Social Sundays: 5 tips for Digital Notebooks in Secondary Social Studies

The 1:1 or digital classroom is on the rise in secondary education.  The debate as to the value from a learning standpoint is debatable, and one I won't address here.  Regardless of your viewpoint, many teachers are either by force or by choice going digital, and interactive notebooks are often an integral part of that switch.  

Using digital notebooks effectively is important.  Digital notebooks can easily become digital worksheets.  Just like pencil and paper notebooks, digital notes should be interactive.  Here are 5 tips from my class that I have found to use digital notebooks effectively:


  1. Keep inquiry alive: digital notebooks are simply an organization tool.  They are not a replacement for inquiry learning. I set up notebooks primarily as a series of questions and activities on individual topics.  In this way students use videos, books, primary sources and more to investigate and respond to these questions. 
  2. Creativity keeps it original:  As in with most aspects of learning, variety in interactive notebooks keeps students engaged.  In addition to responding to individual prompts, digital interactive notebooks might include drag and drop activities, drawing activities, and role play analysis activities to name a few.  
  3. Digital notebooks should work at multiple levels of understanding:  At the lowest level of understanding is knowledge, simple recall.  This is basic labeling or simple responses or even fill in the
    blank.  Digital notebooks can stretch students' understanding of topics to apply knowledge, analyze issues, synthesize and evaluate with different levels of questions and analysis. For example, I use color-coded big idea boxes for big picture questions that go beyond the unit.  These are a great way to make connections to today and between units. 
  4. The end of a notebook is an assessment opportunity: End each unit with a synthesis and evaluation of the notebook.  The last page(s) is an opportunity to assess. When all the unit topics are covered, end the notebook with a unit analysis opportunity.  This is where students reflect on the individual topics of the unit and make connections.  I often use this for my cumulative unit assessment 
  5. Digital notebooks should be both interactive and integrated:
    There is sometimes a push to make every aspect of classrooms digital, but a break from the screens make notebooks better. Digital notebooks are integrated with collaborative activities, role play projects, gallery walks and more.  For example after completing a gallery walk on science and technology in Mesopotamia, students might reflect on the walk in their digital notebook. 

I've said it before...I am unlikely to ever go all digital in my classroom, but digital notebooks can be an effective learning tool if used effectively.  

You can find digital notebooks on your favorite topic here.




Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  

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