5 Reasons You Need to Use Digital Notebooks in Science

Digital notebooks became very popular when the pandemic hit 2020. I have been using digital notebooks in my science class since 2017 and have loved using them ever since. Here are 5 reasons you need to be using digital notebooks in science today!

1. They Save Time

When you use paper interactive notebooks you have to first create the foldables and interactive pieces you want students to glue in their notebook. Then you have to make copies for each student. Then during your lesson you have to stop for what feels like an eternity to give students time to cut, glue and fold the papers in their notebook.

With a digital notebook much of the work has been done for the teacher and the student. Teachers just need to assign the notebook in their preferred learning management system (Google Classroom, Canvas, etc) and students focus on putting in the content rather than cutting and glueing.

2. They Include Visuals

Science is a very visual subject. Teachers can always print out images for students to cut and glue into their notebook, but unless you have access to a color printer 100% of the time you will likely be left with black and white images that are grainy and difficult for students to see.

With a digital notebook you can insert high resolution pictures that increase students understanding of the content. This is perfect for your ESL students who rely on visuals to improve their comprehension of the information you are teaching.

3. They can be Personalized

With a typical interactive notebook, students can’t add much of their own content. They can certainly write down anything they need to; but they can’t print out more images and glue them into their notebook. They certainly can’t add a video into their paper interactive notebook.

With a digital notebook students can do all those things and much more! You can ask students to find and insert images from the web that represent what they are learning about. They can also take a picture of the activities they are doing in class and add it to their digital notebook so it not only includes the content they are learning but shows what they have been doing in class. Finally, that video you showed them Monday morning…they can add that to their notebook so that they can rewatch it anytime they want!

4. They can’t be Lost

With a paper interactive notebook, they are so easy to lose! In fact one year I wouldn’t let students take their science notebooks home because they kept losing them or forgetting to bring them back to school. Even if students don’t manage to lose it, their notebooks can turn into a mess after long. Papers come unglued and are spilling out the side, papers are torn out, the pencil writing gets smudged and you can no longer read the text. The list of what can happen to the notebooks are endless.

If you have digital notebooks in Google Slides like I do it is so hard for students to do permanent damage to that notebook. First, everything is auto saved and housed in their Google Drive. Even if students happen to accidentally delete it, it will be in their trash for them to recover. Second, the revision history feature has saved my students so many times. If students delete slides, or make some other big changes they didn’t mean to, they can go to the revision history link next to the help button. It will show every single change they ever made and at the exact day/time they made it. If students need to revert their notebook to what it looked like in the past they just have to click 1 button.

5. You Don’t Have to Worry about Helping Absent Students get Caught Up

If you use paper interactive notebooks and a student is absent; the next day you have to try to quickly get them caught up with what they missed the previous day.

If students had a digital notebook, the pages would already be in their notebook. They can work with a peer to get the information to get their notebook up to date.

Summary

I’ve been using digital notebooks in science for several years and they have taken me a lot of time to make but if you are ready to try digital notebooks in your science classroom you can check out some of these notebooks I have created for 4th and 5th graders.

I love using digital notebooks in science and I don’t think I will ever go back to paper ones. Have you been using digital notebooks in science? If so, tell me what other benefits there are that I might of missed in this post!

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How much is too much technology in the classroom?

Anyone who knows my teaching style knows I love integrating technology and I love to pilot new programs and apps. However, the debate always comes up, how much is too much technology?

First, let me make clear, putting a student on a reading or math program all day is not okay (even if it is at their ability level). As much as I do love using technology in the classroom, I will never condone that practice, no matter how amazing the program might be.

The reality is however, that our children are growing up in a technology rich world, and technology will only increase as they become adults. Teachers must integrate technology for a multitude of reasons but mostly to make sure are students are adequately prepared to enter the workforce and adult hood. Below are a few reasons how integrating technology into your classroom can benefit the student and teacher.

Saving Time for the Teacher

The first reason we need to integrate technology is to save time! At the end of the day, we need to spend majority of our time teaching if we are going to make a difference in a students education. Anytime spent grading, copying, meetings and other duties takes away from that valuable face to face instruction. We need to be creative and find ways to reduce the time we spend on other activities so we can focus on the most important thing, the students!

A few years ago my county switched to standards based grading. While I know standards based grading is in the best of interest of our students, it caused me to spend so much more time grading and completing report cards. A few years ago I ditched the gradebook and adopted this digital gradebook. Rather than inputing scores by date, I input scores by standard. So all assignments tied to that standard are in one location on a Google Sheet. When it comes to report cards, all I have to do is quickly scan the heading with that standard and I can instantly give a final score for a students report card.

To Enhance Understanding

Another reasons to utilize more technology in the classroom is to use to enhance a students understanding of a concept. A few years ago interactive notebooks flooded classrooms and were a huge hit for many. I personally didn’t love interactive notebooks, they were so much work and were a challenge for some students to keep up with. I also taught science at the time and I needed a way to provided great visuals for students that were clear and in color preferably (wishful thinking, right?)

Digital interactive notebooks, are exactly what they sound like they are. They are interactive notebooks that are digital (typically in Google Slides). Instead of cutting, glueing and folding students are typing, dragging and linking. Students are not only practicing computer skills needed for the future, but I am able to provide them with visuals that promote a better understanding. I can also link in online articles and videos on the particular concept. Students will also never lose this notebook since it’s in Google Drive and they can easily share with their families to show them what they are doing in the classroom.

To Provide Rigorous Learning Opportunities

Another reason to integrate technology is to provide rigorous learning opportunities. We know good teaching is all about providing learning opportunities for students, especially real world experiences. This can be so challenging to do sometimes with limited time and resources.

Providing real world experiences can be much easier when you do them digitally. Like this PBL in which students must plan a vacation for a celebrity. They explore different travel websites, and document all their expenses on the Google slides. This saves time and paper for teachers. This also means less chaos in the classroom as there will be no papers students have to keep track. Students are still focused on the math skills, but the integration of technology helps to provide an easier way to apply their understanding.

To Teach Remotely

While not ideal, with Covid-19 impacting or schools in 2020, remote teaching became a reality for many schools across the globe. Teaching students remotely was the only way for us to continue the learning opportunities for our students.

In this case, using technology wasn’t an option for many teachers. Thankfully there were many teachers that created and sold amazing digital products. However, having resources that could be used digitally during remote teaching AND used in physical form when teachers & students were back in the classroom is a huge plus for teachers. They can purchase products that can be used digitally while remote teaching but then can be printed and used when they were back in the classroom.

I will likely always be that teacher that integrates technology daily. It not only helps me, but helps my students with their education. Technology is exactly what you make it, if you just put your students on a computer program all day you will likely not see the growth you want. When you use it as a tool to provide opportunities for learning, you will likely find engaged & excited students who are pushing their learning to the next level. I’d love to hear how do you integrate technology in your own classroom.

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