Notetaking, Interactive Notebooks, & Gamification - How to Merge Them?

After a week off with Spring Break, I was so jazzed (Cue “All That Jazz” from Chicago) to start teaching again!  I definitely used the time to decompress and relax, but I also spent some of that time working on lessons for the final quarter of the year (is it really that time already?)  I implemented Chuck Taft’s Hexagonal Thinking strategy on the fly after seeing his post on Twitter about it, though modified for my unit on Reconstruction. I loved it, though the students are taking longer than I thought on it, but the conversations and in-depth thinking are really cool to watch.

I also picked up a personal gift to myself, and yes, it is Indiana Jones themed.  It is The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones, a fake version of his journal from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the four feature films, featuring diary entries about those adventures.  I will welcome all nerd comments now….

All done?  Good, because I found some inspiration in it for my gamified class theme.  A few years back I started using Interactive Student Notebooks as a strategy (mentioned in an earlier post here), and I loved it.  The students enjoyed it too, as it helped them maintain their notes, organized their thoughts, and allowed for immediate processing of new information.  However, the flaw in the system stemmed from the low DOK level skills that went into the notebook, and I soon started trying to find a way to use such an effective strategy, but upping the thinking involved.  I’ve also come to realize that they aren’t a good assessment to use when implementing standards-based grading practices, so grading them is not something I would want to do.

The problems are really two-fold.  First, how to ensure students complete the process of acquiring and synthesizing necessary background knowledge to accomplish the higher DOK tasks associated with my class; the “deep dive” projects on specific topics connected to our standards that form the bulk of my class.  Second, how to compartmentalize the knowledge in a handy reference location so that students can routinely return and access it when necessary to complete tasks, rather than having to constantly resort to digging through searches to find low DOK information.

Notetaking is a big sticking point for me.  I’ve never been one to assess it because notes are so heavily personal and reliant on the note-taker’s judgment as to what information is necessary and what information is not.  I also know that I have a bad habit of including too much information in my “flipped lectures”, so I’ll need to curate those and reduce them down to what is essential for the topic(s) we are studying, but that’d for a different post.  I also don’t want students to have to sort through endless pages, as the notebook should be a resource they create for their personal use. It should be efficient and easy to access, so I think a single page of notes is preferable for a topic.  I also know that everyone has their own way, be they sketchnotes, outline, Cornell, web, or any other strategy, so the students should have the freedom to use the one that suits their learning best. All that said, notes are far better than students constantly having to return to a web search/resource while trying to complete a larger project, so I feel I need to implement them in some way in the classroom.

Then there is the low DOK aspect of the ISNs.  I don’t want to assess it, mainly because it does not connect to any of my standards, but also because it is such low-level learning (the cut & paste aspect of the foldables often found in ISNs).  I still believe that there is value in this strategy, but it needs modification to better fit my class standards & skills. I want students to be able to refer back to their notes as they work on our higher-level thinking tasks, so it needs to be accessible, but I also like the opportunity it can provide for practice with skills such as document analysis.  

Selfishly, I like how it could easily tie in to my class Indiana Jones theme, being as students could refer to them as their adventure journals.  In addition, the elements of including document analysis (could mirror artifact analysis), the opportunity for creating both sketchnotes and written notes definitely fit in well in a US History class.  So I think it could provide some outstanding connections to skills, content, and theme, but I can’t quite seem to figure out how to integrate it within my class.

I know it works, and that it would be a great fit, but as with everything else, the trick is figuring out how to make it work with all the other mechanics and moving parts within my class.  I welcome any and all suggestions you may have, so feel free to leave me some comments!


Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: This week I’m shouting out two awesome educators, one I met at Summer Spark 2018, and the other is from my Twitter PLN: Carrie Baughcum & Alice Keeler. Carrie is an incredible special education teacher from Chicago who is the ultimate Sketchnote guru!  Attending her session helped me see not only the value in these notes for students, but also how to begin to implement the strategy in my class (though I didn’t stick with it very well this year).  Her energy and enthusiasm for students is infectious and if you get the chance to meet her or attend a conference session with her, you need to do it! You can follow Carrie on Twitter @HeckAwesome.  Alice is an all around EdTech rockstar!  In addition to being a math teacher in California, Alice provides incredible instruction, both in person and online to teachers in how to integrate technology and use those tools, especially G Suite, to best help your students.  Her thoughts and ideas as they relate to ISNs & homework, helped inspire this post. If you get the chance to pick up her books (50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom (and its follow up to go further), and Ditch That Homework (written with Matt Miller)), you definitely need to!  She’s definitely on my Education Conference Must See List!  You can follow Alice on Twitter @alicekeeler.