For years I’ve watched students lug cumbersome binders to each class–dutifully take notes and collecting large quantities of paper. I’ve often wondered how useful these binders are and how often students sift through their papers to review information.
This year, students in N.E.W. School traded in their traditional notebooks for multimedia digital blogs using Blogger. My goal was to get them using their devices to document their work in class–taking pictures and recording video. Then take that documentation and weave it into their notes, reflections, lab reports, etc.
Blogger, Google’s free blogging tool, is easy to set up. Students can organize their multimedia binders similarly to their traditional binders with tabs for different classes.
There are several benefits to using a multimedia binder. Students:
- can incorporate media to bring their work to life.
- share their work with an authentic audience.
- access their work from anywhere with a device and wifi.
- don’t have to carry around a heavy binder.
- don’t have to worry about losing their work.
Blogger is one of several tools students can use to create a multimedia digital notebook, but I like the convenience of having it tied to their Google Accounts.
Some learners need to write things down to process information. If that’s the case for some of your students, encourage them to write down their ideas on paper or a whiteboard, take a photo, and post that online!
During a station rotation lesson, one station was dedicated to setting up digital notebooks. Click here to view the Google Doc I designed with steps, explanation, and screenshots to guide students through the process of setting up their notebooks. If you are signed in to your Google Account, you can click “File” and select “Make a copy” and a copy with automatically save in your Google Drive. Hopefully, I can save teachers time by sharing this!
Update: After Google Sites was updated, my students began using Google Sites instead of Blogger to create their digital notebooks and digital portfolios. Click here to view a Google Doc with the steps to set up a digital portfolio using Google Sites.
I love this idea but I am concerned about student privacy. Are these blogs available to anyone on the web?
Yes, the blogs are online. If that’s an issue for your school and you are a GAfE account, the GAfE admin should be able to limit who can access Blogger.
I’ve been using blogs for quite a few years ago, but I’ve been using kidblog.org. You can limit who can see the blogs by class, connect classes, or allow people (like parents) to have a link. There’s not a lot of customization, and some people think it too simple for high school age, but it works fine for my students. There is a cost, but it’s not much; I want to say it’s like $25 a year.
Edublog is another great site to use with students. It’s very simple to use, has more than 100 themes for them to choose from to personalize their individual blog, and has a lot of optional settings for privacy – can password protect blogs/posts for ss who want to limit who can view their material or ways to block it from coming up in online searches. They especially like to see the red dots appear from clustermaps that identify from what global locations pepole have viewed their blog.
I’m curious if you mandate this switch to collecting their work to the blogs. For more tactile learners or those without as easy access to online tools, if they prefer to keep a binder are they allowed to?
One other componentity of this is that it makes them acutely aware of an audience and writing for one; I’ve found my students, through their class blogging, develop a clear sense of a writer’s voice. They were pretty successful in reaching out to draw viewers/readers in by tweeting out links to their work and targeting certain hashtags directed at other student bloggers or ss hashtags.
It’s pretty cool for kids to be given time at the end of their grade 12 year to look back on all the posts and projects they’ve added to recognize their growth in writing skills and development of analysis or style. It was a proud moment for me to listen to their audible comments as they eachanged searched back through blogs, a number of years ago. It had me fully convinced then of the benet of collecting and sharing their work online.
When students are using blogger for their digital portfolio is it private or can others view it?
Their blogs are public unless the GAfE admin limits who can view them, Shannon.
Catlin, I always like taking a peek into your classroom. I’m using Google Sites for my student portfolios. I really like your idea of adding photos. If possible, could you ask one of your students if I could look at their portfolio? I’d love to share it with my 6th graders.
For those of you concerned about privacy, our GAFE accounts are only accessible to users within our district domain. Students are able to view and comment on each other’s work. I like the safety net for our primary students. They
have an audience, although limited, and parents feel comfortable that their child is not accessible on the web.
Catlin, thank you again for inspiring me. Your practical, yet relevant, approach to teaching and learning makes you a phenomenal 21st century educator.
Here are a few of my students’ portfolios from last year. The overwhelming majority selected WIX or Weebly to create their digital portfolios, but two ones below were created with Google Sites.
All of my current students are using Blogger for their digital notebooks. Below are some examples of those:
I hope they are helpful examples for your 6th graders!
