Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Interactive (?) Notebooks

I've really been trying to check in with my new reader (which I am LOVING, by the way) every day and keep a collection of great ideas that will help us meet our goals for the upcoming school year. One thing I keep running into is the topic of Interactive Notebooks.

As far as I can see Interactive Notebooks are either journals or binders where kids cut out different shapes, glue them to the pages, and take notes on them. Most of the posts I've seen have shown teachers utilizing them in math, but it also appears as though you can make a variety of different versions for all subjects. You can check out this page and this page or do a quick search to learn more about them if you've never seen them before.

It's obvious that these types of notebooks are pretty popular considering how often I'm starting to see them pop up. I actually used them with the homebound instruction student I was working with at the end of the year and didn't realize it. From everything I've seen, these notebooks are very detailed, they obviously take some time to create, and they give kids a great opportunity to practice cutting skills which, in my opinion, don't get practiced nearly enough. It's certainly a unique way to create your own textbook specifically designed for whatever you're teaching. So there are some interesting points those these tools.

I guess my confusion comes with the use of the word interactive. According to there are several different definitions of the word. They include:

in·ter·ac·tive  (ntr-ktv)
1. Acting or capable of acting on each other.
2. Computer Science Of or relating to a program that responds to user activity.
3. Of, relating to, or being a form of television entertainment in which the signal activates electronic apparatus in the viewer's home or the viewer uses the apparatus to affect events on the screen, or both.

inter·active·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
in•ter•ac•tive (ˌɪn tərˈæk tɪv) 

1. acting upon one another.
2. (of a computer or program) characterized by immediate two-way communication between a source of information and a user, who can initiate or respond to queries.
in`ter•ac′tive•ly, adv.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Now in looking at these definitions, I'm not seeing how these notebooks are interactive. Aren't they really just a fancy way for kids to take notes? According to Carter, Hernandez, and Richison (whose full document you can find here) it seems that's what they are:

"Interactive notebook. (in’ter-ak’-tiv no¯t-bu˙k) n. 1. A collection of
notes taken from reading, listening, discussion, and viewing, including
corresponding responses, either in graphic or written form. First
introduced in Addison-Wesley’s History Alive! 2. Daily journal-type
recording of student-written class notes from reading, lecture, and
discussions, and the reflective and metacognitive responses students
make to their own note taking."( p. 3)

As I look at these and think of my students so many thoughts pop into my mind:
  • How is this different than the note-taking I did in high school?
  • What about kids with fine motors skills who can't write in small boxes?
  • What about kids who can't keep up with note-taking in class? Are these as effective if the students are able to participate in the discussion but aren't taking their own notes?
  • Besides taking notes and flipping the paper, how do the students affect some sort of change with these notebooks? What else do they do?
  • It seems as though there are very specific notes that go in these notebooks. Do the students have to include exactly what the teacher wants in the Interactive Notebook or are the students free to write / organize their notebooks in a manner that makes sense to them?
  • How much paper does this use?
I'm truly not trying to come off as a smart-aleck or knock Interactive Notebooks because it's obvious that there are many, many people who find them to be an extremely effective tool for their classrooms. But I've read through a lot of posts, and I'm not getting it. While they look neat, I'm just not sure I see how they are transforming classrooms. Maybe those of you who are more knowledgeable can help me understand Interactive Notebooks a little bit better.

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