Hack Your Notebook with Paper Circuits Reflection

I was introduced to the idea of “hacking your notebook” in a webinar that AKTeach hosted this spring. I had never seen circuit stickers or heard of paper circuitry before. My students create science notebooks in my classes so this was a great moment of discovery for me. I was very fortunate to be invited to the two day workshop during the AKTeach Distance Learning Conference.

Jie Qi, David Cole, Natalie Freed, and Nicole Fuerst
Jie Qi, David Cole, Natalie Freed, and Nicole Fuerst. Our workshop facilitators.
Here is a lesson I plan to do with my students this fall. A much richer path to learner how electricity works.
Here is a lesson I plan to do with my students this fall. A much richer path to learner how electricity works.

During the two day workshop, David Cole from Nexmap  and Natalie Freed  of Telescrapbook shared their work with using electronic circuits, sensors, and micro controllers to create expressive art in paper notebooks. Much of their work has been in cooperation with Jie Qi of Chibotronics. This is an amazing intersection of art, creativity, science and invention.  This was one of the best classes I have attended in a long time. The tools and strategies they shared have inspired me to integrate paper circuits into my students’ science notebooks.

In a virtual class, it is often harder for the students to organize. I find that using a paper notebook can serve many goals from organizing, archiving notes, and allowing for creative expression and reflection. I began to use science notebook strategies with my students eight years ago. Each year my skills in utilizing these notebooks increases. Attending this class has opened up whole new possibilities for evolving the use of a paper notebook with my students at a distance. I love the high tech/low tech approach. It is simplistic in a way that is conducive to distance learning classes. The resources that David, Natalie and Jie shared are so well engineered it will make it easy for me to apply this in my distance learning science courses.

The integration of paper circuitry will enhance my physical science unit on electricity. This was the first time that I had built a parallel circuit and then a series circuit where the conceptual differences really clicked. I have taught this lesson many times before. But with the application of an art project in my notebook, it finally makes sense. I am a very visual learner and this process really helped me understand the foundations of electric circuits at a deeper level. I will be a better teacher of this concept in the future. I want my students to experience this kind of insight into the basics of electrical circuits through creative play.

I love the idea of play, invention and discovery before deconstructing a science concept. This seems like a more natural way of learning. Taking this workshop has also inspired me to explore the maker movement as a conduit to teaching students about science. I am committed to Inquiry Science, but have felt that inquiry science lessons are awkward to teach. The concept of tinkering and building as a conduit to inquiry intrigues me. I think my students will have a greater natural desire to make and create through problem solving as opposed to more formal controlled scientific experiments. These are important, but I think students are missing the opportunity to play and tinker as a scaffold to structured inquiry.

This workshop has inspire me to  plan a unit on electricity using paper circuitry:


This is a book developed by Jie Qi to help learners create their first paper notebooks. Easy to follow and very hands-on.
This is a book developed by Jie Qi to help learners create their first paper notebooks. Easy to follow and very hands-on.

Draft Unit Oultine
1. Conductivity and Insulation (Multimeter techniques)
2. Learn to use copper tape.
3. Simple Circuits
4. Parrallel Circuit Tutorial
5. DIY Switch
6. DIY Blinking Slide Switch
7. Pressure Sensor
8. Advanced options as desired

Chibitronics Starter Kit $29
Extra Copper Tape 6
White Extra LED Stickers 19
Color Extra LED Stickers 19
Sticker Effects 19
Circuit Sticker Sensors 29
alligator wires
small binder clips

Star in a Box

Today I stumbled upon this gem called Star in a Box from the Las Cumbres Observatory. They have differentiated lesson plans and presentations posted on their web site to accompany this interactive model of a stars life cycle and within a Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram.

My Top 10 list of interactive tools

As a distance learning science teacher, I am always looking for good ways to engage students in my lessons. Here is my latest list of interactives. These are all open source, free resources.

  1. PHET – HTML 5 and Java based simulations
  2. ITSI – Innovative Technology and Science Inquiry (models and sensors)
  3. CK12.org – e-text, simulations, plix, and more
  4. Simbucket /Physics Classroom ( HTML5 Simulations and Models)
  5. PBS learning Media – Media and Interactives
  6. HHMI – video and interactives
  7. Annenberg – Interactives
  8. Kahoot.it – Super Fun Instant Response Game for Review
  9. Nearpod.com – Broadcast interactive presentations to student desktops (similar to Classflow and Pear Deck)
  10. EdPuzzle.com adds questions and tracks progress as students watch flipped videos

New HTML5 Models: Meiosis and Gene Inheritance

The Innovative Technology and Science Inquiry project is busy converting the library of Java models into HTML5 models.  The new HTML5 versions are browser based and will run on most tablets. Recent updates include the Meiosis and Gene Appearance models. You can find the Meiosis and Gene Inheritance activities at http://itsi.concord.portal.org in the “Activities” Menu.  Look for the Middle Life Science unit titled “Inheritance”. You will notice a new teachers guide that will help you facilitate the model inquiry activity.  Included in the guide are sample responses to the Analysis and Conclusion questions.

All model activities can be cloned and customized for your grade level. If you are new to the Innovative Technology and Science Inquiry Tools, make sure to explore the “Help” videos and/or join our Professional Learning Community at Schoology.com. Go to Courses and use the code GF3RM-7C3BF to join our group. We have many experienced teachers who are happy to answer your questions.