Using Digital Science Notebooks to Support Elementary Student Learning: Lessons and Perspectives From a Fifth-Grade Science Classroom

Science notebooks have long existed as an accepted and advocated feature in elementary science teaching (Aschbacher & Alonzo, 2006), providing students space to trace and maintain information about classroom investigations, while also serving as thinking spaces during which students can write and draw while making sense of the content they’re exploring (Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005). Additionally, the utilization of science notebooks has been advocated to support collaboration among teachers, develop student literacy, and supply students with space to share their understandings (Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005; Shepardson & Britsch, 2000).

Beyond these uses, science notebooks provide teachers with an efficient assessment tool by opening a window into student thinking and understanding of science concepts (Ruiz-Primo, Li, Ayala & Shavelson, 2004). Through our experiences working in elementary classrooms, we’ve seen science notebooks take many forms, varying from collections of specific worksheets to spiral bound notebooks where students capture their activities and learning during lessons in their own manner.

Technology continues its rapid and dramatic advance in complexity and accessibility. With this advancement, technology in schools has been increasingly ubiquitous, as districts across the country adopt 1:1 tablet initiatives (Richardson et al., 2013). As such, teacher s and science teacher educators must learn to integrate these new technologies purposefully to align with their curricular goals (Hughes, 2005) and support meaningful science learning.

Yet, while technology becomes ever-present in classrooms, research in science, technology, education, and arithmetic (STEM) education suggests STEM teachers struggle with understanding how best to integrate technology (Constantine, Rozowa, Szostkowski, Ellis, & Roehrig, 2017; Herschbach, D.R., 2011; Wang, Moore, Roehrig, & Park, 2011). This question, how best to integrate technology, is the idea for the present study.

As 1:1 tablet initiatives increase, teachers may find a solution thereto question by transitioning from using paper notebooks to engaging their students in digitally produced notebooks (Fulton, Paek, & Taoka, 2017). A burgeoning body of research examining the utilization of digital science notebooks exists, and this study seeks to expand this research by examining one elementary science teacher’s intentional planning for digital notebooks during science units and the way those plans manifested when implemented.

Additionally, because this elementary teacher implemented digital notebooks in his classroom for the primary time, we examined his perceived value and effectiveness of the digital science notebooks within his fifth-grade classroom. His perception likely influenced his implementation of digital notebooks with future classes of scholars . These insights might be particularly valuable and relevant with new research emerging about preservice teachers’ use of digital notebooks in science methods courses (Kreps Frisch, 2019), to assist inform instructors’ modeling supported in-service teacher experience.

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