Online Interactive Notebook For Students

How to Get the Benefits of Interactive Notebooks in Digital Formats

In 2007, I was a high school English teacher at a public high school that was obsessed with interactive notebooks at the time. They enthusiastically embraced the interactive-notebook movement and purchased thick spiral notebooks for each core subject for every ninth-grade student in the school. The notebooks were delivered to classrooms in large boxes, with each box containing enough notebooks to be distributed to students once a semester.

There is a straightforward concept here: the left side is for creative thinking, and the right side is for objective material. On the right side, cutting and pasting handouts that necessitate critical thinking and interaction with the materials are commonplace. On the first page of the document, a table of contents (TOC) aligns with a large, visible class version to help students stay on track with their page numbering.

The purpose of these activities is to teach organisation, allow students to explore ideas in their own way and encourage multiple learning approaches for the same content that engages students in higher-level thinking and problem-solving.

In a recent conversation, a friend described the interactive-notebook strategy used by teachers at their school during the pandemic’s fall semester in the fall of 2009. Consider the following scenario: a PowerPoint presentation with more than 40 slides for a sixth-grade unit on minerals and rocks. Each slide was oriented in such a way that it looked like a full-size piece of paper. A copy of the PowerPoint was created by each student, who then completed the slides by adding questions, definitions, and notes. Higher-level thinking was minimal, as there were no left-side or right-side assignments, no encouragement to use different learning activities for the same content, and no left-side or right-side assignments.

Students quickly discovered that they could copy and paste answers from the internet or from their friends’ answers to test questions. These new digital-interactive notebooks dispensed with every characteristic of the interactive notebook that had previously existed. They didn’t engage in any kind of conversation.

The substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition, or SAMR, model for technology transition has not been used in this example. The SAMR model assists educators in adopting technology in a way that advances learning. For example, using a PowerPoint presentation can be used to replace a teacher writing on the board. A teacher who uses Nearpod, which incorporates interactive features and real-time feedback, is, in fact, redefining the traditional class lecture format in the process.

There are numerous examples of interactive notebooks that have successfully made the transition from the clunky spiral notebook to its digital counterpart. Among these are:


1. Instead of a clunky PowerPoint presentation, create a table of contents that includes both left- and right-side activities. Students create a folder in their Google Drive where they will store all of the documents related to that unit they are studying. With each new document they create, they make sure to include a hyperlink to the appropriate assignment in the table of contents. Even if the actual assignments do not take place in those physical locations, the concept of the creative side versus the objective side is maintained. Students notice a difference in their total amount of credit (TOC).

Click here to see an example of the setup created by Rebecca Newburn, a veteran teacher at Hall Middle School in Larkspur, California, who has been teaching for 31 years.

Add any outstanding apps that your students regularly use as one of the hyperlinked activities in the table of contents. There are no restrictions on your options. Students in a course with a large amount of vocabulary can include a link to their own Quizlet that they created themselves. It is possible to have students insert the link to their ThingLink if you enjoy using ThingLink to have students annotate diagrams, graphs, pictures, and other visuals. Do you watch a lot of videos? Edpuzzle can be used as one of the right-side activities whether you are creating your own videos or sharing other people’s videos. With EdPuzzle, students watch videos that are paused at strategic points and interspersed with questions to keep them engaged. Using other free apps, such as Popplet for mind mapping, Padlet, or Nearpod, the only limitation is your own creativity.

This digital, interactive notebook has the advantage that all of these apps and online resources can be integrated and organised into students’ interactive notebooks, which is an advantage over traditional notebooks.

Encourage students to submit handwritten notes as part of their final grade. I prefer that my students take notes by hand because years of research have shown that this method improves retention of information. It enables students to take a break from their computers and take notes from a text book instead. Then they can upload a picture of the notes to their Google Drive and include a link to it in the table of contents.

4. Double-check your work on a regular basis and encourage collaboration. Teachers collected the spiral-interactive notebooks for use in providing periodic feedback and assessing students’ progress in the classroom. They were clumsy and took up a lot of room. Teaching 150 ninth graders proved to be a difficult task. It’s so simple to take a look now that everything is in digital format.

To make matters even more complicated, the digital format is well suited for peer evaluation and collaborative research. It is imperative that students study together during the pandemic, when they are desperate to form bonds with one another. Students require structure, and the digital, interactive notebook provides that structure. As a group, they share their table of contents with a classmate, who can then access a specific activity that has been designated for review. Alternatively, they can use a Quizlet that was created by another student. This assists students in not only evaluating others, but also in reflecting on and evaluating their own learning.

These sneak peek sessions can be followed up with whole-class discussions about what they observed and what they learned from their classmates after they have finished. This is an excellent method of encouraging students who work in hybrid or remote environments to interact with all members of the class.

Interactive notebooks have been around for a long period of time now. As with any great pedagogical strategy, it is possible to transition to a digital format while maintaining the learning advantages with a little bit of imagination.