Are Digital Interactive Notebooks DINBs Right for My Classroom?


Using Digital Interactive Notebooks DINBs in Your remote learning classroom

With COVID creating a back to school season that includes distance learning, hybrid, and limited face to face experiences, the need for digital has grown more than ever. Teachers around the globe are scrambling to adapt their once paper activities into digital ones. While digital interactive notebooks ( DINBs ) have been around close to the adoption of their paper cousins, they are now being more widely used. 

What is a Digital Interactive Notebook? 

    A digital interactive notebook or called a DINB for short, allows students to learn about a concept using a digital tool. Students can have all the materials in one place to allow them to learn, practice, and demonstrate knowledge about the topic. Often, these activities have some sort of interactive element to further engage the student. Interactive elements could include movable pieces, links to videos to reinforce learning, inserting pictures or illustrations, or solving problems. 

Four Reasons Why You Should Incorporate Digital Interactive Notebooks into Your Classroom


    The reliability of students in school has diminished, at least for 2020-2021 back to school season so it makes sense to incorporate a digital element into your classroom, whether you are face to face, hybrid, or distance learning. There are no worries about leaving the notebook behind somewhere or losing it. As long as students have access to the Internet, they will be able to access their notebooks. 


    One reason for the use of interactive notebooks is because students are using more than just their eyes to complete the activity. Students can access video links to help reinforce concepts, utilize movable pieces to help note the accuracy of their comprehension, insert pictures to demonstrate understanding. Students can also create their own videos and insert a link. This option allows kinesthetic learners to get up and move around as they are learning. 

    Another reason for the popularity of digital interactive notebooks is the color and visuals that they can provide. This increases the engagement of the resource because it is more appealing to students. Also, it can include detailed illustrations or diagrams that will better help students understand scientific concepts than a black and white photo. Insert digital sketch notes into your DINB to help increase the interactivity for your students


    Using a digital interactive notebook allows for differentiation to occur without bringing attention to how this is being done. It is very easy to distribute digital materials to your students using a learning management system such as Google Classroom or Schoology. In doing so, it is difficult for students to view their classmates' notebooks allowing you to easily send differentiated materials to students who need more support or enrichment materials to those that could be pushed farther into learning the concept. 

    I also like using digital interactive notebooks to embed screencasts of my lessons into. Students can watch the screencasts as many times as necessary to fully comprehend the material. This also allows you to continue to keep all parts of your lesson in one area - helping with organization. 

    Another positive aspect of using a digital notebook is that it allows you to use a lot of the digital tools that can help our students better understand concepts such as text to speech or speech to text programs like Google Read and Write or Microsoft Immersive Reader. Students who have difficulty reading the information can now have it read to them without the assistance of a teacher. This helps to increase their independence and decrease their reliance on teacher guidance. 


    One major gripe about interactive notebooks is the amount of paper that is wasted and time spent cutting and pasting resources into the notebook. While the activities can be engaging, sometimes there is not enough time to discuss what is being put into the notebook. The implementation of a paperless, digital, notebook gives more time for instruction or allows you to plan engaging activities or classroom discussions to reinforce the concepts being presented. 

Things to Consider Before Starting Your Digital Interactive Notebook: 

    Start Small: 

    If you were thrown into the digital world in March of 2020, this is an area you may want to start small if technology is not something that comes naturally to you. You DO NOT need to be the fanciest teacher on the block by including Bitmoji classrooms and the prettiest icons. Start simple and small until you get the hang of it. While these aspects are certainly eye-catching, they rarely bring educational elements to increase the comprehension of the activity. Often they are distractors. Even as an advanced tech person, I fall into the trap and waste precious minutes on stuff that at the end of the day is not really increasing the academic output for my students. 

    Major Downfall: 

    One aspect that does not have the best solution is that once the digital notebook is distributed to students, you cannot add on to it. This is an obvious pitfall to a paper interactive notebook that can be added to at ease. There are some workarounds: 
        If you are a Google Classroom user (I am not - so I am looking for a Schoology workaround) then it appears you can use the extension called Slip in Slide. If you created your digital notebook in Google Slides, which I think is the easiest method, then you can download the extension to add more slides or "pages" to your students. Please note: There are mixed reviews. I have not used this and do not have a class in which I can test it so proceed with caution. There is a fee but also a trial period to test it out prior to purchase. 

