noticed that this was a heavy topic of discussion a few years ago.  Like so many things related to technology, it was promoted as a “game changer”.  Students/Teachers could take notes and audio at the same time.  You’d never forget a moment and would have things remembered forever.

Around here, I keep my own Echo pen charged but the LED doesn’t display with the sharpness that it once had.

The product hasn’t gone away. 

You can still find it in these places, among others.

The product line has certainly grown and changed over the years.

There still is a great deal of discussion on Twitter about it.  It’s interesting to see the references to Sketchnoting and the Moleskin notebooks look very cool.  The thing is that it’s not coming from the big fans that I remember with their game changing claims from a few years back.

So, I wonder … what’s the status in Ontario schools? 

  • Has it gone away with cursive writing? 
  • Are people using tablets and fingers to replicate the original concept?
  • Has the price drop for tablets, phones, Chromebooks made a shift in buying patterns?

I’d love to hear if you’re using them and the results you’re having?  Please leave your updates in the comments below.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

15 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Hi Doug. I’ve been a big fan of Livescribe for over 7 years now. I’ve owned 5 pens (2 of the old pulse pens no longer available, and 3 Echos). I have lots of opinions on this topic. I do believe this pen is an amazing tool with so many uses. I am still using one of my Echo pens every week to do reading records with my students. From my experience, the pen used to be affordable (I paid $99 for my first pulse pen, and $120 for my first echo) tech tool that functioned really well. The old Livescribe Desktop software was/is pretty awesome. You can upload the content and convert them to PDFs, share them to google drive/evernote/facebook, and (my favourite) embed the pencasts on other sites such as blogs and class websites. A few years ago, Livescribe did away with the old software and created the Echo desktop. I actually never made the switch because I was warned (by a vendor) that the new software does not do some of these functions. The community that you shared your pencasts with in order to get your embed code no longer exists so I’ve lost that function and that’s a big problem for me. The new Livescribe 3 pens work via bluetooth with an ipad. IMO, this ties up another device for simple tasks. For me, the original pens were much more applicable in my elementary school setting. The price for the pens has also gone up considerably. Four of my five pens no longer work and replacing them is a bigger issue. $99 doesn’t seem so bad, but now the cheapest pen is the 2 GB Echo pen for $155. My 8 GB Echo that used to cost $160 is now $299! The changes in the products and pricing has been one of the reasons I’m not using mine as much anymore. Having said that, I still feel it’s a great tool. I tried to encourage others years ago to use this pen. Many didn’t because of the software component. They were either intimidated by the technology or felt they didn’t have the time to do “one more thing”. I feel that the pen is still useful without the software. Even just having the content stored in the pen and replayed from the page is effective for so many things. I never really understood why people didn’t want to use their pens more. I can see soooooo many applications in so many classroom settings. I really wished I had one of these pens when I was in University. Maybe then I wouldn’t have fallen asleep in most of my lectures! (-;

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks for the update, Kim. I will agree with you throughout. Similarly, I wish that I had had the device when I was in university. I don’t recall me sleeping but I distinctly remember topics being covered that I didn’t think noteworthy at the time or “I’ll remember this” and later didn’t.


  3. Doug, I share many of the same thoughts as Kim on this topic, but with one big twist I think. The big benefit of the pen for me was that I could embed pencasts. I shared many on my blogs as well as a Livescribe Blog. I think this pen would be so easy for some of the documentation that I’m doing now in Kindergarten. In fact, I own about 5 pens, and some of each type.

    I’m horrible though with keeping track of pens and paper, and so no embed feature and the fact that my current computer — a Chromebook — does not work well with them, means that I’m really not using my pen anymore. I think that the benefits of the technology are still there, but it’s now missing a feature that made my pens really user-friendly for me.

    I’ve also gained access to more iPads since I purchased my pens and am in a school with 1:1 iPads for Grades 4-8 students. Do some of the overlapping abilities (eg, the ease in recording audio; the ability to link audio and visual thanks to screencasting) make the pen a little less useful than it was before? I’m not sure. I’m still curious to hear how others might be using this tool.


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  4. That is fairly pricey, Susan. I’m not sure that K12 would be ready to pay that price but a university with remote lectures, etc?


  5. Thanks for your comments, Aviva. You seem to echo some of my thinking about one technology replacing another. I still wonder, though, if there is a place in the classroom where iPads/computers are not used for one reason or another or for students who learn best with an audio replica of the instructor. I’m thinking of first year Accounting where is was in a lecture hall of 700!


