Updated: Apr 9
If you've read any of my posts or have downloaded/purchased any of my teaching aids, you probably read somewhere in them about PENpal and PENpal stickers. I've mentioned the device in a couple of places, but never went into much detail about it. Today is the day! It's time to tell you all about my favourite learning device 😀
What is PENpal?
PENpal is a talking device created by MantraLingua which allows you to record and play audio. PENpal works with specifically designed recordable sticky labels. What you do, is take a sticky label and attach it to anything you want: books, paper, laminated pages, furniture, clothes ... literally anything you can think of. The glue on the back of each label is quite strong so you can be sure that the label will stay where you want it to be. The labels come in three sizes: small circles, big circles, and big squares. The letter on each label tells you what set it comes from.
Your next step is to turn on your PENpal and wait for it to welcome you 😄 Yes, your PENpal will say "Welcome to PENpal. Touch the Start Arrow to continue" each time you turn it on. A small light is going to be on as well.
How to record sound onto PENpal?
There are two ways in which you can get sound onto your sticky labels for your PENpal to play back.
The first one is extremely easy and requires no software whatsoever. You'll see a button on your PENpal with the letter M. This button lets you switch to the "Recording Mode". Your PANpal will tell you that you're in the Recording Mode and the light on your device will change colour to red.
Your PENpal is now ready to record. There's a third button on the device with a picture of a microphone. Press and hold this button. Now touch the sticky label with the tip of your pen, while holding the microphone button until you hear a beep sound and the light changes from red to light blue. The sound and light change mean your PENpal is now recording. Let go of the microphone button and start talking to your device like to a microphone.
Once you're done saying what you want to record press the microphone button again. You're done! Next time you touch this sticky label with this PENpal it will play back what you've recorded 🥳 But, be careful! If you touch the same label while holding the microphone button again, you'll delete your recording.
To play back anything you've recorded in this way, your PENpal has to be in the Recording Mode. The advantage of recording in this way is that it's quick, simple, and not only you can do it, but your students as well! You can let your students add sound to their work! How cool is that?! Another plus side is that you can rerecord the label so if you're not happy with the recording you can very easily start again. You can also reuse the labels many times. The downside of that, though, is that it's extremely easy to delete something you wanted to keep. So if you want to use your PENpal for permanent materials you'll be better off using the other recording option.
Your second option is to use a simple, free software from MantraLingua called CreateLINK Pro. At this point the software is only available for Windows, it will not run on a Mac (yes, it's literally the only thing that forces me to use Windows computers from time to time).
CreateLINK Pro lets you add MP3 files onto labels. When you open the programme you'll see this window:
Enter the title of your project in the first line. Then in Select Profle, you'll be asked to pick the name of the Sticky Labels set which you'll be using. Sticky Labels come in Sets from A to J. Each label in a set is numbered as well. Each PENpal comes with 100 labels as well. These in CreateLINK PRO are called "Sample Set". Then, you go to Select Start Arrow. Let's pause here for a moment to explain what Start Arrows are.
As you may remember, when you turn your PENpal on it says "Welcome to PENpal. Touch the Start Arrow to continue". Start Arrows let your PENpal recognise what project is recorded onto the specific set of labels you've used. Each PENpal comes with 4 Start Arrows in the box. You can also buy additional Start Arrow sticky labels.
So, once you have chosen your Start Arrow, you move on to Choose Intro File. The intro file sound is already recorded onto the 4 Start Arrows, which come with your PENpal so all you have to do is click on Scan Pen and the file name will pop up. If you're using any of the Start Arrow Stickers you'll have to add your own intro sound. The intro sound will play when you touch the Start Arrow with your pen, letting you know that it is ready to play the sound from stickers assigned to it. When you're happy with your intro file sound press Create Project. Now you should see this window pop up:
Here you can add the MP3 files by simply choosing them from your computer. Make sure your PENpal is plugged into your computer via a USB cable. Double click the field next to the sticker number you want to assign a file to. Do it with as many files as you want to add. One sticker = one file. When you're done adding your MP3s click "Create". This process will transfer the files onto your PENpal by changing them into .AP4 files. Your recordings are now on the stickers! Now, make sure you stick the right number label onto the right material 😅 Put the materials in any box, envelope ... any container you have, and stick the Start Arrow Sticker onto the container.
The great option with using CreateLINK Pro is that you can add multiple recordings onto one sticker! To do that you have to record files onto your PENpal using a different number Start Arrow. More on that in future posts 😊
How to charge PENpal?
PENpals can be charged using a USB cable which comes in the box with each pen. The pens have two rechargeable batteries inside, so after some time you'll need to replace those. I had to do it twice within the last 7 years, so they last pretty long 😅
Can I use PENpal with headphones?
Yes, you can. There's a jack port on the side of each PENpal.
What colour sleeves does it come in?
PENpals, when I first got them, came in purple, yellow, red, black, and turquoise. The last time I ordered them, about a year ago, they all came in turquoise. So the answer right now is: I don't know 😅 But as soon as they arrive, I'll share this very important information with you. It is actually important, not just for the aesthetic reasons, but for differentiating which PENpal you're using with which materials. If you don't get them in different colour sleeves, you'll have to number them or differentiate them in some other way. I'd suggest getting more than one, simply to let more than one student work with a PENpal at the same time. I have 5 PENpals in each classroom with English shelves at my school, 20 in total.
It might sound like a lot of information, especially if you're not computer savvy. This is why MantraLingua have created a free, video based online course for anyone who wants to learn how to use their PENpal. Simply go to mlsupport.mantralingua.com and sign up for free to watch all the videos. PENpal comes with many more features like book making software or ready made MantraLingua language books. There are also other kids of sticky labels available. You'll learn all about these in the online course.
So what do you think? Snazzy little thing, isn't it 😀 I honestly wouldn't be recommending and selling it if I didn't think it was brilliant. If you wish to buy your PENpals from Montenglish click below 🥰 The sticky labels SET A, as well as Start Arrows SET B ( set A is no longer available), are available in the shop, too. With time, more sets of labels will be added to the shop.
Make sure to follow Montenglish on Instagram! I'll be sharing videos of how to work with your PENpal there every now and then 😊