Pens Help Students Study

NEW KNOXVILLE — New Knoxville Local School has acquired new technology to aide students that have difficulty taking notes.

The district purchased two Echo Smartpens, which record a lecture while the student is taking notes. Principal Linda Tebbe said she saw a demonstration for the smartpen at a workshop.

“I had just gone to a day-long workshop, and you can select different activities and break-out sessions to go to, and there was one on new technology in the classroom so I went to it and it was a lady that was demonstrating this (the smartpen),” Tebbe said.

While listening to the presentation, Tebbe said she thought of a former student who had trouble listening to a lecture and taking notes simultaneously.

“The whole time I was sitting there, I was flashing back to one of my students I had probably 20 years ago, who was a very bright student, but he had trouble with note-taking,” she said. “As a high school teacher, I would lecture, and he just looked at me and said,’Mrs. Tebbe, I can either listen to you or I can take notes, but I can’t do both. Which do you want?’”

She noted that she thought other students may have the same problem.

“When they talked about this, that boy’s name flashed in my head, and I thought of him and how many kids may have that same challenge — as soon as they go to take notes, they’re concentrating so hard on the note-taking and the transcribing, that they’re not hearing a word you’re saying,” Tebbe said.

One smartpen was purchased for the elementary school and one for the junior high and high school.

Middle and High School Special Education Teacher Kay Webb is allowing a few of her students to use a smartpen.

“I’m giving it (the smartpen) to my students who are having difficulty taking notes,” Webb said, noting that the student could have a processing problem or general note-taking problems.

“Right now we are trying it in a history class and science class with two of my freshmen students.”

To use the smartpen, the students simply turn it on and hit the record button, located at the bottom of a special notebook. The student can then take notes while the smartpen is recording.

“If they want to start recording from the beginning of the class, they just have to hit the record button,” Webb said.

“When the lecture is done, they can hit stop, and then they would be able to use the pen and click on a word and it’ll play back what the teacher was saying at the time that they were writing.”

Webb noted that the students may listen to the lecture several times.

“They can come back here and listen to lectures as many times as they want to,” she said.

“They can jump ahead in lectures and go to different spots in the lecture.”

Students can also load the lectures onto a computer. Although the students have only used the smartpens a few times, Webb said they seem to like them.

“We’re just writing down key words right now, so it’s not real detailed,” she said of the notes the students are taking. “We’re still in the processing stage of getting this perfected. They seem to like it so far.”

Webb said the smartpens have not been a distraction in the classroom.

“It hasn’t been a distraction in class, you can turn down the volume and it’s not going to play back unless they actually touch a word, then it’ll play back for them,” she said.

Overall, the smartpens hold students more accountable in the classroom.

“We just want them to be accountable in the classroom,” Webb said.

“Otherwise, some of these students would just sit there, and maybe have some teacher give notes in front of them, but they may not be listening, so it just makes them be more accountable and attentive in class.”

Money for the smartpens was raised through the Kroger Technology Fund. Since its inception in May, the fund has accumulated more than $2,200. The New Knoxville Local School District receives 4 percent of whatever customers spend at Kroger, when using a gift card provided by the school. Tebbe said the Kroger Technology Fund is meant to supplement what the Technology Committee does.

“This is to supplement the technology our school already invests in — the purchasing of computers and the updating of computers and what our technology coordinator does,” she said, noting that the money would not got to help what the school already does. “I want the money to go to the extras, the bonuses, the things that weren’t in our school budget.”

She noted that the school appreciates the help it has received so far.

“We’re very appreciative of the people who take the time to reload those Kroger cards and Kroger for offering this program,” Tebbe said. “It’s been nice.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the Kroger Technology Fund can contact the school.

“We just got another 100 (gift cards) in,” Tebbe said. “We can give you one. You don’t even have to be a New Knoxville resident, you just have to go to Kroger.”