Annotation: Day Four

Using technology in the classroom is difficult.  Novelty can’t be the only reason to employ a new system.  Where does that leave you?  Online collaborative tech of course.

The basic goal with using tech for annotating is to find something that fills the following categories:

  • Creates a whiteboard space
  • Upload documents/images so they can be marked
  • Offers easy to use tools that are intuitive and need little explanation
  • Creates a URL for users so they don’t need to construct another account/login

Watching annotations occur in real time is a great tool for students.  They can literally see how others work with a text and they can create a comment “thread” on the actual text itself.  The difference here is that they can do this at home with you moderating.  If annotating/collaboration during class is what you’re interested in, you can also have small groups of 5-7 students, each with computers, working collaboratively on different texts.

Here’s how it works.

  • Divide up the text of a document you want to analyze OR provide a series of images
  • The Declaration of Independence is a great example since it’s already split into sections.  Give each student group a section of the text that they are responsible for annotating.
  • Dorthea Lange images or Matthew Brady images are great for this too since there are so many to choose from and they are readily available on the Library of Congress website.
  • Your next choice is to decide if you will highlight section of the text or circle areas of the images for students to begin working on their annotations or not.
  • Either way you are asking or expecting them similar areas of focus and annotation to those discussed in Tuesday’s post.

Much like a quick write this can easily be a warm-up to class discussion or an intro to a piece you plan on examining that day.  The real key here is the student collaboration.  Let’s look at a personal favorite and a free online whiteboard space that allows you to everything you could ever want.

Concept Board

Unlike other collaborative tools, students don’t need to create their own account.  You, the teacher, however do.  This gives you administrative rights to the “whiteboard.“  Your first step: sign-up for an account.  This is avery simple and as soon as you do we will see that you can create 25 different whiteboards for free.  When you’re done with one delete it, or you can keep them for as long as you need.  Students can join your board easily by entering a URL specifically created for your annotation project.  Each board gets a different URL.  Simply click the orange INVITE PARTICIPANTS button in the right top corner of the screen.  Before students enter the site they will be asked to provide their name which makes it easier for you to keep track of quality and content of posts.

Example of how to use an image for annotation in Concept Board.

Here are the aspects that make the board great:

  • Comments/Annotations appear in real time so there’s no need to refresh the page.
  • Simple to use comment boxes that draw an arrow where to choose and provide an easy to type in text box that provides the commenter’s name and a time stamp.
  • A variety of other tools that allow anyone to highlight, create shapes, other text boxes
  • The ability to upload files including: docs, jpegs, pdfs
  • Your ability as administrator to delete/moderate all drawing/comments.
  • Works amazingly well with tablets, especially the iPad.

Perhaps the greatest element, though, is that when you finish your online annotating session and log out the program will send you a transcript of all the comments posted.  Nothing could be better if you want to asses students.  The board will also retain all of it comments until you choose to delete them.  The only downside is that without a pro account you can’t lock the board or student comments.  Once you post the URL the board is open.  No more papers to carry around.  It’s all online and least for us that’s a nice change.

Screenshot of Concept Board being used for small group annotation.




  1. Sarah Cole says:

    Have you used When sharing a resource with an entire class, students can highlight and use virtual sticky notes (with comment threads).

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