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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blending Mobile Technologies: Handhelds, All-Weather Writing Paper - Interview with Ryan McDonald, J. L. Darling Corporation

Hybrid learning can involve more than a blend of face-to-face and web-based courses. They can also involve mobile devices combined with traditional books -- for example, all-weather field notebooks, digital pens, and mobile devices with GPS. With that in mind, welcome to an interview with Ryan McDonald, "Rite in the Rain" All-Weather Writing paper, which can be used in conjunction with digital pens and geographical information systems, as well as other innovative learning.

What is your name and what is your involvement in e-learning?

My name is Ryan McDonald and I am the Marketing & Advertising Director at the J. L. Darling Corporation, manufacturers of "Rite in the Rain" All-Weather Writing Paper.

What is Rite-in-the-Rain, and what is its mission and vision? What kinds of products do you offer?

"Rite in the Rain" ( is an unconventional "retooling" of conventional paper. Relying on a unique "weather-proofing" manufacturing process, the J. L. Darling Corporation transforms regular paper into "Rite in the Rain", outdoor note taking tools unrestricted by the elements. Available in a wide variety of different formats: bound books, spiral notebooks, loose leaf, copier paper and padded sheets, "Rite in the Rain" is a more durable, 100% recyclable, all-weather, alternative to regular paper.

(Image is of the traditional all-weather field notebook... inspiration for many things....)

What is your involvement in facilitating education or educational experiences?

As a manufacturer, we don't have a hand in facilitating education so much as assisting others in their educational experiences. Many programs, especially in the Geological, Biological and Environmental sectors depend exclusively on "Rite in the Rain" while in the field. In fact, the demand became so great that specific bound log books were developed to meet the unique needs of Geologists, Biologists and Environmentalists. More recently "Rite in the Rain" has seen a growing number of Universities stock "Rite in the Rain" in their bookstores and many Professors include "Rite in the Rain" on their "required textbook" list when their area of study takes students outdoors.

What are your new initiatives? How does new technology meet traditional technology in the field? How do you see old and new technologies coming together?

"Rite in the Rain's" Journalx Field Books are a perfect example of the "union" between old and new technologies. Journalx Field Books combine the durability and all-weather qualities of "Rite in the Rain" with the ease and familiarity of digital documentation. Using a pre-printed dot pattern on each sheet and a digital pen (Penx) written information is mapped and stored in the pen's memory. Dock the pen in it's transfer device (USB connection to a PC) and the information that was written in the field book will be converted to an editable document. While still early in development, this combination of old and new technologies is a very exciting breakthrough in field technologies and will continue to improve - and expand, in the coming years.

How do your products work with hand-held GPS devices in the field?

Outside of being able to record and plot current locations gathered from a GPS device, there is no specific relationship between "Rite in the Rain" All-Weather Notebooks and hand-held GPS devices. However, "Rite in the Rain" is available in large format sheets as well and can be used to print Topographic Maps to aid GPS navigation.

Using a digital pen with Rite in the Rain paper (onto which a map has been printed).

Here is a demo:

How might your products enhance certain field technologies?

"Rite in the Rain's" greatest strength is it's simplicity. It will never break down, it will never malfunction, it doesn't run on batteries, there is no learning curve, it's relatively cheap and ultimately, disposable. As such, "Rite in the Rain" notebooks are a perfect compliment to more sophisticated technology. They can act as backups, replace expensive equipment too valuable to risk in poor weather, and allow field operators greater mobility.

How might a "hybrid approach" that combines mobile technologies and traditional paper-based products enhance one's learning experience?

The most practical "hybrid approach" approach currently available is the Journalx Field Books and digital pen mentioned earlier. Utilizing both technologies would eliminate the need for manually converting gathered field data into a digital format.

How could your products be used in conjunction with podcasts (video and audio)?

"Rite in the Rain's" use in conjunction with podcasts is limited. Outside of broadcasting company/product updates, reviews and demonstrations it's hard to imagine other uses.

Thought: Could one use this approach for fieldwork involving collecting information that you need to attach to a position / location... and which you need to share? Could be used in the field with wind farms, for collecting market information -- anything... ! Twitter plus positioning ?

Susan's note: I love the possibilities of combining old and new technologies. The possibilities that are unlocked are just endless!! Never throw out the old... just repurpose it!

Also -- poetry inspired by sketches from a field notebook... then shared on the web..
link to one resulting work..

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