BookWidgets is the Best Software to Support Student-Centered, Distance Learning!

Updated: Jul 28, 2021


students using digital interactive notebooks powered by bookwidgets

Two months into this grand endeavor, I’ve now got nearly two complete units of lesson content posted for sale in my store. I am careful to watch the data daily. In an effort to ensure I’m doing you all and my work proper justice, I look at the total number of storefront views each day, the number of views on each resource, the number of wish-listed items and their type. I’ve noticed, especially this week (the final week of August), that my “Digital Interactive Notebooks” are the most popular item. This isn’t entirely surprising given the largely unconventional model many schools have adopted as they begin this particular academic year (2020-2021); these items in my store carry the “Distance Learning” tag and are likely attracting teachers searching for digital solutions to distance learning this year.


However, teachers in every learning model want and, dare I suggest, need digital tools to deliver student centered learning in a way that prompts deep reflection and high engagement to support lasting learning. My “Digital Interactive Notebooks”, structured with a student centered learning approach in mind, do just that … with or without you, the teacher! If you’ve been eyeing them up as a compliment to your interactive science lessons and student centered strategies in the classroom, you’re moving in the right direction, for sure.


Teachers want and, dare I suggest, need digital tools to deliver instruction in a way that prompts deep reflection or high engagement to support lasting learning.

Nonetheless, I’ve named them – and probably described them -- poorly. Truly, I’ve never even heard of a “Digital Interactive Notebook” before embarking on this journey selling my chemistry curriculum! The name seemed to fit the function since, after all, they do compliment each of my interactive science lessons. But, they are SO MUCH MORE VERSATILE! Nothing I’ve encountered in the marketplace compares! So, it’s been difficult to communicate their power and potential effectiveness outside of carefully crafting video previews.


Nothing I’ve encountered in the marketplace compares!

With the entire community of teachers in mind, I’ve decided to focus the content of this blog post on BookWidgets, the software I use to prepare all of my “Basic Digital Interactive Notebooks” and “Premium Digital Interactive Notebooks”.


Though I sell the Digital Interactive Notebooks I've created for chemistry and physical science teachers, I seek to provide curriculum tools that can be edited by teachers and adapted for specific classrooms and even specific students. That's what teaching with student centered learning is all about! Additionally, I think the BookWidgets tool is so amazing that I hope you'll share it with your ELA, social studies, and math colleagues. I really want to spread the word about this technology tool to support teachers as they create their own student-centered, interactive lessons for synchronous (live) or asynchronous (virtual) delivery.


I really want to spread the word about BookWidgets to support teachers as they create their own engaging, student-centered lessons for synchronous (live) or asynchronous (virtual) delivery.

I’ve prepared a video – my videos may never be short! – that serves this purpose. Feel free to check that out in lieu of reading the remainder of this post. Most of the information will be duplicated. Watch the video, below, or read on:


HOW I STARTED WITH BOOKWIDGETS

If you don't already know, I am a cyber charter school teacher. I have taught in a distance learning model for the last eleven years, nearly the entirety of my career in education.


That’s an important detail because for nine of those eleven years I did not have any way of measuring asynchronous student learning outside of regular summative assessment. Formative assessment of asynchronous students wasn’t a best practice – or, even a recommended practice – suggested as part of any professional development I received during my tenure.


It’s also important for you to recognize the context here. There is no “one size fits all” model for cyber school operation like there is with traditional public schools. Each one is different. Policies regarding attendance and engagement will vary wildly. When I began teaching, our school did not require attendance and teachers did not open their virtual meeting rooms every day. As the school evolved and administration changed, different policies were created and enforced. I’m proud to share that our school now requires daily attendance to each and every class on a student’s roster each and every day. Essentially, a student school day mimics that of one you’d find in any traditional, in-person school.


You might be thinking, “Well, why do you have asynchronous students, then?”.


Due to the variety of reasons students choose distance learning in cyber schools -- including but not limited to personal health, parent health, other family responsibilities, long commutes, work responsibilities, religious beliefs, etc. – our school does offer a reward of sorts. When a student has earned an overall B average, the student may apply for “asynchronous” attendance status. This means the student only needs to log into the learning management portion of our school system to be counted “present” for attendance that day. Last year I was assigned a class list from which 40% of my students held asynchronous status at the start of the year.


Unlike years prior, I could not plan to record my sessions, share the recordings, and expect my asynchronous students to acquire, understand, and achieve mastery of the concepts and skills I was teaching with this student-centered approach.

Last year was the year I wrote and delivered the chemistry curriculum of interactive science lessons and digital interactive notebooks I’ve posted for sale in my store. These interactive science lessons are not lecture-based in any way, shape, or form! It had been (and continues to be) my experience that most asynchronous students opt out of attending class whenever possible. Unlike years prior, I could not plan to record my sessions, share the recordings, and expect my asynchronous students to acquire, understand, and achieve mastery of the concepts and skills I was teaching with these student centered strategies. I felt would not be able to offer equitable instruction to these asynchronous students unless I could find a tool with which they could confidently work on their own, without ever consulting me, but still receive timely feedback on their responses and finish the same interactive science lessons with a strong command of the content, principles, and skills as those attended live class.


