Creating Digital Notebooks with Google Slides

In my role as a blended learning coach, I work with a lot of teachers who are intrigued by the idea of digital notebooks. They recognize the value of having student integrate text and media in an online notebook. They also like the idea of housing student work in a central location that is viewable to both the student and the teacher.

Teachers working with younger kids or special needs groups may not want their students posting their work online for a global audience. A simple alternative to creating a digital notebook using a website creator is to use Google Slides to create digital notebooks for each unit.

Below are tips for setting up a digital notebook with Google Slides.

1. Create a new Google Slide deck in your Google Drive.

2. Give your Google Slide deck a title. I’d suggest using the title of the unit to keep things simple. I encourage teachers to share a new digital notebook template with students at the start of each unit. This makes it easy to customize the categories and content for a specific unit.

3. Adjust the page setup so the Google Slides look more like paper.

4. Create a table of contents and list the sections of the digital notebook on the front slide.

5. Separate each section of the notebook with a title slide that states the category of that section (e.g., guided notes or vocabulary). Have fun with the background colors to visually cue students that they are entering a new section of the digital notebook.

6. Link each item in the table of contents on the first slide to that section of the digital notebook. This will make it easier for students to add to and retrieve information from their digital notebooks.

7. Insert the media you want to include. If you flip your instruction or record video directions, add your videos, customize the “video playback,” and pair the videos with a task.

8. Once your digital notebook template is complete, share it with students via Google Classroom and select “Make a copy for each student.” This makes it quick and easy for you to jump into and out of individual student’s digital notebooks to check their progress, provide feedback, or reference when conferencing with your students.

The benefits of a digital notebook for students include the ability to:

  • Insert media (photos, images, videos), charts, and tables to complement their notes. If they enjoy writing notes by hand, they can take a photo of those notes and insert them into their digital notebooks.
  • Add additional slides.
  • Add to and reference their work from any device.
  • Create artifacts of their learning that can be shared easily with parents.
  • Reflect on their learning and growth with an embedded reflective blog.
  • Add comments and tag the teacher to ask questions and/or request support

If you are working with secondary students and want them to use Blogger or Google Sites to create their digital notebooks, check out this blog!

If you are a secondary English teacher looking for a standards-aligned digital literature circles template, check out this blog!

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11 Responses to Creating Digital Notebooks with Google Slides

  1. Laurie says:

    Thank you for another great resource, Catlin! One question: I have found it difficult to give feedback on writing inside of a Google Slides presentation. Any suggestions? Or am I missing something obvious? It would be great if Kaizena worked in Google Slides as well, but I think it only works in Google Docs.

    • Hi Laurie,

      Typically, I give feedback as a comment attached to a specific slide, but you can also customize your “Preferences” under “Tools” and create shortcuts that will work in the notes section below the slides. That might be a faster way to give feedback if you find yourself leaving similar comments for several students. The link below will take you to a YouTube video where I show you how to set your preferences in a Google Doc. The process is the same if you want to try it in Slides.


  2. Andrene says:

    I find this very interesting. I could have my students creating their own digital notebooks. Thanks Catlin!

  3. Dalal Askar says:

    Thanks for this information. I was wondering if once you assign the slides can you go back and change it if, let’s say, you wanted to use is as a yearlong digital notebook and add things as we go along?

    • Hi Dalal,

      If you blast them out via Google Classroom and decide you want to add something, it is easier to have students do it since you would have to individually add it to every individual slide deck.

      I would suggest creating a template for a unit instead of the whole year.


  4. Kelly Page says:

    I really want to do this with my students but I want to add the pages as we go through the unit. Is there a way to do that? My students just get so overwhelmed if I hand it to them all at once.

    • Hi Kelly,

      You can go into each slide deck and add slides manually, but it will be a time commitment. It might be better to segment the digital notebooks into sections and share one section at a time via Google Classroom.


  5. Ivan Sarudi says:

    I started using a digital notebook with my students and its an excellent way to keep them organized and see their work. I want to figure out the best way to give them slides to add to their digital notebook. I have tried to do this through Google Classroom. The only problem is that many of my students work on their phones and adding these an additional slide is difficult.
    Have you done the adding extra slide to digital notebooks, and what is the best way to do this?

    • Hi Ivan,

      I have found the easiest way to add additional slides once everyone has a copy of the original slide deck is to add the new formatted slides to a “master slide deck” that students can view. Post a view-only link to the master slide deck on the class website or Google Classroom. Then when students are in the online station during a station rotation, they make a copy of the slide or slides I want them to add from the master slide deck and paste them into their individual slide decks. I’ve only ever had them make the copy and add the additional slides using a Chromebook. I have never tried it with a phone.


  6. Wendy Goldberg says:

    This was super helpful! Your instructions are so clear and I’ve already made several improvements to my google slide notebooks. I’m still assessing whether or not I like the vertical notebook layout, so I hope to look through some of yours more to get a sense. Thank you so much for posting the directions so clearly and succinctly. Great job and useful!

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