is it worth digitizing inquiry notebooks?

On a sweltering New England August day, my colleagues and I packed ourselves into the beautiful Perrot Library to begin mapping out our school year. We are an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) School, and it’s in our DNA to teach and learn in an interdisciplinary manner. Hence our frequent gatherings to brainstorm ways to lift the thinking of our students by lifting the way we look at teaching and learning. More on that later.

It was at this gathering we started discussing the merits of maintaining inquiry notebooks in a digital format. How would this change the way we teach and learn about maintaining inquiry notebooks? Would the anticipated experience be transformative, or become just another way to use and justify the 1:1 devices? The seeds of inquiry were laid before our eyes. My mind started churning at high speeds.

Here are some supporting arguments to turn digital in paper use:

  1. One argument that my colleagues proposed made the most sense from a practical view: If we maintained digital inquiry notebooks, students can then incorporate sample pages into their digital portfolios. The process would be seamless. Process improvement. Check.
  2. Another supporting argument came from an EdTechTeacher workshop where I learned that we can also incorporate .pdf files into the digital notebooks, enabling us to embed graphic organizers and use relevant articles with our students. Functional improvement. Check.
  3. And as we do with Google docs, slides, etc. we could provide feedback to students, and students can provide feedback to each other. Collaborative learning. Check.
  4. Engage the parents by “opening up” the notebooks that traditionally tend to stay in the classroom. Let them appreciate the hard-work their kid put behind in their learning. Parent engagement. Check.

So, with these thoughts I set the stage for our first inquiry.

What I had not realized was the way my students turned this experience into one where they took ownership of their own learning. More on that later.

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