No matter how many gadgets with keyboards are available, we kind of hope that actual writing never goes away. Kids still take notes at school and parents write notes at home or work. However if you don’t transcribe your notes to a computer, or organize them all in a place where they can be easily retrieved, the notes sometimes fall into the black hole of “where did I put that?”

Related: The newest Echo Livescribe smartpen 

One of the smartest solutions I’ve seen is a smartpen by Livescribe called Echo. The Echo essentially captures written notes and drawings on special “dot paper” notepads and turns it into typewriting. Sounds like crazy sci-fi stuff, right? It gets better–the pen has a built-in microphone and speakers too. And when the smartpen is docked to a Mac or PC, the audio and notes can be transferred to computers, email, or even your Facebook page.

This is serious coolness: Words within the notes can be searched, and apps like the American Heritage Dictionary can be loaded and displayed on a high contrast screen appearing right on the smartpen. Kids can even use the audio function to tape lectures while taking notes, if they’re old enough that you can trust them not to lose it.

I really love the idea that a parent headed on a business trip can leave audio reminders for a caregiver, like Make sure cellphones are turned off during homework time or homework time turns into texting time. Or is that just in our house?

The Echo smartpen starts at around $179.95 for 2GB (up to 200 hours) of memory storage, which isn’t cheap, so this is definitely one for the tech families who really rely on their computers for organization. You can trade up to a 4GB or 8GB model, if you think you’re going to do a lot of audio recording. Paging all homeschooling moms. I think this is an investment worth looking into.