Thinking About My Writer’s Notebook in a Digital Age

I suppose you could say I live a fairly digital life. I bank online. I use the Google Keep app to keep lists and notes for myself. I listen to audio books on my daily commute using the Audible app. I use apps like Weight Watchers and Runkeeper to stay healthy. My husband and I live by our shared iPhone calendar app; it is the only way we remember Show and Tell and library due dates. Almost all of my paper files have been converted to digital ones. My colleagues and I collaborate via Google Drive on practically everything. So, yes, I live a tech-y life.

4fbf5d12-c79c-4937-8a8a-c7eed20796d0The one and only area where I can’t seem to make the digital switch is my writer’s notebook, although I certainly have tried. I tried both free and paid versions of notebook apps such as Paper by FiftyThree and Goodnotes.I have an Apple Pencil and an iPad Pro, so I’m certainly not lacking the equipment. I just can’t get used to digital notebook writing. I’m sorry. It’s just not the same.

As you can probably imagine, this inability to switch to a digital notebook results in a lot less notebook writing for me. I don’t carry around stacks of paper like I used to, and I don’t lug a heavy work bag home with me anymore. Nowadays if I need to bring work home I simply toss my iPhone or iPad in my purse. Without a notebook, my great ideas are going unrecorded and, ultimately, forgotten.

This is a relevant issue in our classrooms as well. Our students are more likely to have a cell phone than a notebook in their backpack. You are more likely to see them drafting in a Google Doc than on paper. How can we make the writer’s notebook an essential part of their very digital lives?

While at the Illinois Reading Council Conference, I attended Kevin Wardzala‘s session, Integrating Writers Notebook with Google Classroom, in the hopes of finding a solution to my non-digital writer’s notebook dilemma. Kevin convinced me that going digital was the right thing to do since a digital writer’s notebook would be:

  • multimodal
  • accessible from anywhere
  • more engaging
  • easier to comment and to offer feedback
  • easily editable

His idea was an interesting one: use Google Slides to create a digital writer’s notebook. Think about it. You can insert, delete, and reorder pages with the click of the mouse. You can add images and videos. Sharing is seamless. It is a smart idea, isn’t it? I’ve been mulling it over ever since, and I see some real potential in this possibility.

Maybe I will never find the perfect answer. Maybe this is the one area of my life that won’t ever go digital. Or maybe the answer lies undiscovered somewhere in between?