How to Create Digital Interactive Notebooks for Google Slides

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Teachers are masters at adapting. If the world didn’t know this about us already, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it crystal clear. Schools closed and teachers adapted. Teachers have moved their lessons online — to both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. 


My Experience With Digital Assignments

For those of us who have flipped our classrooms or incorporated blended learning into our lessons, completing assignments digitally are par for the course. But there is a huge difference between a handful of your assignments being done digitally and all of them being done that way. 

I’ve been blending my lessons for the past 9 years, mixing technology into my assignments as frequently as possible, but it wasn’t until three years ago when I moved from middle school to high school (again) that I decided to dive feet first into flipped learning and creating digital notebooks. 

My assignments have come a long way since the first assignment I ever created and so will yours. Hopefully you can skip all the mistakes I made along the way and create the best digital notebooks your students could hope for. 

Getting Started

Decide if you are going to build your lesson in PowerPoint or Google Slides (or any other program you are comfortable with). I’ve built my lessons in both, but recently I’ve committed to designing my lessons in PowerPoint. 

Since you want to maximize your student’s work area and your students won’t be putting the google slides into present mode, you’ll want to design in the widescreen format. 

Pick a Theme

Determine what your background or theme is going to be. There are tons of free powerpoint and google slides waiting to be used or you can design your own. Change the layout so that you are working on a blank slide with no placeholders. I spend way more time on this step than I should. 

Put anything on the slides that you don’t want your students to manipulate. If you are using a theme, you might want to use the placeholders. I don’t know why, but I tend to work in textboxes because I use more per page than the slide theme comes with. 

Creating Slides with Reference Material Linked

For students to complete whatever tasks the slide will ask of them, students are expected to click a link to find the reference material.

You’ll want to make sure you leave enough space to add your directions and space for your reference material link, which won’t be added until later. As you can see in my example, I added four separate text boxes and decided to outline each to make them stand out. Again, I left space, which is where students will answer the questions. 

Creating Slides with Video Reference Material

It’s good to vary your reference material when having students complete digital interactive notebooks. I like to insert short videos or clips of videos from YouTube that will further advance their understanding of the content. I generally have students complete a graphic organizer, fill out a chart, or answer questions while they watch. I’ve adapted this slide since I first started creating these assignments to allow for a video placeholder. I use an icon, but a simple shape will do, too. Underneath the video, I leave space for a link allowing students to open the video in a new tab. Unfortunately, if you watch the video and then try to answer the question, the video will stop and if you push play again it will start over. This is why I include a link to open it in a new tab. 

Flattening Your Slides

Once you’ve created all the slides you want your students to work on, you need to export these slides (assuming you are working in powerpoint) as .jpgs or .pngs. This will allow for your slides you’ve created to be flattened and unmoving. 

To do this, select File > Export and determine which file format you want to use. Then save every slide. It will create a folder with every slide as an individual image. 

Setting Up the Google Slides Assignment

Open up Google Slides and click on Background. Then choose image. Find where you saved your flattened presentation images and select the first one. Do this for each of the slides you created and flattened. 

Once all the slides are loaded, go back to the first one and start inserting placeholders. I like to use the placeholders that come with the slide themes instead of inserting text boxes and then typing in “YOUR ANSWER HERE”. 

To get a placeholder to pop up on your slide that will say click to add text, simply change the layout of your current slide. If you left it on the title slide, you’ll still want to change the layout. I generally pick the TITLE + BODY slide layout and then delete the slide title. and change the color and font to whatever I want my students to use. 

Don’t forget to add your directions that will contain your link for students to access the reference or source material where they will get their answers. 

Do this for every slide until you are finished and your project is ready to share with your students. I hope this helps you create the best interactive digital notebooks for your students. Let me know if this helps! 

Check out my digital assignments on TPT and considering following me if you aren’t already. 

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