What is an interactive digital notebook?

An interactive digital notebook is the digital version of the various worksheets and paper notebooks teachers use to help students learn and master concepts in class. These fully paperless resources allow students to engage more deeply with subjects thanks to the ability to view embedded videos, follow hyperlinks to more information, fill in answers using interactive text boxes, and share resources easily through email.

How digital notebooks help students.

Digital notebooks can help students at any level, from elementary to high school, and in any subject, from science class to social studies and beyond. As more school systems supply students with affordable laptops, such as Chromebooks, digital notebooks for students have become a key tool for blended learning activities.

Here are some of the benefits of a digital notebook for students:

1. Enhance student participation.

Interactive notebooks can use variety to engage students with different learning styles and help them participate more meaningfully.

2. Keep students’ attention.

PowerPoint-style apps like Google Slides or the free, education-focused Google Classroom keep students’ attention with high-tech functionalities.

3. Allow students to take an active role in their education.

Digital notebooks for students can help them create their own learning strategies. Students can conduct their own research online, and teachers can encourage students to dive deeper according to their interests using hyperlinks in the notebooks or by merging multiple resources together.

4. Allow easy reviewing and studying of material.

Students can keep updating their digital student notebook throughout the school year, so it’s easy to go back and review information and previous lessons ahead of the next exam.

5. Enhance educational outcomes.

Teachers can use these tools to support learning objectives and engage students with various needs and interests so that class outcomes are improved.

For example, a biology lesson plan using digital notebooks could have students watch an embedded video about photosynthesis, then test their knowledge by having them label different stages of the process on a full-color diagram in the same slide. Students could apply what they learned with further research online and then, create a new slide with images, graphs, and information about the various proteins and enzymes involved in photosynthesis.

Students lounge on large plywood steps while taking digital notes on their laptops

What should you include in a digital notebook for students?

A traditional interactive notebook contains a variety of media and information prepared by both the teacher and the student. That can include full-color photographs, screenshots of charts and diagrams, embedded or hyperlinked videos, animations, scanned notes, or any other materials to help students grasp the concepts being taught.

How to create your own digital notebook.

When creating a digital notebook for your class, start by determining what you want it to look like and what purpose it’s going to serve.

1. You can add a syllabus and other course materials to your digital notebook, which can be updated throughout the year as classroom policies change.

2. Add homework assignments that students can complete directly from the digital notebook, such as interactive worksheets with fillable forms where students can add their answers.

3. You may have a section where you upload a piece of assigned reading for students to annotate collaboratively from their devices.

4. Students can do research online and add links, photos, and videos to a multimedia section.

5. Add blank sections between lessons for students to take notes.

No matter what form your digital notebook takes, you should start it with a title page and a table of contents to help students keep track of what information is where, so it’s easy for them to find. And be sure to create divider pages to make clear where one section of the notebook ends and the next begins. Each page can be created from scratch, or you can use existing templates to save time.

How Adobe can help you create a stellar digital notebook.

As you gather materials to add to your digital interactive notebook, you may find you have physical documents you’d like to include. Using the Adobe Scan app you can quickly digitize paper documents and insert them into your notebook as a high-quality JPG or PDF.

Once you’ve prepared your pages, merge them to combine all these individual files into a single document for your digital notebook. After they’re merged, you can delete or rearrange individual pages until they’re in the order you want.

Mockup of a tablet editing a PDF with the Organize Pages icon and dialog box overlaid

If you want to add fillable worksheets or blank pages where students can take notes, use the Prepare Form function in Acrobat to create pages with interactive text boxes. Acrobat will scan your document and automatically place text boxes in the appropriate places, but you can also add your own manually.

Depending on how long your digital notebook is, it may take up more space on your device than expected. Fortunately, you can compress your PDF file to a small enough size to send as an email attachment without sacrificing any quality.

Whatever the subject, digital interactive notebooks are an engaging and cost-effective way to help students take an active role in the learning process.

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