Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pulse pens are a godsend, but privacy an issue?

I am one of those people who can't decipher her own handwriting, so when I saw a colleague using Livescribe's Pulse Smartpen- I just had to have one. I got it last week and it appears to live up to the hype. For students and journalists,of which I am both, the digital voice recorder is a godsend. The Pulse Smartpen does more than write and record- it synchronizes what you write to what is being heard, and the two combined can be uploaded to a PDF and shared with individuals free of charge without additional software on Livescribe's community page. has some great video demos of the pen in action.

But I do see one or two drawbacks in the academic community regarding privacy. If students upload their notes to Livescribe's sharing site, do the people who are being (unwittingly) recorded (classmates and instructors) need to be notified that you are recording them and sharing their lectures, class participation and private asides with others?  Imagine yourself a student in a classroom. Your teacher or professor is being difficult. You lean over to your Pulse pen-owning classmate and utter, "so and so is a real A-hole." or "this assignment is boring, stupid..." or maybe you are sharing non- academic revelries from the night before "man did I get s-faced last night." Not that students would ever say such things to their friends (wink), but if they did, would you want that blasted for all your other classmates, and possibly a wider audience to hear?

Professors need to be concerned too. Students with digital pens can record voice, lecture, and intellectual property and share their notes and audio with others. We've all seen what YouTube does with 30-second gaffes, what happens when off-color remarks are made? What is going to happen with jokes and when clever college wit is taken out of context and made public?

Instructors at the high school and college level should consider a digital pen policy in their course syllabuses. One option to consider would allow students to record and post to fellow students on the roster, but the Pulse owner cannot share with non-students. Pulse owners should also openly disclose to their class that they are recording. In fact, instructors would be wise to simply ask on the first day of class, "Who here has a digital pen?"  All notes should be cleared from the upload site once the course is completed. Should professors be added or invited to the shared site so they can examine how their intellectual property is being managed?

For me, the device will help during interviews, when quoting someone accurately is paramount. Digital storage allows you to go back to your notes at any time for complete retrieval and accuracy, or if someone were to challenge that you got the quote all wrong,, the Pulse Smartpen has your back!

Pulse pen owners can also upload multi-language dictionaries.This is wonderful in business and for travel. But in a Spanish class discussion, a digital scribbler can write a word in English receive instant translations with just the tap of the stylus. If that student is shooting up his or her hand with the right answer every that fair? Is that student really learning?

The pen works with specially embedded digital paper so exam fraud is not an issue. On any other paper, the Pulse is just a thick pen.  Pulse Smartpens do not have to record voice either. The pen will continually scan as you write, allowing the notes to be uploaded without sound.

I can't be certain, but I don't think that when University of Delaware's journalism professor Dr. Ben Yagoda, wrote his best selling writing guide, The Sound on the Page, he had digital pens in mind!

No comments:

Post a Comment