Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Have a Smart Pen

This semester started off with a problem: one of my professors, a professor I've never had before, does not allow laptops in his classroom. I actually understand the reasoning behind this rule, as I have certainly been guilty of checking my email or Facebook during class myself. However, this rule presented more of a challenge to me than it did to my classmates: how will I take notes by hand for an hour and a half when I can hardly get through handwriting a thank you note?

I've been lucky enough (so far!) to have had really good experiences with being honest with my professors about my RA. They have all been very understanding and accommodating once I explained to them what I was going through. (Including one professor who, I am ashamed to admit, I actually broke down crying in front of during the semester right after my diagnosis. I am now in my third class with this professor and he has become my favorite professor!) So, based on these experiences, I decided to talk to my professor and tell him that taking notes by hand would be a particular problem for me.

I was not disappointed - this professor was just as understanding as the rest have been. He was completely willing to let me use my laptop in class to keep up with my note-taking. However, I wasn't sure that was what I wanted, because it would single me out as someone getting special privileges in that class. This would mean either (1) I would have to explain why I needed the laptop, telling the whole class about my disability, or (2) we could say nothing and I've have a bunch of law students annoyed at me for getting an unfair advantage. Neither of these options were appealing.

So I spoke to University Disability Services to see if they could offer me any advice. Registering with Disability Services was not easy for me, but I'm so glad that I did because they have actually given me some great help and advice. And heaven knows I can use all the help I can get having RA and being in law school and grad school all at the same time!!

Disability Services recommended the livescribe SmartPen. I bought mine at Target. It was a little expensive (almost $200) but it was 300% worth it!! This is the COOLEST PEN EVER!! Using special paper (which you can buy for about $20/notebook or print pages yourself) you turn the pen on, press record, and take notes like a regular pen. The awesome thing is that the pen links what you are hearing with what you are writing. So if your professor is listing things and you can't keep up, you can just write "one, two, three" as he says them. Later, you can go back and tap on "two" to hear the second thing your professor talked about!! It is the coolest thing ever!! If my description doesn't make sense, watch this video.

The SmartPen also has a tiny little camera and a USB connection, so you can download the notes you took on paper to your computer with the audio. It is perfect for those days when my hands can't quite keep up with my note-taking or for when my hands get tired after about an hour of class. I still have access to information I might otherwise have missed, information that most of my classmates have probably written down, which can make all the difference in the world in law school.

If you are a student and you have RA (or any other disability that makes it difficult for you to write by hand or keep up in class, for that matter!) I highly recommend the SmartPen. (Just make sure you have your professor's permission to record the lecture and make sure you recharge the battery after every class!)

1 comment:

~kelly marie~ said...

This is the coolest thing ever! It is like you are from the future! I so wish I had had one of these in grad school! Way to rock the technology! :)