iNotebooks: Make Note-taking Engaging and Formative!

Aside from a writing journal, a student uses a notebook typically to take down notes so they can refer back to them later as a resource. In some schools, teachers are taking notebooks a step further and creating interactive notebooks. Technology has now opened a whole new world of note-taking possibilities. Evernote, for example, is a very popular digital note-taking app that allows the note-taker to organize notes into multiple notebooks and embed images or voice recordings in the notes.

Since all my kids have iPads, we quickly jumped on the Evernote bandwagon. Three weeks later, I realized that this awesome app just didn’t work for us! Does it work for your kids? If so, please share. The app made it hard for my kids to see their notes as separate notebooks and they wanted to flip through their notes just as they did in their spiral notebooks. So now what? What app would make note-taking feel like a notebook?

BOOK MAKING APPS, OF COURSE! I’ve seen teachers use book making apps all the time in the classroom but it dawned on me that we could use these same apps to create meaningful notebooks (I have started to call them “iNotebooks”). Book making apps usually provide blank pages with the option to add text, images, or media. All the essentials needed for “iNotes”. We’ve been using the app Book Creator but, I know that there are lots of other options out there.

Engaging

Book Creator and other book making apps allows you to make an iNotebook for each unit of study. Each iNotebook can have numerous pages. One thing that I love about these digital notebooks is that students are able to choose what these iNotebooks look like and how they want to present the content. Note-taking can actually be…fun! My students have discovered that they can make an iNotes page by adding a video created on Explain Everything or Camera, import a diagram drawn on Drawing Pad, or attach a photo of an anchor chart. For those app-smashing lovers, the sky’s the limit for you iNotebooks. When the unit is over, these iNotebooks can easily be exported to iBooks or any other app and be read as a digital notebook.

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Formative

I almost never have my students take iNotes during a lesson. I want them to be actively engaged in the lesson with zero distractions. What I usually do is create time in class during a math zone rotation. I often also have students create an iNotes page as their homework assignment. Taking notes in this way gives students the opportunity to digest the information independently and demonstrate what they understand. Assigning it as homework is also advantageous because I’d much rather have the students reflect at home than make the same mistake for 20 math problems. When they bring their iNotebooks in the next day, I can use their iNotes to make formative assessments on what I need to clarify and who I need to work with today.

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The samples in the post are from our recent measurement unit in math. However, these iNotebooks can be used for all other subjects, even reading and writing workshop! I’ve especially liked using it in reading workshop because my students can use their post-its or excerpts from their reading to show a specific reading strategy. I love when they do that because it gives me information on what I can do in my next conference with them. The iNotebooks are also an authentic way for students to try different information text features and layouts. Happy note-taking!

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