Saturday, August 11, 2018

Reading Strategies for a Digital Age

Post was also shared on FTEdTech

Some time last Spring, I heard the podcast "Digital Readers Read in an F-Pattern" by Teach Thought. This episode, hosted by Ryan Schaaf, marked the beginning of my newest journey to understand how our students are processing information in a digital environment and how we might help them focus their attention in a world of distractions.

Because of the podcast, I was inspired to pick up my own (digital) copy of Reinventing Learning for the Always On Generation: Strategies and Apps that Work by Ian Jukes and Ryan Schaaf. The considerations and research they explore are fascinating to me and there are many implications for classroom practice that I think are worth time to discuss and study.

The F-Pattern

In the podcast and through the book, I was introduced to the idea of F-Pattern reading and research conducted by the Nielsen Normal Group on Eye Tracking

What does this mean for the classroom?

I have a lot of questions about what I'm learning. One of the biggest things I find myself wondering about is how do our digital natives transition skills and habits between print and digital texts? 

For myself, this information has helped me to pause periodically and ask myself if I'm reading to the right side of the screen and getting all the content I need. I miss so much information in email and in digital reading because I'm not setting reading expectations for myself.

One of my big take-aways is that we must be mindful of teaching students how to slow down and engage in digital texts in meaningful ways.

Reading Strategies for the Digital Age

It is really important to model effective digital reading strategies for students. Show them how to look for embedded dictionaries, highlighters, note taking tools. 

Encourage your students to read with purpose and demonstrate that they have by using a note taking strategy or graphic organizer - either digital or paper/pen.

Students can simplify and customize their reading experience to eliminate distractions, use mark up features embedded in their device and make use of Chrome Extensions like Read&Write. Kasey Bell, in her post "How to Create a Dynamic Reading Experience" has some excellent instructions for how to make that work.

Digital Natives are what Jukes and Shaaf refer to as "Transfluent", which means they are fluent in multiple modes of of media and find it natural to communicate with images then mix in text and color. As teachers, we can capitalize on that by challenging students to be creators not just consumers of information. Give students the opportunity to make use of transfluency skills through the use of activities like Booksnaps and Sketchnoting.

Get some more details and ideas here:

Beyond the Video Project

Post was also published on FTIS EdTech

Chances are if you asked your students how they learned how to do something outside of school, they would reply, "I just YouTube-d it".

We live in a highly visual and media rich world, and our digital natives are certainly adept at creating their own content.

In a world, where according to Ian Junes and Ryan Schaaf, authors of Reinventing Learning for the Always On Generation: Strategies and Apps That Work “Every minute of every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 100 hours of new video are uploaded,” you might wonder: is video becoming the new "old standby" project for when we can't think of anything else to assign our students?

With endless tools and app smashing techniques, it is true, that even our youngest students can produce quality, engaging videos that demonstrate their learning in creative ways; however, what could we add to the list of choices that would challenge their critical thinking skills and model different avenues of communication?

Below, you will find some ideas and resources to get you thinking beyond the video project.


Create Books

Encourage your students to create epublications that they can share beyond a folder. With access to tools like Book Creator through Google Chrome, the Book Creator App, templates in Apple's Pages, and even Google Slides. Students can create media rich content to tell a story, report on a topic or even teach a lesson. 

Resources to get you started

  • Apple Teacher - Pages for iPad - download the iBook to learn how to create beautiful publications - set up a free account and become Apple Teacher certified

Create Websites

Students of all different ages can use Google Sites on a computer or Adobe Spark Pages on the computer or through the iPad app. Adobe Spark also consists of Posts and Videos, so some of the resources will reference those tools. Log into all the Adobe applications with your school email. For Spark Pages, we have Adobe Enterprise, so you'll need to choose sign in, then select "Sign in with Adobe Enterprise" and use your school email and password after.

Resources to get you started

Create Podcasts

One medium that maybe doesn't get enough airtime in our schools is the podcast. Prior to having students create a podcast, you would want to introduce them to the idea of a podcast using some suggestions from Common Sense Media "20 Best Podcasts for Kids". In this list, you'll even find a few podcasts that feature kids. A cool thing about podcasts is that they appeal to the auditory learner, but many of them often include a blog post with "show notes" that act as either a transcription or an extension of the discussion. One of my favorites is  format used by Cult of Pedagogy - check out this example.

