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Posts Tagged ‘digital notebook’

Digital notebook free inquiryI’m a huge advocate for collaboration in and out of the classroom. Too often, teachers work in isolation behind closed doors, missing out on opportunities to share ideas with colleagues, get feedback, and grow professionally. Even if teachers reach out within their own school to collaborate, many are missing the chance to collaborate on a worldwide scale. Early on in my teaching career I was inspired by the likes of Dan Myer (math blogger extraordinaire) who not only blogged thoughtfully about teaching, but also published his lessons and videos freely- for anyone to use in their own classroom. It begged the question: Why doesn’t everyone do this? Especially in an age where teachers are just as likely to turn to the internet for lesson ideas as they are to the textbook, I firmly believe all teachers should simply share more of what they do.

In that spirit, I’m sharing all of my digital documents for my 6th grade science units, starting with the scientific inquiry unit in this post. Hopefully you’ll find a few things that are useful for you to use in your own classroom, or at least get a better idea of how documents can work in digital notebooks. I’ve organized them by categories so it’s easier to find what you want: the study guide, lessons, homework, and assessments. Each lesson document is a notes document for students intended for a different day (we have 80-minute blocks, so they are pretty involved), and they are in a “scaffolded notes” style (which I wrote about earlier). Although they are designed for 6th grade science, most notes and lessons could easily be adapted to Upper Elementary or 7th/8th grades.  (more…)

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digital-notebook2This school year was my second year going paperless with my science classes and using digital notebooks. Since starting out I’ve learned quite a lot: how to make digital notebooks easier to use (for students and teachers!) and how to make them more effective tools for learning. Over the past two years I’ve also received a lot of queries from other teachers out there who are trying to do the same thing, so I wanted to share my updated version of a digital science notebook, as well as some tricks of the trade from a paperless “veteran”.

First off, here is the link to my digital notebook template. Feel free to try it out for your own class, modify it however you want to suit your needs, but please share your experiences for others to benefit from! Digital notebooking is very new terrain in education, despite the fact that technology has become such a pervasive part of our lives. Only by teachers sharing our experiences and ideas with each other will education ever catch up and start realizing the potential that technology has for learning. For more details on how to set up your own digital notebook, check out the tutorial videos on my digital notebook page.

Now for some advice about digital notebooks for those of you interested in giving it a go. I’d like to share four digital notebook secrets I’ve learned from my experience, but before I do that, please keep in mind that my Middle School has a 1 to 1 laptop program, and most of my students are already fairly computer savvy. The digital notebooks we use are based on Google Apps, specifically a Google Site that each student creates from a template that acts as their notebook, and the documents inside there notebook are mostly Google Docs and Google Sheets. I’m not sure how well my ideas would translate to other devices (like tablets/iPads) or other platforms (like Evernote/Notability), but if you have ideas about this I’d love to hear it! In my opinion though, digital notebooks work best when students have their own laptops and when you just embrace the amazingness that is Google Apps. But on the tricks of the trade… (more…)

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progress chartOne of the most successful things I’ve ever done as a teacher (digitally or otherwise) is creating a way for my students to track and reflect on their learning progress. It’s one of those things that seems so obvious once you do it, but it took me 11 years of teaching to finally try it out this past year. The feedback from my students was so overwhelmingly enthusiastic that I can say unequivocally: whether you’re a “high tech” or “low tech” teacher, you NEED to try this out with your students!

Learning Logs are not a completely new idea of course, in essence they are simply a progress chart, but I was reminded by reading Marzano’s classic book The Art and Science of Teaching that they can be so much more than that- especially in our new standards-based era of grading and assessment. By design, standards-based grading gives students more information, instead of an overall numerical grade they receive more specific feedback about each of their learning goals. But more information is not necessarily better. What I’ve discovered is that often students become so inundated with standards-based marks that they lose the bigger picture of what they are learning well and what they are not. And don’t even get me started about the so-called “standards-based” reporting systems (cough! cough! -PowerSchool- cough! cough!)…

The purpose of a Learning Log is two-fold: first, it is a tool that students use to keep track of the many standards-based grades they receive, in an organized way that makes it easy for them to see their progress. Secondly, the act of keeping a Learning Log gives students the opportunity to reflect on this progress, which encourages students to be proactive when there’s something they haven’t mastered yet. Learning Logs also become habit-forming; every time my student received feedback on their learning, whether it was an assessment or homework I graded, or even a quick formative assessment in class that could be peer or self-assessed, they would add it to their Log. After a couple of weeks my students were so into their Logs that they were reminding me about filling them out! (more…)

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do-it-yourselfA problem I’ve been kicking around for a while is how to give my students clearer feedback on their learning progress. In a standards-based system this can be a challenge, because feedback is more detailed than a single percentage grade; a single assignment often covers more than one learning goal and therefore is given multiple grades. This detail can be very useful to the student for guiding their learning, but only if they are able to take it all in and manage the feedback in a positive way.

Unfortunately, most grade books out there haven’t mastered standards-based grading, making it difficult for both teachers to enter grades and students to access and understand them. I know this from first-hand experience: the past two years my middle school has been struggling to use Perason’s PowerTeacher Gradebook for our standards-based grading (and to think they claim it’s the “next level in classroom technology”- ha!). There may be some helpful updates on the way at some point- I haven’t fired up this year’s version up yet- but instead of waiting around for Pearson to solve your problems, how about taking matters into your own hands? (more…)

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digital notebook2Here’s the next instalment in my video tutorial series on digital notebooks. In this video I explain how to create the actual notebook using Google Sites. When you combine this with paperless documents using Google Docs (explained in the first tutorial video), you have a digital notebook that is easy for students to use, simple to keep organized, and ready to take advantage of the ever-growing number of technology tools for learning.

Here’s the link to the digital notebook template: https://sites.google.com/site/digitalnotebooktemplate/

And here are the blank versions of the post-it note pictures so you can create your own pages to match what you need for your class (click on a picture to open the full-size version and then save it for your use):

post-it yellowpost it pink blankpost-it blue blankpost-it green blankpost-it blue blank shortpost it pink blank shortpost-it green blank short

Update (July 6, 2015)

A teacher who is customizing the science notebook template for her own class just asked me a great question that isn’t covered above (thanks Erica!): How do you add new unit pages? If you have more units of study than I have on the template, you can add new ones, but it does take a little bit of extra work. Basically you need to create a new page (along with a new sticker on the cover) for each new unit, along with the sub pages for each new unit (class/lab/homework stuff). Here’s the steps if you’re curious:

First you click the icon to create a new page (which looks like a paper with a plus) and then, when the new page screen comes up, give it a name and select the template “Unit Home page” like this:
Inline image 1
This will create a new page set up just like the other unit pages. You’ll then need to go in and create new sub pages for the Class, Homework, and Lab stuff (if you’re using those). When you make these pages, just make sure to pick the right template and put them under the new unit page like this:
 Inline image 2

The last step is to fix all the links to your new pages. You’ll need to fix the cover page sticker to go to the new unit page, and then the tabs on that new unit page to go to the right sub page. Finally you’ll want to go into the sub pages and fix the links too. A little annoying, but it should go quickly. Oh, and you’ll want to change the stickers to put the right unit sticker on all the new pages too!

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