  6. Thanks for posing this question Doug! I am really hoping you and others might have some ideas for me! Yes I understand the product has continued to improve. I know of two people, one a grad student and the other in theatre school who are using them very creatively, syncing with iPads etc. But… I have an older one and our Classroom Support Centre has at least two and they all have the same problem. They seem to charge ok but they won’t turn on properly. I have extensive email correspondence with the company and they have not been helpful at all. I even looked for the booth at BIT15 but they weren’t there:) If anyone has any ideas about this issue I would welcome them.


    1. Hi Anne – I think many have the same problem. In my case, if I look very carefully, I can see the LED where it once was very bright.


  7. We had a collection of LiveScribe pens at School prior to 2011 but OneNote and a pen-based tablet obviated their use, since you got audio/video and inking all in one. The shift in LiveScribe software about that time also made them less user-friendly.
    I would also mention that you ended up having two copies of everything… a physical copy and a digital copy – and there were issues in keeping them in sync. We don’t experience that in OneNote since it’s all digital.


  8. Hi Doug,
    I bought a LiveScribe pen after seeing it demonstrated at a past #BIT conference. Hubby was not impressed with me spending $100 on a pen. I used it during summer school in 2013. Now? I don’t even know where it is! (Don’t tell my significant other! ;>)Why don’t I use it much anymore? Well, my board never got into it, so although there was a bigger online support, there was nothing local to support or encourage it. You asked about tablets and fingers replacing it – after hearing about it at a #TLLP, I bought the “Singing Fingers” app to use with my kindergarten music program, and now that you encouraged me to consider it, it does a lot of what the LiveScribe pen did, but in cooler ways with many more applications (it combines sound and colour and image) and for much cheaper. (The app is under $2 and developed by folks at MIT.) I never got into the habit of downloading my LiveScribe data and I never bought the special notebooks that (I thought) were needed to make the pen work. You are correct in noticing that those who championed the pen a few years back aren’t as vocal about it anymore. Was it a fad?


  9. Thanks for the post Doug. Like Kim I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, especially since the announcement around the Pulse pen https://livescribe.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/788/kw/Pulse%20support. This is a product I really want to like. I have one Pulse pen, 2 Echo’s and a Livescribe 3. The display on the Pulse no longer works so you can’t really tell if it’s on or not. It’s still (sort of) functional and some students still use it. I’m surprised how few students choose to use the device for their reading journals and narrative writing. I offer these as an option to using a Chromebook and converting the handwriting to text. A few students still enjoy the novelty, but most reach for a Chromebook as their default option.

    For personal use I still find the Livescribe useful as a journalling tool. Our board provided some of us with an Android tablet and the Livescribe 3 tool seems to work fine on that device. Better than it does on an iOS device it pains me to say. It does seem to be a step backwards from the Echo and geared towards that narrow segment of users who have managed to replace a laptop with a tablet. Otherwise, as Kim has pointed out above, it just ties up another device.

    It’s really too bad. This had so much promise and feels like it was approaching the tipping point as a real game changer in education. I really think we could be having a different conversation right now if the company had listened to the Livescribe evangelists out there like Zoe and had a teacher and student focus in their product development cycle.


  10. Hi Doug,
    I too, was a Livescribe lover, but my use has also faded. Like others here, the original pens seemed better to me, because I loved the embedded pencasts and mostly used them for student conferences and running records for myself and for alternate ways to demonstrate learning (ie oral) for students.
    I shared your thoughts that this would have been a great tool for University, and bought each of my sons one…figuring those digital natives would just run with it like crazy Alas…neither of them used them and I gave them to keen teachers to use instead!


  11. I suck at note-taking. By the time I’ve written the thought down the speaker is on to something new and I’m lost. I’m not quite fast enough to sketchnote either. This pen helps with that. I don’t mind having both the physical and digital copies. I much prefer pen and paper to doodle or draw so I like how using the pen has the familiar feel. Like Aviva, the inability to embed the pencasts is the biggest game changer for me. I really was hoping they would develop the tool for education, simplify and go down in price. Sigh!


  12. Unfortunately your echo screen that you noted is dimmer will probably die, all their Echo 2’s seemed to have that problem. They don’t seem to have made anything after the Livescribe 3 years ago…I’d have to guess tablets and styluses killed them.


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