Resources to get you started

When you create a podcast in Garageband the important thing is to choose the correct settings.

Once you open a new project, and select microphone, you will turn off the Metronome (upper right side - looks like a triangle), then tap the (+) - or it may say 4.0 on the top right corner, and switch it to Automatic. 

You should then be able to record uninterrupted.

Many of our 3-5 grade students have experience with Garageband thanks to our wonderful Music teachers, and they could be a tremendous asset when you are developing your own lessons.

Create Video Games

There are so many amazing things that can be done with Bloxels. I have seen amazing projects that feature Civil War re-enactments, lessons about the digestive system, and original fairy tales. The key to using Bloxels for projects is to require that students create a storyboard as part of the development and then include written explanations throughout on story blocks.

Resources to get you started

What else can you get kids creating this year?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Leading from the Library with Personalized Professional Learning

In the days of deep budget slashes and little money for professional development, the school librarian is in a perfect position - as someone who has the ability to work with every student and teacher - to lead from the library and fill in what some cases is a major gap. 

One of the big trends in education today is working towards a system of more personalized learning for students. By meeting students where they are in terms of interest and ability we can do so much more to engage them in deep learning and help them develop skills that will aid them in becoming college and career ready as well as model citizens and life-long learners. 

While advocating for personalized learning for students, it is also important to consider the personalized learning needs of our teachers. Talk to any group of teachers, and you will discover that there is a wide range of ability and interest for our teachers when it comes to digital age teaching and learning competencies, because of this it is essential to provide multiple avenues and create more of a personalized approach to learning for our teachers.

The Future Ready Schools Framework advocates for "Personalized Professional Learning" as one of their primary tenants for helping to achieve a "a shared vision of preparing students for success in college, career, and citizenship." You can see if your district has taken the Future Ready Pledge [here]. 

Even if your district has not taken the pledge, you can support teachers in your building by advocating for Future Ready trends. Future Ready Librarians are encouraged to "Lead professional learning to cultivate a broader understanding of the skills that comprise success in a digital age (e.g., critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, technology competencies, etc)."

Begin by Asking Teachers What they Want

So, how do we make this happen? It helps to begin by asking teachers what they want. In the EdSurge article "Personalizing Professional Development for Teachers, By Teachers" by Pat Phillips, Phillips shares that we should begin by including teachers in the design of the PD. One easy strategy is to set up a beginning of the year Google Form and identify what teachers think are their biggest needs, and ask basics like: 

  • What days of the week are best for meeting?
  • Do prefer in person sessions or something more virtual and self paced?
  • What is the optimal length of time for a session?

Once you have some general feedback you can begin to establish a schedule that you can promote. 

Collecting ongoing feedback is also important. Often new trends emerge during the year or tools change. Collecting feedback after sessions helps to stay on top of teacher needs. Often in a session feedback form it helps to ask if teachers need something more in depth or additional resources. I like to ask teachers which tools they need more information about and how they would prefer to get that information (follow up email, one-on-one or a later formal, PD session).

Develop your Plan

The School Librarian wears MANY hats during the school day, so planning personalized professional development is largely going to depend on your schedule. It is critical to put together a team that you can count on for help. Obviously the building administrators will be an asset. If you have access to a Digital Learning Coach or an Instructional Learning Coach in your building, creating a partnership with them is very important. You will also find that you have many teacher leaders in your building who are interested in sharing, recruit them and be their megaphone to amplify the cool things they know. Then set goals. Ask yourself these kinds of questions:
  • How often can I provide PD? 
  • Can I capitalize on any digital tools we have - Google Classroom/LMS?
  • How much time do teachers really have to focus and learn on an ongoing basis?

Once you know what works for your teachers you can create plans that work for their needs. In the beginning, I only focused on our elementary specials area teachers and created custom agendas for them while classroom teachers were attending other district led PD. 

We covered things like learning to use Twitter and finding people to follow, Canva for creating classroom content, website development, and many other topics. 

Once I felt comfortable with my time and with what teachers needed, I began to branch out and get a little more creative.

