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Posts Tagged ‘digital notebooks’

All good things must come to an end- today I’m sharing the last of my free documents for digital notebooks from our geology unit. Check out the previous posts for more free stuff on scientific inquiryecology, and chemistry. To learn more about why I use digital notebooks and how to set them up, check out my digital notebook page here.

Geology Unit

volcano mouseoverThis 6th grade geology teaches students how geological forces shape and change our Earth, including the basics of plate tectonics and the rock cycle. Also included in this unit is a mini-unit Engineering for Earthquakes that teaches students critical thinking skills and the engineering design process. It’s a big unit, so I’ve divided the documents into 3 sections: plate tectonics stuff, rock cycle stuff, and engineering for earthquakes stuff.

We teach this unit at the end of 6th grade because it is probably the most challenging conceptually for students- most of geologic process are on a vast scale of time and scope, and go unnoticed in everyday life. To make the concepts clearer, this unit involves a lot of modeling- both using models and making models- which help students to better visualize the gradual and unseen changes. Credit for the geology unit activities goes to Rice University, the US Geological Survey, YouTube teacher Michael Sammartano, my former teaching partner Melacyn Turner, our tech integrator Chet Garber, and also my brother Ross (who’s a practicing geologist).
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Today’s freebie is my collection of digital notebook documents for the 6th grade chemistry unit. See the earlier posts with more documents for scientific inquiry and ecology. To learn more about why I use digital notebooks and how to set them up, check out my digital notebook page here.

Chemistry Unit

chemistry mouseoverAlthough I call this a chemistry unit to my students, it’s really more of an introduction to matter. It’s not until 7th and  8th grade that our science curriculum delves into a close study of the periodic table and specific chemical reactions. The main learning goals for this unit include learning how to classify matter (substances and mixtures), measuring matter (volume, mass and density), and describing the states of matter and how they change. Some parts of this unit were adapted from the FOSS unit Mixtures and Solutions (which I love from my days teaching elementary), and the culminating CSI project was conceived entirely by my creative predecessor Krista Bouhaidar.  (more…)

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Yesterday I started posting all of my digital notebook documents for 6th grade science, beginning with the scientific inquiry unit. Today it’s on to ecology! Same as before, all of these are Google Apps docs that you can copy, adapt, and use however you’d like with your own students. For more info about why I use digital notebooks and how to set them up, check out my digital notebook page here.

Ecology Unit

ecology mouseoverThis unit is designed to teach students about the complex interactions and relationships between organisms and the environment in different ecosystems. The majority of the unit focuses on population interactions and energy flow in ecosystems, but it also dabbles a bit in natural selection to help explain adaptations (evolution is more thoroughly taught in my school at the 8th grade level). This unit culminates with a trip to a very unique ecosystem near my school: the mangrove wetlands of Qatar. If you’re teaching ecosystems, I highly recommend that you tailor it to the local environment to make it as authentic as possible! (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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digital-notebook3Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been connecting with a bunch of teachers out there who are also experimenting with going paperless and starting digital notebooks. It’s exciting to see the growing number of educators who are trailblazing a new path for education in our digital world, so I started a new page for collecting my ideas on digital notebooks, and I also decided to go “open source” with my digital notebook resources this year.

For those of you who are curious what a digital notebook in action looks like, I’ve created an example notebook that will mirror my actual students notebooks and be updated throughout the year. You’ll be able to see how we digitize classwork, homework, and assessments, and also how we use the digital notebooks to track progress with learning logs. Hopefully this example notebook will inspire those of you starting up digital notebooks in your own classrooms and encourage those of you who are thinking of giving it a try. I’d love to hear from you if you have questions or your own experiences to share! (more…)

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digital notebook2In this third and final (at least for now!) tutorial about digital notebooks I explain the steps your students will need to follow to create and maintain their notebooks. You’ll need to have already created a template on Google Sites of the digital notebook, which I explained in the last tutorial. As you’ll see in this video, setting up and maintaining a digital notebook is super easy for students to do, and most of the organization is automatic. Since I teach Middle School students, this is a huge selling point!

 

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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/a/asd.edu.qa/digital-notebook-template/

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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digital notebook2Last school year I used digital notebooks with my 6th grade science students in place of traditional science notebooks, and I’ve received a lot of interest and questions from teachers out there who want to know more about how to set them up. I posted last summer about the basics of setting up digital notebooks, but one of my readers (thanks Belinda!) made a great suggestion to create some videos that could walk people through the process. So my new summer project is making a series of short tutorials that will explain both the nitty gritty details of setting them up and also show off some of the advantages over paper notebooks. Hopefully this will enable anyone out there- tech savvy or not- to give digital notebooks a try!