Catlin, I’m an avid follower of yours and I’ve seen you speak when you visited Brevard County a few years ago. I am trying to find a good balance between blogs that are online and easily accessible (for my own sake) and a traditional notebook since I teach elementary. What is your opinion on “how much is too much” with the usage of these types of online blogs for elementary students? It is a complex issue for me because I feel like they spend so much time online at home and on their phones, so we might as well teach them how they want to be taught. On the flip side, I feel like they still need a sort of traditional approach and the notebooks help me monitor, document, and set goals that are easy for my students and parents to see. I’m working hard to find that perfect recipe of tech and traditional approaches to meet the needs of my fourth graders, so currently we use traditional notebooks and GAFE. I recently heard someone was using Padlet for reader responses, which I think is amazing, but, again, difficult for providing feedback in my opinion. Thank you for inspiring other teachers! 🙂
I honestly feel the best person to decide the perfect balance is you. I agree that kids use technology in so many aspects of their lives, so it’s important that they use it in schools to learn. However, I passionately believe that technology should be used to enhance and improve learning. My decision to try digital notebooks was inspired by my concern that the actual notes students take are not very helpful or accurate. I felt that taking photos and videos to complement their text explanations and notes would make them more effective. I also worried about those kids who struggle to organize and keep track of the massive amounts of paper they accumulate in school. That said, most of my secondary students learned to take notes in elementary school. That might be easier to teach with pen and paper. I’m not sure I’d be doing multimedia blogs instead of traditional notebooks at the elementary level. I’d have my kids writing blogs and building digital portfolios, but digital notebooks require a completely new approach to managing information that been an adjustment for even my 9th and 10th grade students.
I think the blend of traditional with tech infused strategies is ideal. As much as I love using technology with students, it isn’t always the best choice. Just follow your instincts and talk to your students. It can be interesting to engage them in conversations about when (and why) they should use tech.
Caitlin, can you share how you deliver notes for students? Do you have them copy and paste or do they type the notes themselves?
My students watch flipped videos and take their own notes in their digital notebooks.
Can I just tell you how much you have helped me with my teaching “game”?
Seriously Lady! The thoughts, tips and ideas you share are a gold mine. I have been reading your books, blog posts, etc. and I honestly think that for me, you are the most easy to comprehend “tech teacher” that I follow. Catlin, you cut things down into manageable sizes, so that I don’ t feel overwhelmed with making changes. You demonstrate that changes can be made in small ways to have a large impact. The fact that you also share your actual documents is amazing! Thank you is not enough to tell you how glad I am that you are sharing your gifts with the Universe. God Bless you!
You’re SO welcome! I’m thrilled that the work I’m doing is helping to support you in your teaching practice. I love sharing what I’m doing and it’s a bonus if I can share something that will save another teacher time 🙂
I appreciate you taking the time to write this. It made my day!
Enjoy your summer!
I’m so confused… Why not move from physical notebooks to one of the many various (secure) note-taking apps or even something like OneNote which is, literally, a digital notebook?
You definitely could, Joe.
[…] take photos of the brainstorm to capture the ideas generated and add themto their digital notebooks under the “Project” page. This way they are easy to reference as the project […]
There is no link to your Google doc that teaches how to set up a digital notebook. Can you check if you activated it?
Another fan, appreciating your wisdom!
My apologies! I’m not sure how I managed to screw up that hyperlink, but I have corrected it. I also included an update because we switched from Blogger to Google Sites, so I also linked to a document detailing how students can set up a digital portfolio (or notebook) using Google Sites.
Thank you for the step-by-step guide! Super helpful!! 🙂
You’re welcome, Tara!
I love your examples. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Leslie!
I saw your note on YouTube. I am currently working on a resource for StudySync that helps teachers to design station rotation lessons using StudySync. I am also working on a video series with them that I hope will support teachers who are using StudySync to maximize the resources available to them. I hope those will help to support the work you are doing with your teachers.
In the meantime, I do have a few blogs that focus on StudySync that may be useful. Just search for the keyword “StudySync” and you should be able to find them.
How is the best way to grade the interactive notebooks? Do you read each entry and grade accordingly? Or is it a participation?
I do not grade notebooks unless there is a specific skill evident in their work that I want to assess. However, you can decide whether you want to assess specific slides or simply provide points for completing specific tasks/assignments.
How do you give feedback to students on their work through google sites or blogger?