Creative Ways to Engage Teachers in Ongoing, Personalized PD

We covered things like learning to use Twitter and finding people to follow, Canva for creating classroom content, website development, and many other topics. 

Once I felt comfortable with my time and with what teachers needed, I began to branch out and get a little more creative.

Creative Ways

I found as a librarian, through the year, I really only had writing and lunch time to get new ideas out there. I made heavy use of Smore pages for an ongoing Tuesday Teacher Tips. I included information about things we had in the library, but often took the opportunity to answer questions or provide information based on teacher feedback. Here's an example:

I also used a Power Lunch format once a month. During this time teachers were invited to come and eat lunch together in our conference room and get some time with a new tech tool or idea. As an added bonus, you might think about supplying dessert. We covered topics like HP Reval (Aurasma), Voxer, and collaborating with the tools we had available. 

These two strategies are relatively low key in format and are effective ways to reach out to teachers and creating collaborative opportunities.

If you have a little more time, you might try these next ideas.

Quick and Flexible Formats

DIP Days I wish I could take credit for this name. I heard it in a session at ISTE last year. For this format the person giving the PD provided different dips and teachers were encouraged to Drop in for PD. 

You might however consider a DIP model of Drop in and Play. Host time in your library for teachers to come and play with things you have. Here in Kentucky we like to call that #KyGoPlay time. During a session try the Ignite-Play-Share strategy. Ignite their curiosity with a video or quick demo, give teachers time to play then share how they could use the tool or strategy. These sessions could be as long as an hour or as short as 20 minutes.

Tech in 20 Minutes Some of the "early bird" teachers appreciate a quick 20 minute session before school to get their morning started with a new idea. Over the years I have often hosted these on Tuesdays and we spend time with just one tool and some special features. We use this time to feature new tools and apps or get a quick tutorial on a special feature of something bigger like YouTube.

PD While You...
Another format I have found success with is posting printed out PD While You..flyers in places where teachers are waiting to do...stuff (copy machines, by the mailbox and in bathroom stalls). I try to include links to more information and give them enough that they can let their eyes rest on for short periods of time over the course of a month.

For the Virtual Learner

Not all teachers have time to learn in person. This is one reason why a newsletter, like the Smore I posted above, can be so helpful. You might also consider using your school's LMS or a special Google Classroom to encourage virtual, asynchronous learning. For example, I have developed PD in your PJs modules in Schoology for teachers to use if they need more formal PD hours. Each module connects to different ISTE Standards and includes tasks, videos and articles. 

Your LMS or Google Classroom can be easily used to organize and create a professional book study with discussions and sharing of examples.

Of course, don't underestimate the power of a custom hashtag and sharing on social media like Twitter.

Today, as a Digital Learning Coach, my plan looks a lot more intense. I try to respond to the needs of the teachers and provide many different opportunities. One thing I do to help teacher know what is happening is I create a menu they can refer to:

I have found that offering "PD On Demand" is extremely helpful to teachers who just need some extra help. I publish the dates I am available for that and teachers can "book" that time to go over a skill, strategy or tool specific to their own needs. Sometimes a small group will come together in this way. 

Promoting your services like this on a semester basis can go far to promote things that are available in your library and create a community where everyone is a learner.

What ways do you lead from the library by creating personalized professional learning experiences?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Engaging Students with Digital Interactive Notebooks

Digital Interactive Notebooks are an amazing way to help engage students in the learning process while creating personalized notes with content that is meaningful to them on an individual basis. Teachers can custom create notebooks to help guide students through project based learning, specific units of study or for tracking personal goals.

Check out this 2nd grade example for a unit on plants to get an idea of how one might look.

The digital interactive notebook can act as a compilation of hyperlinked content like video and digital articles, combined with note taking strategies and student created digital products that demonstrate key understandings. 

If used with tools like Google Classroom, teachers can check in on work and insert comments throughout to give feedback and help guide students in deeper understanding. As students grow accustomed to the model, teachers can gradually release creation of the notebook over to the students to choose their own note taking strategies, video and articles to help solidify meaning.

Want to know how to get started with digital notebooks? Check out this Digital Interactive Notebook for step by step directions and activity ideas:

Get your own copy of the notebook [here]

Additional Resources

Monday, June 4, 2018

SAMR Remix Update & Redefining the Role of the Learner.

