Digitizing Traditional Notes into Searchable Documents: Implications for University Students who are Disabled

By Becky Sue Parton, Robert Hancock and Kay Maurin.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

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A very common accommodation made for students with special needs is a note-taker. In higher education, the note-taker is often a peer who hand writes lecture notes. If a student wants to find references to a certain topic within the notes, he/she must search through the pages manually. Additionally, if the lecture was also separately audio recorded, a student must either re-listen to the whole lecture or manually try to search for the portion of interest to him/her. With these concerns, the authors sought to find a high-tech, low-cost solution that would academically empower special needs students. In late 2008, the Livescribe Smartpen was released for $US150. It is roughly the same size as a normal pen, but is capable of recording audio while simultaneously digitizing student handwriting written on special paper. Through a USB connection, the files are uploaded. The electronic notes retain their original format (i.e. cursive or printed handwriting), but are searchable. Besides being able to point to a place in the text and hear the corresponding audio to help fill in gaps in the notes, students can also search for words (i.e. key vocabulary for an upcoming exam). Thus, the authors chose to examine the accuracy of the search results as the first in a series of related research inquiries. The researchers asked volunteer participants at a technology conference to handwrite a paragraph using the Smartpen. Within that paragraph, 10 words were targeted for a search from each participant’s sample. This paper presents the resulting data analysis. Second, a case study was conducted with an university student who require peer note-takers. Qualitative data, gained through surveys and interviews, is also reported.

Keywords: Digital Note-Taking, Assistive Technology

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.1-6. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.547MB).

Dr. Becky Sue Parton

Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Technology, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, USA

Dr. Parton has a PhD in Educational Computing and a Masters in Deaf education. Her research is focused on the use of technology with bilingual Deaf students. She has published multiple journal articles and presented at more than 40 international conferences on the topic. Recently, she and Dr. Hancock were awarded a Stepping Stones of Technology federal grant from the Department of Education. Dr. Parton currently teachers graduate level courses in technology at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Dr. Robert Hancock

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Technology, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, USA

Dr. Hancock has over 15 years of experience in educational technology and administration. He has published and presented frequently on the topic of education and special education. Dr. Hancock was honored to receive the 2007 best research paper award from the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) at the National Education Computing Conference for his work on linking technology to achievement. He was also honored to be named 2007-2008 Educational Technology professor of the Year by Louisiana Computer Using Educators (LaCUE), the Louisiana ISTE affiliate organization. Dr. Hancock currently does sponsored research for several corporations including Hotchalk, and he is the recipient of multiple grants including state level grants specifically targeted at using technology to aid the disabled. He is a reviewer and editor for publications in the field of educational technology and research. Prior to becoming a professor, Dr. Hancock was a technology director for a North Dallas area school district and the founder/coordinator of the Rhodes Technology Academy which was a magnet school for technology grades 6th through 8th in the San Antonio Independent School District.

Kay Maurin

Director, Disability Services, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, USA

Ms. Maurin is the Director of Disability Services at Southeastern Louisiana University. She is a National Certified Counselor and holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education in Counseling. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Higher Education at Louisiana State University. She is a member of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) and the Louisiana Association of College and University Student Personnel Administrators (LACUSPA).