Digital Interactive Notebooks for Research

I remember using interactive notebooks when I was an English teacher many years ago. I have always personally loved projects in which students construct books as a process to help them construct their knowledge. So my mind drifted back to this idea recently when my English department reached out to me for help with background research for context knowledge before reading a book. The teachers were looking for something different than infographic posters, slide presentations, or videos. So, I looked into a digital version of interactive notebooks and found an abundance of resources.

While this is not a new educational concept, I love to revisit golden oldies and think about how to put a new twist on it. I was drawn to resources that showed how to make templates for a digital notebook using Google Slides as the medium.  I thought this would be a perfect match for conducting background historical research and not a full blown research project. I am working with 7th grade language arts teachers, so I like that interactive notebooks allow educators to design the level of scaffolding research skills. 

There are many tutorials circulating about making digital interactive notebooks, but I found the following one useful by Jessica Wilding of Blended Learning in Texas: Getting Started with Digital Interactive Notebooks. I picked up many new tech tricks to use with the Google Slides environment. My favorite new insight is learning how to use the “master” view to set-up templates and create fixed text and images. This is what makes the digital notebook look, feel and act like a physical notebook or scrapbook. As I played around with it, it reminded me of the old mac software Hyperstudio of putting in icons and active features to make learning more engaging. I know that is a throwback tech reference, but I could not help myself. The great thing about using Google Slides is that students are familiar with it, and they can pick up new tricks in the process of recording their research. Additionally, it shows them how to break out of using Google Slides only for slide presentations as well.

I have also written about creating Hyperdocs with Google Docs, but I see Interactive Notebooks through Google Slides as leveling up a notch because it provides more possibilities for interaction. Working in the “master” view of google slides is like the underlay and then switching to the “normal” view allows students to input or enter text and move around objects and pictures. There are so many fun features you can put in an interactive notebook to simulate manipulatives like in real life. You can also leave a minimal template and let students embellish depending on how much support and guided inquiry you want to provide.

I am in the planning stages of this project, so this is just a preview of a project for after the holiday break. The book 7th grade students are reading is The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. The research is on the Darfur conflict in Sudan during the early 2000s.  Since the story focuses on a character receiving a red pencil I thought the digital notebook concept a nice pairing with the pencil. For the cover design of the notebook, I intentionally embedded African fabrics in a composition book style in which students can choose amongst six designs.

Here is a sneak peak to see the interactive part.

Map Puzzle

I really enjoyed designing the notebook and think there are many more uses that librarians can incorporate into their repertoire. I could see interactive notebooks as a scrapbook for a novel, a book of poems for poetry month, or a reader’s journal over a semester. I am interested in seeing how other librarians are using interactive notebooks as well. Please share any more applications for libraries in the comments.

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