Using Chrome Web Store to download the Slip in Slide extension to use with DINBs

    My Schoology workaround: I start out by cautioning that I know this is not the most ideal solution however it is what I am currently doing. Teaching students organization, especially digital organization, is vital as they continue to implement technology into their lives. Teaching them how to make folders for each subject in their Google Drive and then a folder for each unit within their subject folder is something that should begin to be implemented into classrooms around the country at the beginning of the year. This will help students keep all materials in one place so that if they need to study for a test, or if they receive new materials for a unit, it can easily be located and used. However, after teaching for 15+ years, I know this is much easier said than done! 

Want to use digital interactive notebooks but don't have the time or ability to create them? Check out my science DINBs to get you started by clicking here

Should I start using digital interactive notebooks in my upper elementary grade 4 5 6 classroom

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    Introduction to Schoology

    beginners guide to learning the basic functions of schoology for grades 4 5 6

    Introduction to Schoology: 

        A learning management system allows you to run a virtual classroom while managing administrative tasks such as taking attendance, inputting, and recording grades. Choosing a learning management system is tough. In the past, I started out using Edmodo. It was ahead of current tech trends and allowed a constant relationship between school and home. Then I dabbled with Google Classroom, for the fact that it was easily connected with so many apps and extensions. For many years colleagues within my district used a platform that spoke to them, whether it was Google Classroom, See Saw, Schoology, or simply posting on a website. With the onset of remote learning due to the worldwide pandemic, my district made a decision to move forward with a streamlined learning management system so that all teachers could remain on the same page. Beginning in September 2020, our district is requiring teachers to use Schoology. 

        Having used several learning management systems before, there are aspects of all of them that I loved. 
    • Edmodo: So easy for the kids and parents to navigate as it resembled a Facebook newsfeed. It is very intuitive and fostered a nice relationship between school and home. 
    • Google Classroom: Integrated nicely with many other apps and extensions. There are so many that are specifically made to work with Google Classroom. 
    • Schoology: The ability to track and sync grades with our grade book, Infinite Campus, makes life so much easier. Report card time is now a breeze as it takes the effort out of calculating grades and limits the need for a paper grade book. 

    Knowing that the onset of remote learning has put many others in the same predicament, I will introduce you to Schoology so that by the time you are using it, you will have a good idea about the features it holds and areas to pay attention to.

    Getting to Know the Schoology Platform: 

    When you log into Schoology, your home page may look something like this. Along the top, you will see the Schoology logo. Whenever you click on it, it will take you to this screen. 


    Clicking this button will take you to a page that lists all your courses. This is also known as the Course Dashboard. Here you will be able to click on any of the icons to access the course in which you want to view. 

        Courses are normally populated for you, by your district. 

        The icons for the courses can be changed. You can choose one of Schoology's limited layouts or create your own. 
    Getting Started with Schoology by learning about the courses that you will use for your grade 4 5 6 classes


    Groups are different from courses in that they are created to allow for professional development, communication, collaboration, and resource sharing. Teachers can create a group for class parents, clubs, or a collegial circle. 

        There are also groups already formed on Schoology. One that you might be interested in joining as a newbie is Schoology Educators. In order to join a group: 
    • Click on "Groups" along the top bar. 
    • To the far right, click on "My Groups" 
    • There you have the ability to join a group with either an access code or by searching school or public groups. 
    • Or, you can create a group and invite others to join in. 


        This is an area that holds all your teacher stuff. Think of it as your virtual filing cabinet. All folders and materials that you use to teach are housed here in one easy spot. There is unlimited storage in this area, so that is one worry off of your mind! 

    Resources tab in Schoology

        There are three areas that you will want to familiarize yourself within Schoology's resource area. 