The first video in the series focuses on the “pages” of a digital notebook, which create using Google Docs. For those unfamiliar with Google Drive and Google Docs I explain some of the advantages, and then I demonstrate how you can use them to replace paper notebooks and paper handouts in your classroom.

If there’s anyone else out there using digital notebooks or considering going paperless, please join in the conversation! Despite the fact that our students are now “digital natives” and the technology available is more than capable of replacing paper, I have found very few resources out there about digital notebooks, and I would love to hear new ideas.

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Another goal of mine with digital notebooks was to enable new forms of collaboration in my classroom. Because digital documents like GoogleDocs allow multiple people to access and edit the same document online at any time, it opens the door to new possibilities for both students and teachers:

1. Colaborating like scientists

Lab work in my classroom is almost always collaborative. Even before going digital my students would work in teams to plan and perform experiments, which encourages scientific communication and cooperation which are authentic science (and life) skills. Using digital science notebooks can take this collaboration a step further, because instead of individually recording in their own paper notebooks, with a digital notebook students can share the same document so that each of them can edit and view each others changes on their own screen. This is wonderful for typically collaborative tasks such as planning a procedure or collecting data. I’ll often have lab teams start with a collaborative document for an experiment so they each have the same document in front of them:

Saturation Puzzle doc

An added benefit of doing this type of group collaboration is that with a digital projector you can quickly turn it into whole class collaboration. Have a group that’s stuck? Display their document for the whole class on the projector and see if anyone has a solution. Have a group that’s doing stellar work? Share it with the whole class as an exemplar.

When it comes time for a more individual task (like writing a conclusion to an experiment) they can copy and paste the group work into their own document, and then finish on their own:

Saturation Puzzle individual

2. Researching as a team

Another collaborative task that is enhanced by technology is researching a subject as a team. This is similar to the classic jigsaw learning approach, except that all the students on a team are editing the same collaborative document. Depending on goal of the learning activity, you can either assign different students specific sub-topics to be responsible for and become an “expert” on them for their team, or you can let the team decide how to divide and conquer the research. Here’s an example of this from my 6th grade earth science unit:

collaborative research

I adapted this first learning activity from a fantastic inquiry-based lesson called Discovering Plate Boundaries developed at Rice University. The multi-part lesson engages students with real maps of relevant plate tectonic information (volcanology, seismology, geography, and geochronology) and challenges them to discover patterns at the boundaries of plates and then classify them. Each student on the team becomes an expert on one of the 4 maps, and then they use their combined understanding to classify all of the major plate boundaries in the world on a collaborative document (I still have them label the map on paper though- it’s just much more efficient for coloring!)

3. Giving feedback to peers

This is something I’ve only scratched the surface of this year, but with more modelling and practice I think it could be a game changer in the classroom. The power of peer feedback is particularly obvious with the Middle School students I work with, and digital notebooks make the process much easier and more flexible. Students can leave comments on each others documents in real-time, even while a student is still working on them. Multiple peers can comment simultaneously on a single document, and the commenting doesn’t need to be done in person- for example it could be assigned for homework. What’s more, students can reply directly to comments, opening up the door for a back-and-forth conversation. I haven’t done enough of this yet in my own classroom, but if you’re interested check out Oliver Quinlan’s post for more details on how to do it well. What I have done a lot of is teacher-student feedback using Google Docs comments, which works extremely well. If students are making edits to a piece of work, I suggest having them make any corrections in a different font color rather than deleting anything. This way students have a nice record of their learning in their notebook and better learn from their mistakes. Here’s an example:

feedback

4.What about plagiarism?

This was another one of my main concerns going digital last year: with most student work online, would the temptation for copy-and-paste plagiarism make it a problem I would have to constantly police? Yes and no. On the front end, for any digital work discussing plagiarism and making expectations clear to students is a must. We did this at the school level and I also reinforced it within my classes. Even so, instances of plagiarism popped up, but in my opinion no more than normally. Digital notebook may make plagiarism easier to do, but it also makes it easier for a teacher to identify. GoogleDocs shows the last editor of a document right in the Drive view and tracks all editors in the revision history. So if a student is editing a document they shouldn’t be (like doing someone else’s homework), it’s plain for the teacher to see. Checking for plagiarized work is easy too- if I’m ever suspicious on a research project I can just Google a sentence of a students work to see if it’s original or not. Same goes in Google Drive- you can search for text within documents, so seeing if a student is using someone else’s words is only a click away. So yes, digital notebooking does make plagiarism more of an issues, but it’s a issue that I think needs to be taught, and digital notbooking allows students to start practicing habits of a good digital citizen.

