Activity Design Ideas for Social Annotation and

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I previously posted a showcase of webpages annotated with, ideas for assignments, instructions for creating enabled readings in Moodle and other resources for getting started with social annotation and

However, those resources only go so far in creating effective and engaging social annotation experiences for students. Simply requiring students to “make annotations using” may not yield substantive or even social annotations. In this post, I list some of the practices that I’ve seen faculty use to encourage students to engage with not only the reading, but with each other in the margins.

  • Provide students with an easy introduction to the tool. Assign a low-stakes reading assignment in which students need to make an annotation AND reply to a peer’s annotation. This can help to socialize the idea of sharing annotations with their peers and replying to what their peers have to say, while ensuring that students learn how to use (Provide students with a guide to help orient themselves to how the tool works).
  • Model quality annotations. Explain to your students what types of content you’d like to see in their annotations. For example, their comments should be substantive, additive and help other readers make meaningful connections. Provide them with guidelines for making their comments, such as this infographic.
  • Recognize annotations as part of class participation. If students’ annotations can be considered “reading actions,” give them credit for their engagement as part of their participation for the course. I’ve seen a few professors include students’ annotation activity as part of students class participation grade. Students may put more effort into their annotations if they know they’ll receive credit. (See these example rubrics for other ways to assess annotations).
  • Annotate along with the students. Show students that you are also engaged in the readings by annotating along with them. Acknowledge the connections they’re making between the reading and topics discussed in class and encourage them to go deeper. Reply to their questions. Pose questions to them. You can also consider “seeding” the annotations with readings ahead of time to remind students of the context for the reading or to provide definitions of terminology. You could also provide introductory “seed” annotations at the beginning of the document to welcome them to the reading or to provide background information on the author. Your annotations in the margins can model quality annotations while also communicating that you are there with them making meaning of the text just like them.
  • Encourage students to use tags to categorize the annotations. Tagging annotations can help you make your way through the annotations generated by students. For example, require your students to tag their annotations with “question” when they pose a question. Enter the tag into the search function to find those annotations tagged as “question.” This can help you identify passages in the reading that are confusing or that are piquing their interest for further discussion.
    • This support page describes how to use tags to create small reading groups, but it provides a good overview of how to create tags. Note: press ENTER to save your tag!
  • Nudge the “early birds” to return to the reading. The first few students who add their annotations to the reading will miss the comments and conversation that will unfold after they’ve “left” the reading. Encourage students to reply to each other and perhaps give them credit for doing so as part of their reading assignment or activity. This can help ensure that students remain engaged with the reading at a few different “touch points” so that they can be part of the conversation taking place in the margins.