    • Left-side Navigation bar: This allows you to toggle between your 
      • Personal resources: Ones that you create or upload into Schoology. 
      • Public resources: Ones that are available to everyone. 
      • Group resources: Ones that are shared in one of the groups that you belong to.   

    • My Resources: Your personal or shared collection of resources. 

    • Home: This is your working area where you will allow you to search for materials depending upon which resource tab you are in. 
      • For example: if you are in public resources, you can search for a particular resource that you may need. 
      • In personal resources, you can create your own assignments or upload them from elsewhere on your computer.  


        Who doesn't love creating their profile? Here you can personalize your experience. You can add a photo (I like to use my Bitmoji) and play around with the settings by clicking on your name to the far right. You will see a drop-down menu that includes: 
    • Your profile
    • Your school page
    • Settings
    • Subscriptions
    • Log Out

    Creating and personalizing your Schoology profile

    In profile, you will see options to:
    • Add a picture - Click and upload a picture on your computer or choose from one of Schoology's limited avatars
    • Add interests and activities
    • Write a bio - could include teaching background, certifications, and achievements
    • Include updates - only those who have access to your profile page will get the updates (depends on how your district sets this up)
    • Write a blog - This is meant for you to use (if you choose - I don't) as a personal blog to write about educational topics
    • Create a portfolio - (Only available for Enterprise members) - You can create, view, and share personal portfolios. 
    • Connections - other members of your community 

    These are basic functions of Schoology. Follow my posts to learn more. Have you scheduled an assignment to Schoology yet? Learn how here

    What else would you like to learn about Schoology? Let me know in the comments. 

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      Back to School Activities to Support SEL in a Digital Classroom


       With so many articles now coming out about the mental health ramifications of Coronavirus on our students, planning ahead to improve the social emotional health of your students is one of the best decisions that you can make for a positive 2020 - 2021 school year. With many districts still furiously putting together a plan, finding ways to connect, communicate, and get creative with your students will only help you to adapt to whatever situation is thrown at you. 

          My most recent post outlined what social emotional learning is, the importance of it especially after the pandemic and quick ways to connect, communicate, and get creative with your students. You can read more about it here. Below, I will outline specific activities that can be done remotely to help build personal relationships with your students while you are remote or distance learning. 

      Ways to Build Personal Relationships to Improve Student Social Emotional Health: 

          One of the key differences between school before the pandemic and opening in the 2020-2021 back to school season is that prior to Coronavirus, we had enough time in your classrooms to develop personal relationships with our students. We were already able to use our expertise to make connections and tap into our student's social emotional health. A concern for many teachers starting this back to school season is... how can I make connections with students I do not know. It is not an ideal situation and it can be difficult, however, utilizing the following suggestions will allow you to do your best to form a relationship with your students. 

      Making connections, communicating, and getting creative: 

          Students need to feel connected to your classroom, you as the teacher, and their classmates. The stronger their connection, the stronger their internal desire to want to try their best in the class. 

          Communication is important, and a two-way street. It is important as the teacher to be clear in your instructions and ways that you are communicating about academics. Students need to feel comfortable to communicate in return. Students should and need to feel comfortable to tell you when they do not understand something or if there are things in their personal life that inhibit them from completing assignments or doing well in school. 

          Students know when teachers care. They can tell when you WANT to be there and when you are trying your best for them. However, they may get bored at the same monotonous plan. Try to get creative every once in a while with a new activity or how it is presented. This will keep students engaged and motivated in your classroom. 

      Ways to Improve Student Social Emotional Learning in Your Classroom: 

      Below are specific ideas to use in the distance learning setting to build and improve your personal relationships with your students. 

          - Video biography: When the back to school season starts, our new students don't know anything about us. They don't know who our children are, pets, fun hobbies, favorite sports teams, or snack that we gotta have. These are usually things that we share at the beginning of the school year, as we are together in the classroom, or something students observe us doing in the classroom. Much of that is removed. Before the school year starts, create a video biography for your students. 

