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Learn How to Use Interactive Digital Notebooks Effectively in Your Classroom

What exactly is an Interactive Digital Notebook? How is it similar to a regular Interactive Notebook? How is an Interactive Digital Notebook used in the classroom?

Find the answers to these questions and more in PART 1 of my 3 part post on Interactive Digital Notebooks. I’ll show you how using this new tech tool can energize and increase the excitement of learning for your students.

Using Digital Notebooks

What Are Interactive Digital Notebooks?

Interactive Digital Notebooks are very similar to traditional Interactive Notebooks.   Except they are DIGITAL and PAPERLESS.  They can cover the same content and the same skills but the difference is that in a traditional Interactive Notebook, a student would be cutting and gluing parts into a physical notebook.

In the DIGITAL version, students work in Google Slides to complete a task involving content or skill. For example, a student might drag and match the causes and effects of the American Revolution. Students make inferences by looking at a diagram or illustration.  In a DIGITAL notebook, those elements can be in COLOR!

What are Interactive Digital Notebooks?

So there would be no coloring involved unless the tasked involved drawing, which is another possibility in an Interactive Digital Notebook.  Students could also find and insert their own images from the Internet as well!

Here’s an example in which I had the students draw the layers of the Earth using Google Draw and insert it into their Digital Notebook on the solar system.

Using Google Draw to make your own clip art

In a traditional Interactive Notebook, the student might cut apart pieces to fit together to make the layers of the Earth and glue them into the notebook and label them.  Replace that task with a digital task that involves creativity and learning to use drawing tools (these are universal tools that will aid the student in the future).

If you would like to learn how my students did this with Google Draw, HERE’S a TUTORIAL.

How Are Interactive Digital Notebooks Used?

You might ask:  but how will I incorporate them into my instruction?  There are many ways to do this. Since each slide in the Digital Notebook is separate (just like the pages of a traditional paper notebook), you set the pace!

How are Digital Notebooks used in the classroom?

For example, I might teach a lesson about the Earth’s rotation and revolution in space.  I’d have my students turn in place or walk in a circle to demonstrate rotation and revolution.  We’d construct models of rotation and revolution using materials such as styrofoam balls.  Once students gain an understanding of the concept of rotation and revolution, I then begin using the Digital Notebook to expand their learning and cement it in place.

I have the students watch a video (the link being on the slide) showing how the Earth rotates and revolves in space.  I also have them research the length of the day and year to the precise minute and seconds using a hyperlink also on the slide.  With this information, the student then answers questions or writes explanations on the slide to show their understanding of rotation and revolution.  Here’s an example from my Solar System Interactive Digital Notebook.

Example page from work on the Solar System

In other words, I didn’t spend time having them cut and glue pictures of the Earth rotating or revolving, but instead, I had the students further research so they became more invested in their learning.  In the end, by using the Interactive Digital Notebook, the student has spent more time learning about rotation and revolution than in a traditional notebook.

Sample page from the Interactive Digital Notebook Earth's layers

A teacher can use Interactive Digital Notebooks to assess student learning, especially if you are using Google Classroom.   You can assess, score, and give feedback all online and digitally!  No collecting 25 or more notebooks to look at and score.  Just look at each Interactive Digital Notebook online in Google Classroom!  Send feedback through comments to guide students who go off track or need more challenges.

What Are the Advantages of an Interactive Digital Notebook?

So what exactly are the advantages of switching to an Interactive DIGITAL Notebook?  There are 3 key points to remember about going digital.

Advantages of using Digital Notebooks

Working in a digital environment means no more worrying if you’ll exceed your copy limit at school. Going paperless means that students can make corrections at any time without damaging the file (think about each time a student glues the paper in the wrong place or upside down in a traditional Interactive Notebook).

Also, going paperless means you can differentiate slides to challenge or support students. The teacher doesn’t need to make copies of print resources. Instead, just add a link and the student can read it on the screen. Remember, any document that can be scanned can be turned into a PDF for online access.

Woodland Animals Adaptations Digital Notebook

Another big advantage is the use of COLOR.  We all know the effect of COLOR on memory and learning.  When visuals are in color such as the one above from my Woodlands Adaptations Interactive Digital Notebook, we remember and comprehend better.

So go ahead and add those amazing images!  Go ahead and beautiful and colorful clip art!  It’s not going to be printed or copied, so add it to your delight without worrying if you’ll use up your entire ink cartridge in your printer!  It’s also more motivating and exciting for students when materials are in color.

Preview of student pages for the Savanna Digital Notebook

Add Multimedia to Interactive Digital Notebooks!

Finally, the MAJOR advantage over traditional Interactive Notebooks is the ability to embed or link to different media.  You can add video, animation, hyperlinks, audio, and even GIFs.  With the link in their own copy of the Interactive Digital Notebook, students can watch a video at his/her own pace.  The student can rewind it, fast forward it, or watch it multiple times.  The same goes for hyperlinks to content.