It's been almost two years since I've updated my resources for SAMR and Bloom's Taxonomy

As I was considering the newest tools out for students to use, it became really clear that as time has gone by my own view of what is "Redefinition" has shifted. This really highlights the subjective nature of the SAMR model. What is Redefining in one classroom, may not be that at all in another. 

When I first began to develop SAMR resources back in June 2014, I placed Nearpod under the Redefinition category. Back then the possibility of putting your presentation directly into every student's hands where they could see clearly and engage in the lesson seemed so forward thinking. When I revised in 2016, I chose to keep it there because of the addition of so many interactive elements, the ability to self-pace for differentiation and of course the virtual field trips that allowed kids to go to even the coral reef. Now, as I look at how far technology integration in the classroom has progressed, I realized that it's time to recategorize it. In this version, I chose to place Nearpod in the Augmentation category, mostly because even with self-pacing, Nearpod is primarily a teacher driven tool that allows students to share their thinking in different ways with their teacher or explore something someone else created. 

Today as I consider tools and integration, I ask myself these things: 
  • Are students creating? 
  • Are students able to push back the walls of the classroom and reach a larger, more global audience?
  • Are students given choice in what they use and how they share?
The more control over the learning and sharing of learning that can be achieved by the student, the better. With those questions, I see myself moving away from SAMR strictly in the sense that I'm referring to technology integration and more toward looking at ways to REDEFINE the role of the LEARNER, which in my own opinion is the real role of technology. 

This is not a be all end all guide to integration of technology, rather a work in progress. The tools represented here, if used in different ways with different intentions by the student, can allow them to redefine their own role. For example, when a teacher uses a Google Form to collect data from students, it's simply Substitution, but when a student makes the decision to create a Google Form to collect data for personal record and goal setting or, even better, for a specific project that seeks to gather information from people from around the world, and they then take that data and visualize it with reports, it changes the role of the tool. Students are redesigning tasks to meet their own needs, collecting data from far and wide in ways they wouldn't have easily been able to do before. In this case we see the tool can be used in an Augmentation or Modification capacity.

In 2018, our students can easily share their thinking, their findings, their judgements with a global audience through video, book publishing and podcasting, and they can model and prototype in 3D with virtual and augmented reality, and there are plenty of tools out there to make these tasks even better.

The interactive image below includes links to resources and ideas for use. Be sure to check out the resources with the red target for background. Blue targets will send you to the resource, and black will send you to different ideas for implementation.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Curating and Collaborating with Google's Jamboard App

Post originally published under FTEdTech
I am always on the look out for strategies and applications that allow our elementary students to collaborate. When you can add in tools that will let them sketchnote, curate resources from multiple sources, including their drive and use tools that autodraw icons based on rough sketches, then you know you have something that kids can really get into using.

I am really excited to share the new app we have in the app portal called Jamboard. Jamboard is essentially a collaborative whiteboard app that includes some pretty impressive features - including collaboration! It is part of GSuite (Google applications) and you sign into it with your school email/password. This app opens up so many possibilities for sketchnoting, curation of ideas and most importantly collaboration!  Jamboard is an application that can be used with or without a physical Jamboard recently released by Google. 

Check out the basics of how to get started with Jamboard below:

Write now, I'd have to say my favorite feature is, hands down, autodraw.  I like the idea of sketchnoting, but I often get caught up in the idea that my sketches don't really show what I want them to show. Autodraw is a tool that I can use to move past one of my personal barriers to creating notes.  

In addition to the cool sketchnoting capabilities, Jamboard also offers a way to curate information from a variety of sources like your Google Drive and the web. Imagine organizing thoughts for a video by pulling in research from the internet and notes from a class project that you did in Google Slides.  Jamboard makes this possible.  Check out how that might look below:

One of the last powerful features of Jamboard is the collaboration feature. To get started collaborating, with our current permission level, teachers would begin a Jamboard, then invite students to share ideas on the board through an email or by a code. This would be a powerful way for a group to plan a video project or a presentation that required them to research add images, drawing, and to organize their ideas. Check out the video below to see how to make that happen.