          In the biography, start with an introduction. Tell the students who you are, what you are teaching them (especially for upper elementary school teachers who may be departmentalized), and how you cannot wait to get to know them. Share about teaching experience, which college you attended, and degrees that you achieved.  

          After you have shared a bit about your professional side, get into some fun stuff. Share the fun facts. Since this is a video, you can even show them your house, pets, or family members. If you are comfortable, have family members give a quick hello. This aspect of the video will show students that you are human, just like them. You are their teacher but you also have a life outside of school. Creating these connections will allow students to understand you better as an educator, but also as a person. 

          Another good idea to do after you have shared your video biography with the students is to have them respond. Their responses could be done in a FlipGrid format. Allow them to share about their personal lives. If you have your students do this, be sure to take the time to watch and respond. Watching their videos will allow you to learn more about who they are as a human being. 

      back to school getting to know you social emotional learning video project

          - Theme Weeks! In my school district, every few months we have theme weeks. They are weeks when we can show our school spirit. Often the teachers get into it more than the students. Bring the theme weeks to your eLearning classroom. Theme weeks can take the anxiety out of what to wear when they are seeing their classmates and it is a fun way to get the students to come to the meeting. Some ideas for a theme week can include: 
                  - Pajama Week (This is easy enough when we are working from home!)
                  - School Spirit - wear school colors or any spirit gear
                  - Dress for the Decade - choose a decade and dress like they did
                  - Favorite sport team
                  - Choose a color (blackout, neon, etc)
                  - Dress to Impress - sometimes dressing up even when you are at home feels good for the body and spirit
                  - Dress for the future - dress for the profession you want to become (I dressed as an FBI agent once! 😂 )

                                                   increase student mental health in your classroom through communication and connections

          - Tutorials - When introducing something new to your students, it is a good idea to create a tutorial to walk them through the steps. In the classroom, you would most likely be doing this as a whole class activity allowing the students to observe you. In remote learning, the video can serve the same purpose and allow students to rewatch it several times if they are having trouble. While it may seem more time-consuming, it may actually save you time in the long run as you can refer to the tutorial if there are questions and share it with parents. 

          A tutorial will also allow students to see and hear what you are doing. This hits several modalities that allow for better comprehension. Tutorials are very important at the beginning of the year as you set up your digital classroom procedures. Students need to understand your routines so they can fit into them. Tutorials can be created for concepts but should also be created for classroom procedures such as: 
                  - How to take assessments
                  - Course expectations
                  - How to submit work
                  - How and where to ask questions or get in touch

          - A safe place to share - Think about creating a safe place or an outlet for students to share about their lives. Discussion boards can be created in some learning management systems such as Schoology where students can respond to questions asked by a teacher or student response. The more places a student has to share, the more comfortable they will feel opening up to you. 

          Another option is an activity like, "Three Things I Want My Teacher to Know". This allows students to write down three things they want to share with you. Some students take assignments like this seriously and will divulge information about their personal life that can make their classroom behavior more understandable. Read more about it here. You can access the material to implement this assignment into your classroom TODAY below. 

          Also, an activity that I absolutely LOVE... having students share what their bedroom looks like. Initially, this activity was completed as a companion to a book but it gave me so much insight into the life of my student that I also include this as a back to school activity. Get the assignment and read more about it here

          - Remind! - This is an app that allows you to safely communicate with parents or students through text messaging in a safe way. The app ensures that your personal number is not given out. Communication is key in any relationship. When we are distance teaching, aspects of communication can be lost. The more ways you can communicate with students and families, the easier your life will be. Being able to remind parents and students of new assignments posted, due dates, assessments, etc may seem like a lot of work on the forefront but it will save you time on the backend. Think of when grades are due and you won't have to chase anyone down because you already have all quarter. Your future self will thank you! 

      I hope these activities provide you with a starting point as you enter the new school year. It is important to keep in mind the fragile social emotional state of our students and doing our best to support them as we transition back into an unknown situation. If you have comments or questions, please share them below! 

      Other ready-made lessons and activities to get to know your students.  

      Three Things I Want My Teacher to Know

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