Interactive Digital Notebooks: Paperless, Colorful and Media Rich Part 2

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Why make the switch to DIGITAL?  I wrote earlier that some major advantages of a DIGITAL notebook are that it can be COLORFUL (color photographs, color illustrations, color diagrams, color anything!), PAPERLESS (it's all in the cloud), and MEDIA-RICH (hyperlinks to videos, audio, animations and much more!).  Those are very good reasons to make the switch to DIGITAL notebooks! In Part 2, I explain how I use an Interactive DIGITAL Notebook.  Also I am offering a SAMPLER of the newest Interactive Digital Notebook!(see below!)


There are so many ways to utilize Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks.  Here's an example of how I use one of them.  Let's say I'm teaching a lesson on the American Revolution, specifically the Boston Tea Party.  I'd probably start out with a formal lesson on how the colonists were grumbling and mad about the new taxes imposed on the colonies.  Maybe set up a role play in which a "mom and dad" start putting restrictions "their kids."  We could list the kid's reactions to these new restrictions.  From there we could make the jump to how the colonists started to react to the new taxes imposed.

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We could talk about how tensions could rise between the parents and the kids as the restrictions became more severe.  How would the kids react? What action would they take?  That's were the Interactive Digital Notebook comes in.  With a specially prepared slide that has a painting of The Boston Tea Party, we could examine it in more detail to see exactly how the colonists reacted to the Tea Tax.  What's happening in the painting?  Who are these people?  Why are they doing this?  These are all great question to lead the student to find out the answers!  In the Interactive DIGITAL Notebook, students would use hyperlinks to find out the details of The Boston Tea Party.  Once students understood the events of The Boston Tea Party, they could now work on the slide to explain in detail what is happening in the painting.  

As you can see, the teacher's role is to provide some background and prior knowledge and then set the student off to research and find information while the teacher acts as facilitator.  In this way, the Interactive Digital Notebook not only becomes a record of an important event, but has given the student practice in researching and gathering information all the while using 21st century learning tools.  Sometimes, I have the student work first in the Interactive DIGITAL Notebook to gather information for a lesson that I will do later.  My use of the notebook varies according to the content and objectives of the lesson.  This is one reason I enjoy using Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks, because they can be used flexibly and can be tailored to a specific lesson.


A good Interactive Digital Notebook is not just a digital replacement for the traditional Interactive Notebook, but it should have some added value that takes advantage of the technology that drives it.  That is why the Interactive Digital Notebooks I design for my students make use of color photographs and illustrations, provide hyperlinks for research, and take advantage of video and animations.  When students use hyperlinks and video, they also get practice taking notes (an important life-long learner skill!)d.

You might ask, couldn't I have done the same with a traditional interactive notebook?  Yes, but you would have had to make color copies of the painting or projected it to the whole class.  How would the students access the hyperlinks, videos and other digital content?  Sure, you can project the videos, printed out copies of the digital content, etc.  With a digital interactive notebook, students can watch the video repeatedly at his/her own pace as well as, rewinding it and watching with captions.  With a digital interactive notebook, hyperlinks can lead to other hyperlinks with even more information not available from a print resource.  These are all helpful advantages over the traditional notebook.  Not to mention all the paper and ink saved by going paperless!

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Another aspect of the Interactive DIGITAL Notebook is that you can incorporate many skills as you would in the traditional notebook.  Compare and Contrast, no problem!  Cause and effect, for sure!  The only difference in doing this digitally is the process (dragging versus cutting and pasting). Sometimes a slide in a digital notebook does take longer than a traditional notebook.  But sometimes the opposite is true!  For the teacher, that is one aspect that takes some practice and figuring out as you start using these Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks.  

Some teachers may worry about the isolating features of using technology so much.  Not to worry! You can certainly have students work as partners on a slide.  You can also do digital jigsaw.  What is that?  Suppose you have 4 slides. You assign a group of 4 students to each slide.  Each group works on just one slide.  Then, when the slides are complete, each group does a presentation to the other groups, while the other groups listen and fill in their copy of the slide with the information the other groups found.


