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Energize Your Classroom With Motivating Interactive Digital Notebooks Pt 2

Why make the switch to digital notebooks? I wrote earlier that some major advantages of DIGITAL notebooks are that they 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!). Here’s the LINK to Part 1 in case you missed it!

Interactive Digital Notebooks Part 2

Those are very good reasons to make the switch to DIGITAL notebooks! In Part 2, let me explain how I use my Digital Notebooks.  Also, I am offering a SAMPLER of an Interactive Digital Notebook (offered in part 3).

Using Digital Notebooks

There are so many ways to utilize DIGITAL Notebooks.  Here’s an example of how I use one my American Revolution Interactive Digital Notebook.  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.

Google Slides Interactive Digital Notebook

Maybe I’d 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.

We could talk about how tensions could arise between the parents and the kids as the restrictions became more severe.  How would the kids react? What action would they take?  That is where 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.

Practice Researching using digital notebooks

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 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 a facilitator.  In this way, the 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.

Digital Notebooks Should Add Value

A good 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 Digital Notebooks I design for my students to 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 which is an important life-long learner skill!

As you can see in this example from the American Landmarks Interactive Digital Notebook, web and video links are embedded in the slide for easy access to the content.

American Landmarks Digital Notebook Sample Page

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 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!

Support the Curriculum with Digital Notebooks

Life Cycle Digital Notebook Bundle

Digital Notebooks can be used to support the curriculum. When I design my notebooks, it’s always with the Common Core State Standards or the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in mind. For example, when I designed the life cycle digital notebooks, it was to support the NGSS for grade 3, specifically, NGSS 3LS1.b which states:

Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

NGSS Grade 3

Then I designed the notebook to follow the 5E model of lesson design: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. Students also get to practice science and engineering practices.

5 E Lesson Design

In this way, digital notebooks can then be used as a project or even as an assessment tool to gauge student understanding of key concepts and standards.

Life Cycle Digital Notebooks

Digital Notebooks Provide Practice with Skills

Another aspect of the 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).

Practice Skills with digital notebooks

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.

Practice skills with 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 a 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.

Unique Features of Digital Notebooks

What are some other unique features I have added to my DIGITAL Notebooks? From having used these with my students for several years, 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.

Digital Notebook navigation

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 you’re looking at a static print resource!

Digital Notebook animations

Tips for Using Digital Notebooks

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.

So what I’ve done is now is create 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.

Digital notebooks tips for teachers

Another important tip I want to pass along is to make your DIGITAL Notebooks go along with your curriculum while incorporating standards.  Digital Notebooks can be tailored to any curriculum and to specific standards.  Here’s the California State Symbols Interactive Digital Notebook that was created by special request for a 4th grade California Teacher.

California Symbols Interactive Digital Notebook

The Common Core ELA standards are incorporated into most slides even though the content is social studies or science.  I even provide a list of the ELA standards in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade that can be practice through these Digital Notebooks.

Finally, Go Beyond the Technology

What do I mean by that?  Every year during Open House, I have the students show their parents their DIGITAL Notebooks as part of the Open House tour. Since the Interactive DIGITAL Notebooks are created in Google Slides, the student can use the notebook as a presentation!  The parents are amazed at how easily their child managed the technology and all that they had learned.

Once a notebook is complete, have the students add extra slides at the end and assign a project. For example, after completing the DIGITAL Notebook on the Solar System, I’d 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!

Integrate social studies with digital notebooks

Try out the SAMPLER (go to Part 3 for details) to see how these digital notebooks work.  Each slide will have a website and a 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, or These services take a YouTube video and strips out all the comments, links, ads, etc., and ONLY present the video to the student. I also provide direct links to YouTube as well.

Try out a sampler digital notebook

To try out the American Symbols Digital Notebook SAMPLER, go to Part 3.

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?  

Check out these blog posts on using Google Slides.

Don’t Go Yet!

Click HERE to go to Part 3 of 3!

In the meantime, here’s a FREEBIE that will help your students when using Interactive Digital Notebooks. Teaching students the KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS using the control key will only make them more efficient when using technology. It’s a skill that cuts across all Apps!

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2 thoughts on “Energize Your Classroom With Motivating Interactive Digital Notebooks Pt 2”

  1. My child’s teacher is using a digital notebook with google slides and I HATE IT !!!!!!1
    My child is 9 years old and is in 4th grade. She is spending more time entering and formatting the material that learning the material. Often she inadvertently moves the text box when try to click on it. The default font in the text box is 14 pt and is too small to be read……………
    What the solution?

    • Hi Randy, When working with text boxes, it is best to click in the box at the point where you would like to type. Yes, you can change the default size by clicking on the plus or minus boxes to increase the font size. If the text is already typed, select the text first before changing the size. I’ve included an image that shows how to address both of your concerns. I have used digital notebooks with children as young as second grade. They do have to learn how to use the tools in Google Slides (which is just like learning to use any word processing App – so it’s a life skill!). I also taught my students to use the UNDO command or icon to immediately undo any mistakes or to move objects on the screen back to their positions. With practice, I promise she will get more proficient with using the Google Apps which are used by the majority of schools through college (even workplaces use Google Apps). How to type in a text box and change the font size.


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