As much as I enjoy using my digital devices, there are times when I am going into meetings that I want to be able travel light and have that experience of putting pen to paper. However at the same time I know I am going to want to share that note or idea and bring it back into my digital work flow. I have been using
various digital pen technologies for the past decade and when I saw that Wacom had released the Bamboo Spark I had to give it a test drive. Wacom was good enough to provide me with the Bamboo Spark Smart folio with gadget pocket to review. The Bamboo Spark Smart folio has a nice grey finish that should hold up well to wear and tear. The premise of the Bamboo Spark Smart folio is quite simple-write with the provided pen on the paper-then press the button to send all of your ideas and notes-which are automatically synced with the Bamboo Spark app on your IOS or Android device. The Bamboo Spark Smart folio uses ordinary A5 paper pads (ie. Bloc Rhodia N 16) which can be purchased from any stationery store. The paper pad must sit in the folio since the digitizer is found beneath it. While you can use just about any A5 paper paper you will need to use the Wacom refills that come with the pen in order for the device to work.
In the Bamboo Spark Smart box you will find the folio, digital pen, a blank paper pad, USB to Micro USB cable, two extra ink refills and refill extractor. To get started you simply have to charge the Bamboo Spark with the supplied USB cable. Once the Bamboo Spark is charged you can pair the folio with your device by going through the setup which is well implemented. Once you have paired your Bamboo Spark Smart folio you are ready to give it a try. Simply take the
cap off of the pen and draw or write some notes on the pad. When you are ready to sync your notes simply press the round button in the middle of the folio and within seconds your notes will be transferred to the Bamboo Spark app. Once your notes, sketches, or ideas are transferred to the Bamboo Spark app you can export it as text, images, PDF or WILL format which gives you lots of ways to bring it into your digital workflow. Wacom provides each user with 5 GB of cloud storage on their Inkspace web site which keeps all your notes synced across all of your devices. You can open and annotate your notes and sketches with any program that supports the WILL format (ie. Bamboo Paper).
|Applying Handwriting Recogntion|
|Handwritten Bamboo Spark Note|
Having been a Evernote and OneNote user for some time it is now possible for me to easily share my ideas and then transfer them to these services. The Bamboo Spark just recently added handwriting recognition into the equation which gives this tool a wider audience. Now I can hand write my notes and when I am done export them and send them to my word processor of choice to edit and share. Having the hand writing recognition feature is a welcome edition and while it is still considered to be in BETA it has worked well for me. The simplicity of this device should be a big selling point, in that it will store up to 100 pages of text and images and so it is not mandatory that you have your device with you when using the Bamboo Spark Smart folio. When I wanted to annotate my images on my iPad I was able to transfer my notes and sketches to Bamboo Paper which is a nice plus. In this day and age of high tech solutions it is nice to see a device which has been designed for ease of use where the technology fades into the background and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
As I use the Bamboo Spark I see lots of applications for this device in the work that I do in the schools. In the schools there has been a movement towards supporting students with disabilities in the mainstream with the support of the co-teaching model. With that in mind, I can see see co-teachers using the Bamboo Spark to record notes and share them out at the end of the period. Notes can be shared as text using the handwriting recognition or as an image or PDF file format. As I work on a new laminated guide on Co-Teaching & Technology: Enhancing Communication and Collaboration I have found lots of ways for both teachers and students to take advantage of this simple and easy to use technology.
As much as I enjoyed using the Bamboo Spark Smart folio there were several times that I had to re-pair the Bamboo Spark Smart folio with the Bluetooth which was a little annoying. I would also like to see some changes to the Bamboo Spark app for IOS which would allow me more control to move notes into designated folders. While not imperative, it would be great to be able to attach an audio file to my notes page which could work well when using it with students. Using the Bamboo Spark Smart was a very great experience and will be a tool I will continue to use. As we live more and more in the digital arena it is nice to be able to put pen to paper and have the tactile experience, knowing full well that it can be easily integrated into your digital workflow- that is in the end the best of both worlds!
Unboxing Wacom Bamboo Spark