Newer is not always better - Livescribe 3

Last week was the final full-day session with our Ed Tech Leadership teacher candidates. One of the educational technologies we looked at was the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. We have had these pens for a few years now, and it's pretty amazing how they have held up, technology-wise.

I also demonstrated (or tried to demonstrate) a Livescribe 3 Smartpen, the newest model of Livescribe's smartpens. The updates from the pen/paper to the iPad screen were anything but fluid. Some short, simple writing took a few minutes to show up on the iPad's screen (ok, maybe it only felt that way when standing in front of a class, but the delay was ridiculous). The Livescribe 3 also lacks the built-in microphone and speaker found in the older Echo models, requiring the iPad to handle those functions. In fact, without the iPad, the Livescribe 3 really isn't anything but a pen.

It's hard to believe that the Livescribe 3 isn't just a newer model, but also a more expensive model. The Echo smartpens were pretty incredible devices, out of the box, even without connecting them to a computer. It could record and play back audio, act as a calculator using the printed calculator in the front cover of the notebook, and even included a "piano" app to play with. Connect it to the computer, install some more apps, and you have an even more amazing device. The Livescribe 3 can't do any of those things.

Perhaps there's something more to the Livescribe 3 that I'm missing, but I don't think so. It is worse than its predecessor in almost every way, adding only one tiny feature (bluetooth), and yet it costs roughly $20 more, not to mention the required added expense of an iPad. Oh, and if you think you can use your iPad 2 (which is extremely common in schools), you're out of luck. The iPad 3rd generation or newer is required.