Want to try it out, but need some help?  Let me know! I have ideas for you!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Spring Magnetic Poetry

I originally published this on FTEdTech 

April is National Poetry Month, and a perfect time to inspire students to create their own poems about Spring.

Inspired by Eric Curts' "Springtime Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings"
I created a template that we could use with iPads and one to use with Seesaw.

I love the format Curts uses in Google Drawings, but currently we cannot use Google Drawings on the iPad, so it requires a little modifying to give our students the chance for the same fun.

To modify the idea so we can use it on our devices with PowerPoint, Google Slides or Seesaw, I first created a background template in Canva using the "Presentation 16:9" size template. I inserted a free image related to spring from their stock images and downloaded it as a JPEG.

Setting up the Activity in PowerPoint

I inserted this image as the background of a blank PowerPoint slide by clicking:
  • Design tab
  • Format Background
  • Picture or Texture Fill 
  • File
  • Locate image and insert
Placing the image on the slide as the background helps to stabilize the activity so students can't move it around.

Once the background was inserted, I was ready to create and insert the word magnets.

I was feeling a little stuck on which words to use for Spring, so I hit up Google and found a great list at a site called Words to Use. To create the "word magnets", I inserted a rounded rectangle and changed the format so it would be easy to see on the background. I then typed in words and saved them as pictures by right clicking on the shape and choosing "Save as Picture..."

I saved some time by reusing the same box over and over.  I then went back in and inserted all the word pictures and arranged them on the sides and bottom of the template.

The extra step of creating these magnets as images will help as students drag and drop. To be flexible I added a template shape at the bottom so students will just have to touch the shape and add their own words. I decided to make this a different color so teachers would be able to see what were student generated words and what belonged with the template activity. It might be fun to have students insert appropriate emojis in the template box.

If you want to use this template with your students, you can find it in Schoology>>FTIS Elementary EdTech Group>>Resources>>Interactive Notebook Files>>Magnetic Poetry for Spring. I uploaded the template to Google and converted to Google Slides. You can grab a copy for Google Slides to use with your students if that format works better for you.

To distribute the assignment to your students, you'll want to upload it to your OneDrive or Google Drive and use Schoology Microsoft or Google Assignments so that you can create a copy of the template for each student. If you're not sure how to do that, check out the directions here.

Setting up the Activity in Seesaw

To give even our youngest students the opportunity to practice with the idea of magnet poetry, I created a similar activity in Seesaw. 

I used the same background and when creating the activity uploaded that image, and used the label tool to create the word "magnets". I also added in emojis for the students to use. For this version, students are additionally asked to create a recording of themselves reading their poems. This would a fun shared writing activity that would align to CCSS writing standards (W.K.2, W.K.6).

You don't have to reinvent the wheel with this one, you can grab a copy and edit the activity for your own needs and learning goals here.

Questions? Want to work together to make more activities like this? Let me know!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Ozobots: Your Next Center Addition

I originally published this post on FTEdTech

If you haven't tried out the ozobots yet with your class, then now is the time!

Ozobots are tiny little robots that work with markers.  Students draw thick lines on paper with black, red, green or blue markers.  They can create different color combinations to program the robot to perform a variety of moves from changes in speed to changes in color and more advanced turns and moves.

The simplicity of these robots make them a perfect addition for a center.  With little set up, and very little training students can be engaging in activities that meet the standards, help them practice skills and are fun!  This could be a great way to change things up as we head into the end of the year.

Right before Spring Break, I got the chance to work with Mrs. Perkins and her first graders at JES to test out some activities.

For the activity we used an Engage - Explore - Explain cycle. 

Cycle 1 

To begin the activity, students came to the carpet and sat in a circle. I showed the students the robot, and demonstrated how to turn it on and how to make it go by drawing a line.  I asked them to observe what happened to the robot if I changed the color of the marker. We also placed an image of the Ozobot code chart on the Smartboard so students could see different ways they could program the robot. We also talked about strategies for using good team work, since they had to work with a partner.

We used the 5 minute timer on ClassroomScreen to set a timer for students to explore with a partner. Students were encouraged to think about good team work skills and practice drawing different kinds of lines to see what worked best. They were curious to see how to make the Ozobot turn, if they could follow a squiggly line, and what happened if there was no line.  