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Update: This post is my original instructions for setting up digital notebooks. For the updated version (and tutorial videos!) check out my Digital Notebook page.


Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 12.06.50 PM

After much fiddling around and way too much time spent trying to make it look “cool”, I’ve figured out the basics of how I’m doing digital science notebooks with my students this year. Several teachers out there have also expressed interest, so here’s the nitty gritty below of how I’m setting it up. One caveat though: my Middle School has a one-to-one laptop program, so my students basically always have their laptop with them and are already pretty well-versed in the technologies I’m using for this. So what works for me at my school might not be the best fit for you.

Step 1: Goodbye paper, hello GoogleDocs

All of the traditional papers that I would photocopy and hand out to my students in the past will instead be shared through GoogleDocs. GoogleDocs is a great way to digitally manage documents so that the teacher can decide whether students are editing documents individually or in groups as appropriate. Anytime the teacher (or another student for that matter) leaves a comment for a student on their document they get notified by email. In addition, whenever students makes a change to their document, GoogleDocs automatically saves it and keeps a record of when all changes were made (good for accountability). Last year I already used GoogleDocs for almost all my students’ homework assignments (here’s an example), and it worked well. Now I’ll be taking it one step further and turning everything digital: notes sheets, lab reports, handouts, homework… which means no more collecting, lugging around, and passing out papers. Yay.

Step 2: Manage GoogleDocs without making a mess

 A lot of people who “don’t like GoogleDocs” complain because if it’s left untended, your Google Drive page starts looking like the email inbox from hell. Since all of the documents that you create and edit will show up there, you need to set up some organizational system to make it easier to access the documents you actually want. Last year my students and I created shared folders for our GoogleDocs to simplify things. Everything I dumped into my shared folder was automatically shared with my students, then they would make a copies of those master documents and put them in their own GoogleDoc folder that was shared with me. Decent solution, but Middle Schoolers being Middle Schoolers, there was always a handful that would forget to share their copy with me, leading to a recurring digital paper chase.

This year my school is paying for Hapara which creates software that handles all this organization for me. With a few clicks documents are automatically shared with the right students and accessible by me. Hapara also gives teachers a handy “teacher dashboard” that will show you at a glance all your students GoogleDoc documents- whether or not they have remembered to share them with you:

Hapara Teacher Dashboard

Hapara Teacher Dashboard

Don’t have Hapara? It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, since you can manage GoogleDocs yourself with a little pre-planning like I did last year, but there’s also a free option out there: Doctopus. Created by an awesome educator who’s work I just discovered on YouPD.org, this GoogleDocs script also lets you automate the generating and sharing of digital documents.

Step 3: Putting the “notebook” in a digital notebook

As great as GoogleDocs is as an education tool, without a way of organizing documents in the same way you would within a traditional 3-ring binder or notebook, all these digital documents float electronically around in students’ files the same way their paper counterparts do in the messy backpacks teachers abhor. In my switch from paper to electronic documents, my first two goals were to find a way to make digital notebooks better at organization and presentation than traditional notebooks. So the last step is to figure out how to tie all these digital documents together, easily and elegantly.

There are several different options I considered (Blogger, LiveBinders, EverNote) but in the end I decided on using GoogleSites to create the notebook. Most of my students already have experience making websites on GoogleSites, so that played a part in the decision, but the main reasons were the flexbility offered by a website and the synergy between GoogleSites  and GoogleDocs.

The flexibility of a website allowed me to go retro and design a digital notebook that looked like a classic composition notebook:

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 9.26.11 PM

By clicking on the “stickers” on the notebook cover, students can navigate to the different units we study, and then within each unit there’s a section for Class Stuff, Lab Stuff, and Homework Stuff which look like Post-its in an actual notebook:

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 9.33.45 PM

You can actually insert entire folders of your GoogleDocs onto a GoogleSite, which means my students won’t have to individually add documents to their digital notebooks- they will be added automatically whenever I create a new document and put it into one of their shared folders (no wasted class time!).

Using GoogleSites also makes it easy for students to incorporate anything created with GoogleDocs in their digital notebook: data tables or graphs made in Google Spreadsheets, scientific sketches made with Google Drawings, Google presentation projects, Picasa photo slideshows, the list goes on and on. I want their notebook to be able to easily highlight their best work so it doubles as a portfolio, and GoogleSites will allow student to do this easily without jumping through a lot of technical hoops. I’m also working on the possibility of creating a “learning dashboard” for each student that will display their progress on the learning goals for each unit and guide them to helpful resources when they fall short of meeting expectations (more on this later!).

You can go ahead and check out the template notebook site here (or go here for my updated template). When it’s completely finished I plan on saving it as a GoogleSite template so others can use it as they see fit.

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