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What are some other unique features I have added to my Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks? From having used these with my students last year, I found that having a table of contents linked to every slide is important for faster and easier navigation.  Also, either having one page with all the hyperlinks to websites and videos or putting certain hyperlinks to websites and videos directly on the slide gives the notebook a multimedia feel and is another time saver.  It is better to have pre-made hyperlinks to trusted websites and resources.  We all know what happens when you let elementary students loose on Google Search!  Finally, the ability to embed animation was such an advantage especially when we were learning about the Solar System.  It was so helpful to have actual animations of rotation and revolution so the students could see the difference.  That's harder to do when your looking at a static print resource!

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Additionally, I have some tips once you start using Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks.  You have to hold the students accountable for the content and for completing the notebook.  At first, I wasn't sure how to do this since I didn't have my students turn in the Interactive DIGITAL Notebook until it was complete.  They turned it in via Google Classroom.  So what I've done is now I have a scoring guide for each slide.  Each slide has a particular point value depending on what needs to be done.  I can check the same slide on each student's notebook and quickly give them the points.  Then at the end, when it is turned in, all the points are added and a final grade is given.  All that work should be acknowledged and given credit.

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Another important tip I want to pass along is make your Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks go along with your curriculum while incorporating standards.  Interactive Digital Notebooks can be tailored to any curriculum and to specific standards.  Even though my notebooks are content driven by Social Studies and Science, I find ways to incorporate the ELA Common Core Standards.  Because students spend a lot of time researching, so many skills and standards are easily integrated within the Interactive DIGITAL Notebook.

Once students begin working in Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks, they get the hang of it and the next one they work on you will not have to explain every detail of how to do it.  As a side note, I incorporate DIRECTIONS into each slide so the student does not have to ask me directly what to do, which makes it perfect for independent work or homework.  The great thing about Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks is that they can be accessed ANYWHERE from ANY DEVICE!  So have the student who doesn't finish it in class, finish it at home as homework.

Finally, go beyond the technology.  What do I mean by that?  Last year during Open House, I had the students show their parents their Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks as part of the Open House tour.  The parents were amazed at how easily their child managed the technology and all that they had learned.  I told the parents that the files would remain on their Google Drive as long as they were students of the district which means that they can be used for review during summers.  Also, since the Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks are created in Google Slides, the student can use the notebook as a presentation!  Once completed, the student can turn on the presentation mode to give a presentation to the class or small group.  Once the notebook is complete, have the students add extra slides at the end and assign a project.  For example, after completing the Interactive DIGITAL Notebook on the Solar System, I might have the students pick a particular planet and research it having them add hyperlinks, videos, photos, etc. There are many ways to go beyond the technology and use it as the tool it was intended to be!

One aspect of an Interactive DIGITAL Notebook that can't be beat is that it can be easily customized to any student, group of students or grade level.  It's a DIGITAL file so as long as you keep a master copy, you can go back and alter at will.  Change out photographs, change skills, reword questions, etc.  So if you change grade levels or change curriculum, you will not have to find new resources, just alter the Interactive DIGITAL Notebook to fit the new grade or curriculum.  Google Slides has the ability to make copies of any file, so you just keep the master, make a copy of it and edit it.  It's that simple.

It's also an advantage to the student as well.  A student can easily go back and revise incorrect responses, revise writing or update information at any time and all it requires is opening the file, using the delete key.


If you're not sure about whether to make the switch or not, I am offering a SAMPLER Interactive Digital Notebook on American Symbols.  The complete resource contains 33 slides and covers 6 important American symbols:  The US flag, the Liberty Bell, the bald eagle, The Great Seal of the USA, Uncle Sam and the "Star Spangled Banner." What makes this particular Interactive DIGITAL Notebook different from the other ones is that it is focused on having the student practice RESEARCHING and CITING EVIDENCE, two important 21st Century skills!

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I am offering a download link to a SAMPLER Interactive Digital Notebook that contains the 3 slides on the US flag.  Try them out and see how these digital notebooks work.  Each slide will have a website and video link.  I have personally evaluated each website to be reliable and trustworthy.  I have also watched the entire video to make sure that it is appropriate for elementary students and safe to view.  All the video links go through which essentially takes a YouTube video and strips out all the comments, links, ads, etc. and ONLY presents the video to the student.

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To Download the LINK to the SAMPLER, CLICK HERE.

If you're interested in seeing the entire resource, check it out HERE.

Need more ideas, tips and resources for using Google in the Classroom?  Consider following these 2 Pinterest Boards!

Google in the Classroom

Google Products for Google Apps

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