When the 5 minutes were up, students had time to share out about what they had learned about using the ozobot. They also shared team work strategies that included things like taking turns for a certain amount of time, diving their paper into two and creating their own drawings then taking turns with using the robot.

Once students had some time to try anything we were ready to get into the next learning cycle.

Cycle 2

For the next phase of learning we used a Flippity spinner that had a number of different activities, aligned to things that the first graders were currently working on or aligned to skills that might help them use the Ozobot.

For the spinner we had
  • Color - for this activity students would be challenged to make the Ozobot change colors using different codes
  • Tornado - students would need to code the Ozobot to move in a tornado pattern
  • Tell a Story (RL & RI 1.1, or W.1.3) students would need to work together to create a story or an informational piece that showed a beginning, middle and end.  They would draw images, and write words and then draw a line to lead the ozobot through the telling of the story.
  • Math - for this activity, student partners wrote 3 math problems on one side of the page and mixed up the answers on the opposite side of the page.  They traded pages with another group and new partners solved the problems by drawing a line for Ozobot to match the problem to the answer.
  • Spelling - students would choose a spelling word and practice writing it so Ozobot could follow the letters
  • Symmetry - Students created a drawing that demonstrated symmetry
  • Speed - Students were to use the color code chart to create speed changes with the Ozobots. 
We had enough time to spin the wheel three times with between 5-10 minutes between each spin. For this round, students were able to practice with Symmetry, Telling a Story and Math. After each activity, we paused so students could share their work and what they discovered during the activity.  

Students just recently learned about symmetry and had mixed ability to transfer their learning to their drawings. Some pairs came up with ideas right away. In talking through their drawings, they demonstrated quality reflection and were even able to discuss as a whole group which heart in the drawing to the left showed more symmetry.

This activity allowed for some evaluation of student learning and provided a fun way to reinforce the concept.  After practice and discussion, many more students were exploring the idea of symmetry.

The students also struggled some with the idea of creating a story in the beginning. As a group we discussed that they could show the different things that happened in their school day. After some discussion and modeling, I think the students would be able to repeat the activity in a more independent way. This would be good for having them retell the beginning, middle and end of a story using drawings and verbal retelling.

We ran out of time to fully complete the math activity. This might be more realistic to practice with teacher created templates, but I did like to see the creative thinking that went into developing the problems. 


You can evaluate a student's work in centers in a number of different ways. I used IPEVO Whiteboard app and the Apple TV to mirror the students' work on the smartboard and record it in one motion (video above). Students could use the IPEVO app to do the same thing, or they could take a video of their retelling and share it on a Flipgrid, through Seesaw or on Schoology.
As a wrap up I asked the kids which activity they liked best. It may go without saying, but many of them preferred the free time to explore. The rest of the activities were a bit of a tossup with the symmetry activity possibly edging the others out some.

If you want some more ideas for using Ozobots in your class, check out the Ozoblog.

You might also want to check out "5 Ideas for Implementing Ozobots" from Talkin Pinata Teaching. 

Want to add some engineering or creative fun to the mix? Encourage students to design an attachment for the ozobot to drag along with it or to create a costume for the ozobot that they could then write about. 

Need help?  Let me know!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Digital Interactive Notebooks: Getting Started

Post appeared also on FtEdTech

It's no real secret that I love Digital Interactive Notebooks.  I create them every chance I get and encourage teachers to use them for everything from long term Project Based Learning (PBL) projects to weekly unit work with vocabulary.  

The Interactive Notebook (INB) has long been a staple of the classroom to engage students more directly with their notes.  The traditional interactive notebook often includes traditional student notes, questions, and interactives that students cut, fold, color and paste into their notebooks. You might find graphic organizers, pockets with measuring tools, data charts, and foldables that act as study aides.  In the NSTA article "Science Interactive Notebooks in the Classroom" Jocelyn Young explains the benefits of INB when she shares that "By using notebooks, students model one of the most vital and enduring functions of scientists in all disciplines—recording information, figures, and data. A second reason for maintaining a science interactive notebook is that it provides a ready reference for each unit, as well as a resource to consult for review".

The downfall of these notebooks is the time that it often takes to cut out the interactives and of course all the glue: it doesn't take much spill over around a corner to permanently stick an important page to the one in front of it. This is where the Digital Interactive Notebook (DINB) comes into play. With a little creativity, you can still accomplish many of the same learning goals digitally.