Sure! I could’ve typed up a Word document and created a PDF with included links to web applications and guiding questions to which they would respond. These “observe and respond” activities, I felt, were too limiting. They really wouldn't mimic the active learning I had planned for my students to do during class most days. I was either going to find an equitable solution or I was concerned I might not be able to apply these student centered strategies at all.

BOOKWIDGETS MAKES STUDENT-CENTERED DISTANCE LEARNING POSSIBLE

BookWidgets is software created to enhance the learning experience for both teachers and students. It is cloud-based, making all the work you create accessible anywhere. A desktop download for PCs and Macs and a mobile app is also available. I only apply the design scheme using the desktop app; I build, edit, distribute my work, and review student responses using the web-app.


It is not free. Perhaps that’s the only drawback?!

BookWidgets offers the first month free for everyone, so when you have time to experiment, sign up and give it whirl! I’m confident that you’ll find them to be a valuable asset in your practice, just as they have been in mine.

The annual fee for teachers is worth every penny, in my opinion. At $9 per month or $49 per year, teachers have all the functionality they need. With a Teacher Account, I am able to do the following:

  • create an unlimited number of BookWidgets (I have created nearly 200 to-date!) using any combination of 32 interactive activities (i.e. open-ended responses, multiple-choice responses, fill-in-the-blank, matching, image uploading, image annotation, ordering, categorization, data tables construction, embed images and videos, etc.)

BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Activities 1
BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Activities 2
BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Activities 3
BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Activities 4
BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Activities 5
BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Activities 6
BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Activities 7

  • distribute my activities to an unlimited number of students (Students never need to login or provide any personal information ... ever!)

  • share links to the activities on any website, in any LMS, on any social media account, or in any email

  • control the settings on activities (i.e. correction options, scoring, answer key accessibility, whether student work will be emailed directly to you or housed in the BookWidget cloud, etc.)

BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Settings
BookWidget Worksheets Settings 1
BookWidgets Student-Centered Lesson Worksheet Activities
BookWidgets Worksheet Settings 2
  • add to Google Classroom

  • integrate with the most popular LMS’s

  • view student work LIVE as they complete it

To the best of my understanding, a Teacher Group Account allows you to customize the design of the BookWidgets, applying specific fonts and colors to your creations. NOTE, however, that even with the basic Teacher Account, you are able to remove the “Lab in Every Lesson” logo that appears on the Digital Interactive Notebooks I sell when the students open a BookWidget to view it!


I have a Commercial Account which allows me to do all that you can do, PLUS:

  • create active, clickable links

  • customize the design of the final product

Before I had the Commercial Account, I merely directed students to copy/paste web links that I shared for the Learning Experiences I used in each of my lessons. There is a specific area of the settings where we need to indicate that we want students to be able to copy the text, though. If it is not selected, students won’t be able to copy/paste text to access web links. These are the simple, yet SO VERY SUBTLE, features of the software that I’ll be highlighting in a short course to be offered in the near future . . .


Email me at lisa@labineverylesson.com or post your question/idea/final product to the community for review, feedback, and/or troubleshooting!


BOOKWIDGETS IN MY PRACTICE

Once I found and adopted BookWidgets as my solution for asynchronous lesson delivery, I was able to commit to creating a student centered chemistry curriculum built upon the foundation of 5 elements for effective interactive science lessons for student centered learning.


Each week when I shared the calendar of lesson topics we’d study in class, I’d issue a list of links to my asynchronous students. Each of these links corresponded to a different lesson topic/concept/skill which was, of course, aligned to the standards dictated by my state. The students would follow the link, complete the activities, and download their completed work to their hard drive as a PDF file. (I only harnessed the power of the Grades & Reporting feature for exit tickets, because the LMS my school uses has an established system for submitting work that I didn’t want to disrupt. I was concerned it would confuse students as they already have so many different computer programs and websites to access.) With a copy on their hard drive, my students were able to upload their completed work to a dedicated folder in our LMS where I would add comments and grade it.


My students, unprovoked, shared glowing reviews of this addition to their course! This was shocking for me, since asynchronous students often purposely avoid class and generally avoid all forms of communication with me and the school community as a whole. Additionally, I knew that asking them to complete these activities, almost daily, would be a significant departure from the expectations of other courses led by other teachers in the school. I anticipated they would largely reject the “extra work” and bemoan the inability to simply load up a recording on-demand from which they’d memorize and regurgitate content for quizzes and tests. So, as I say, I was SHOCKED, not even merely surprised.


BOOKWIDGETS AND YOU

BookWidgets offers the first month free for everyone, so when you have time to experiment, sign up and give it whirl! I’m confident that you’ll find them to be a valuable asset in your practice, just as they have been in mine.


BookWidgets’ customer support has always been very responsive, answering all my email inquiries quickly and correctly; I have never been completely stuck or unable to accomplish something that seemed like it should be possible.


Plus, you’ve got me! I’m happy to help you as you build BookWidgets for the students in your class, whether they are meeting you in-person or virtually. Email me at lisa@labineverylesson.com or post your question/idea/final product to the community for review, feedback, and/or troubleshooting!

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