Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pencasts: LiveScribe SmartPen by James Murray

A 'Pencast' is a video of someone writing on a notebook page, while narrating what they write. It is made with a special ballpoint pen, called a SmartPen and made by LiveScribe, that has a small video camera filming what happens at the tip and includes a microphone to record audio. Pencasts can be used to complement face-to-face lectures, be used in a "flipped classroom," or they can enhance an online class.

I create 3-5 minute Pencasts to supplement my classroom lectures. I focus on material that I would teach using a chalkboard in a face-to-face class. This material usually involves mathematical or graphical problem-solving techniques, and guiding students through worked-out problems. I also focus on some of the most difficult concepts from my classroom lectures, as usually my intent is not to have these replace class attendance. Students in my face-to-face classes have reported appreciating that they could return to my lecture to listen again to worked-out problems that were difficult to learn the first time.

There are some benefits to creating Pencasts instead of traditional videos. Pencasts are more interactive. Students can click anywhere on a page to jump to that part of the Pencast. My students report it is useful to easily jump ahead or move back to an important part of the video which they did not completely understand. The technology is also very easy to learn. Pencasts can be created as quickly as you can demonstrate something on a chalkboard, and they can be posted online instantly when using a Wifi SmartPen.

There are some drawbacks to creating Pencasts instead other types of videos. Video editing is not possible, so be prepared to publish Pencasts with an occasional mistake followed with quick a correction. Also do not make your Pencasts too long. In the event you make a significant mistake, you do not want to have done more work than you are prepared to redo. It is also not possible to include printed material or computer graphics in a Pencast. The entire content is what you can write by hand on a notebook page.

Those interested in viewing some examples from an economics course may visit my page, Pencasts for Introductory Macroeconomics.

Submitted by James Murray, Economics