8 Jan 2020

Rocketing my notes to the cloud

Submitted by Anthony L. Fernandez, Merrimack College

During the past few years I have been thinking about the way that students record laboratory information. I have been trying to move away from traditional paper notebooks for my research students (which are expensive and often have unused pages) to an electronic laboratory notebook. While on Twitter, I followed a thread in which Ian Tonks (@ianatonks) mentioned that he used Rocketbooks in his group for student lab notebooks. (He even graciously shared his guidelines for how students should record information with me.) Based upon this, I decided to purchase Rocketbook Everlast notebooks for myself and my research students.

The Rocketbook Everlast is a reusable digital notebook that allows you to write in the notebook, capture the image and automatically upload it to the cloud, and then erase your writing with a damp cloth. You can find more information about how it works here. The Everlast is available with either dot grid or lined pages and comes in two sizes: Letter (8.5 in x 11 in; 32 pages) and Executive (6 in x 8.8 in; 36 pages). For those of you who also need a planner, the Rocketbook Fusion (with 42 pages that include planning, dot-grid, and lined pages) is also available in both sizes. All of these notebooks are used with a Pilot FriXion pen, provided with the notebook, so that the ink can be wiped off the page with a damp cloth. The notebooks and pens are available directly from the company and from Amazon, and can be purchased from brick-and-mortar stores such as Staples and OfficeMax/Office Depot. While these notebooks are a bit more expensive than paper notebooks (around $30 depending on the size and style of notebook), they can be reused indefinitely.

I currently have three Rocketbooks, one Fusion and two Everlasts, and I absolutely love using them and have found them to be incredibly useful. Personally, I like the lined pages (my eyesight is not quite good enough to see the dot-grid) and I find that I use my notebooks daily. Whether it is recording notes at a meeting or taking notes on an article, I use my Rocketbook instead of my iPad and Apple Pencil because I like the ease of writing in a notebook and it feels more natural to me overall. My Rocketbooks are the only notebooks that I carry and I write everything in them, whether I want to record it for posterity or not. After I take some important notes, I choose one (or more) of the symbols at the bottom of the page so that my notes are sent automatically to the email address or cloud service of my choice when I scan the pages using the free app on my phone. The scanned pages can be sent as a PDF file (separate or bundled pages) or as an image (GIF or JPEG). The app can use optical character recognition (OCR) to create a title for your file and can also transcribe your handwritten text to OCR. (I have not used this last feature yet so I cannot comment on it.) Once I am done, I moisten the included microfiber cloth and wipe away my writing.

My students also enjoy using the Rocketbook as their laboratory notebook. After completing an entry in their notebooks, they scan it in and automatically send the file(s) to a folder in their Google Drive and a shared folder that I have set up. At this point it has gone very smoothly with few issues. I will report back at the end of the year to let you know how it has worked as a research notebook.

If you are intrigued, I would suggest trying a Rocketbook and finding new ways to use it. Be sure to share it with others on this site by leaving a comment on the BITeS post!