Let students explore these links at their own pace and learn to take notes. The student then uses the notes to supply needed information in the Interactive Digital Notebook.  On another note, this is an excellent practice for the SBAC and PARCC which can contain video and audio links the student would need to use to answer questions or complete a task!  As you can see from this example from my Desert Adaptations Interactive Digital Notebook, students can watch a linked video about Gila Monsters.

Desert Animals Adaptations Digital Notebook

Finally, here’s another BONUS of the Interactive Digital Notebooks.  We all know that students do not finish all assignments at the same time.  But with Interactive Digital Notebooks, no worries if the student didn’t finish the work at school.  Why? Because students can access it at HOME and finish any slide for homework!  All the student needs is internet access (most public libraries have internet access so there’s no excuse!) and their Google account username and password to log on.

Are you Ready to Read Part 2?

In Part 2, you’ll read about

  • some unique features of my Interactive Digital Notebooks
  • skills that can be practiced with Interactive Digital Notebooks
  • some tips for using Interactive Digital Notebooks
  • and some more bonuses and advantages of using Interactive Digital Notebooks

In Part 3, you can sign up to receive a FREE Sampler of one of my Interactive Digital Notebooks!

Don’t Go Yet!

Are you new to the 1:1 classroom setting? Then you’ll want to read my Valuable Tips for the 1:1 Classroom.

Check out how I use Google Classroom to present at Back to School Night for Parents.

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Learn How to Use Interactive Digital Notebooks Effectively in Your Classroom
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8 thoughts on “Learn How to Use Interactive Digital Notebooks Effectively in Your Classroom”

  1. Another advantage to digital interactive notebooks… students who are absent HAVE their assignments already… no claiming that they never got their missing work!

  2. Hi! I’m working on setting up a slides digital INB for next year. Is there a way to share sections or pages of the notebook at a time or to add pages after the notebook’s already be shared in classroom?

    Thanks for your help!


    • Hi Jessica!

      Great questions! In answer to your questions, there is no way to specifically assign certain slides from a Google Slides presentation to students. You can however, assign presentations to a select group of students to differentiate instruction (which of course is not the same as just assigning slides). I think this option of assigning only certain slides is on everyone’s wish list for Google!

      As for adding new slides, once you’ve assigned a Google Slides presentation through Google Classroom and selected “make a copy for each student” then there is no way to add additional slides unless you manually go into each copy and add the slide(s) yourself.

      If you’re intent on assigning only certain slides, you can try this option. Take your Google Slides presentation and make a copy of it. Then delete slides you don’t want students to currently do, but keep the ones you do. Then assign the copy to your students. Honestly, I have assigned large INB to my students and have had no problems with just assigning a few slides at a time from the entire presentation. Also, I sometimes section off my INB so that each section can be done independently.

      For me, each INB is like a project that is done over a 1 – 3 week span so that is why I just assign the entire notebook. I design the slides on the notebooks to support my lessons, so usually the slides I assign are a follow up to a lesson.

      I hope that answers your questions. If not, just let me know if you have any more questions.

    • Hi Diana, Excellent question! Since my digital notebooks were content-based connected to my ELA units, I naturally taught writing skills when using digital notebooks. One of the strategies my grade level used was RACE – R = restate the question, A = answer the question, C = cite evidence, E = explain or give examples. When my students used the RACE strategy, they were forced to write in their own words. This strategy worked well with short constructed responses. For longer responses such as a paragraph, I explicitly taught paragraph structure for information writing which also included practice on rewording. It’s a process that takes time. Remember that students not only have to learn writing standards but content standards as well, so the cognitive demand can be quite high. So sometimes I do give them some leeway in that they can quote from a source as long as they credit the source (the author states…the article stated…etc.). I hope that answers your question. If you have any more questions, please ask!

  3. This article was really informative and encouraging. Recently weighing the positives and negative or implementing digital notebook in my English classes. The school I’m teaching at is 100% technology based, each students has their personal iPad, no paper or textbooks. I have found it difficult to accept the lack of note taking or retention strategies without the proper sources for students to have access to. I think that the capacity to hold students accountable and track their progress is a major advantage. For learners and educators alike, having the notebooks stored on Google Drive year after year is a significant benefit. It makes it easier to recall precisely what I used to teach. Although I do maintain a teacher journal, it would also be helpful to have access to the students’ daily notebooks.

    Switching over to digital notebooks will make your life so much easier, keep students organized, facilitate grading and showcase your students’ creativity! Thank you for help.

    • Hi Tamea, thank you for the thoughtful comment on using Interactive Digital Notebooks. I used them mostly as research projects with the completed Interactive Digital Notebook considered a project. I did have kids take notes on their research using paper notebooks. They then synthesized this information to complete the pages in the interactive digital notebook. I don’t believe that going completely paperless is the best idea. Typing and writing are not the same. But each teacher needs to find the most useful way to use both paper and digital notebooks that support student learning and student success.


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