Getting Started: Slides vs PowerPoint

DINB work best in either Google Slides or PowerPoint because students can use the slide sorter pane on the left to quickly maneuver through the notebook. The choice of Google Slides vs PowerPoint largely depends on the device. If using an iPad, the PowerPoint app proves to be a much more robust choice since students have the opportunity to use draw features and easily add images, video and add-ins that include quizzes.  If using a computer, Slides is a more natural choice because the Explore feature opens up tools that allow for easier formatting, and you can insert photos directly from image searches and embed YouTube videos easily.

Getting Started: Slide Size

The next thing you'll want to consider is the layot of your notebook. Both Slides and PowerPoint obviously use a default horizontal layout, but you can customize that to mimic a more traditional notebook page if you choose. If working on an iPad, the horizontal view often feels more natural to work with, but it also depends on the content and the types of organizers or activities you want students to do.
Google Slides
To customize the size in Slides go to:
  • File
  • Page Setup
  • Custom
  • Manually enter the size you would like

To set a custom size in PowerPoint go to:
  • Design Tab
  • Slide Size
  • Page Set Up
  • Enter the desired size
  • Press OK
  • Choose Scale Up

Design Basics

Once you have selected your application and size, you're ready to begin.  You can make your notebook very simple and use text boxes, shapes, and design layouts to create graphic organizers, as well as space for notes and directions for adding things like drawings and collages.  

It helps to look through examples of notebooks to get some ideas for what you might create. Here are a few basic examples I have created.  I have found that once I have the basic organizer created I can copy and paste that into many different notebooks.

Example Notebooks

Tips and Tricks

One thing that I prefer to do is to create graphic organizers and templates in Canva and use those  images that I download as the background on my slides. 

The bonus of using images is that I can upload them to Google or use them in PowerPoint, they can also be distributed to students on their iPads for applications like Seesaw or Draw and Tell. Using an image as the background, also reduces the likelihood that a student will accidentally delete an element of page that they need.

When designing in Canva, I most often pick the Presentation 16:9 template.  I find that it is a perfect fit in Slides or PowerPoint when I insert it as a background. If you're stuck for inspiration, check out the templates offered by Canva. I can almost always find something to inspire me and simplify my work there.

You can add over 30 slides to a Canva file by pressing the "Add a new page" button.

To download the file, choose JPEG or PNG.  This will download your file to your computer as a zip file with all pages saved as an individual image.

You can then share these pages to your tool of choice: PowerPoint, Slides, Seesaw, Draw and Tell or even just as a print out if needed.

Adding Images to your Background

If using PowerPoint or Slides, you'll want to insert it as a background image.  To do that in PowerPoint you:
  • Click on the Design Tab
  • Format Background
  • Picture or Texture
  • File
  • Navigate to your image
  • Insert

Google Slides
From the menu bar choose:
  • Background
  • Image Choose..
  • Locate the file - upload right there, or upload to your Drive ahead of time

Sharing Files to Students

Once you have your notebook files complete, you're ready to share.  If sharing complete digital interactive notebooks, it would be best to use a tool like Schoology or Google Classroom. With Schoology's Google and Microsoft Assignments, you can share documents with students and maintain connection so that you can check in on their work. Check out how to do that here. For Google Classroom users, you would use your Google Drive - you can upload and convert a PowerPoint to Slides if you began your work there. You can also use tools like Seesaw to share page by page for editable lessons. 

Additional Tools to Help You Create and Get Inspired

  • Marzano Strategies - use some of these strategies to inspire activities and graphic organizers to use in your notebooks  

  • Visible Thinking Strategies - Project Zero from Harvard has a number of really good visible thinking strategies that could be used as inspiration for organizers and activities
  • Canva Colors - if you need help considering a color scheme, this is a great tool that lets you plug in a color and browse for combinations 
  • The Noun Project - Find a ton of vector images to help with visual elements. An educator account is very reasonable, otherwise you can download black vector images with source information 
  • Flippity - Use this Google Add On in Google Sheets to input templates that let you create spinners, flashcards, word searches in Google Sheets - check out the example