Reviving Reading with Collaborative Annotation

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

As researchers argue that students are less engaged with online course readings, educators are using collaborative annotation to renew students’ relationships with texts and with each other. This session looks at use cases from across the disciplines to provide participants with pedagogical models to follow on their own campuses.


Sponsored By


Jeremy Dean, Director of Education, Hypothesis Jeremy was previously the Director of Education at Genius where he facilitated educational applications of their interactive archive of literary and historical texts. Jeremy is a scholar-educator with fifteen years of experience teaching at both the college and high school levels. He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin where he worked as a Project Leader in the Digital Writing and Research Lab for four years developing units and lesson plans around a variety of digital tools. He also worked as a Program Coordinator at the University of Texas Humanities Institute, overseeing their education initiatives.
Benjamin Croft is an education researcher in online higher education. His professional background spans many roles and levels: an instructor for first year college mathematics, a program coordinator and grant writer, a high school speech and debate coach, and many others. His interests center on diversity, equity, and inclusion within higher education, especially through the lens of institutional strategy, quantitative and qualitative research, and instructional design and pedagogy.

Extended Abstract

In April of this year, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article lamenting the decline of reading. While it’s nothing new to complain that students aren’t doing their assigned reading, some studies show that reading in the digital age is especially problematic. The arguments hold that students tend to skim while reading online and don’t retain as much of what they read or engage as deeply. Yet the same CHE article — along with a growing body of research — suggests that collaborative annotation practices can revive reading practices. 

Reading is a core general educational practice and an essential lifelong skill. Writing in the margins of texts has always been an essential activity for students and everyday readers. Annotation helps in reading comprehension and in developing critical thinking about course materials. Digital annotation enables readers to continue this essential activity with online texts. In a time when diverse media clamor for our attention — audio, video, interactive games and experiences, and now virtual and augmented reality — teachers and students are using collaborative annotation to focus on and get value from the basic act of reading. 

Digital annotation also offers new affordances that can be used not just to maintain traditional learning practices but to develop new literacies as well. Collaborative annotation enables students to respond to text using different media, leveraging the distractions of the digital environment for renewed focus. Further, unlike traditional marginalia which is so often confined to personal use, collaborative annotation empowers students to collaborate on understanding and developing ideas about their readings, resituating the core skill of reading as a social activity. 

This session brings together educators and instructional designers that have implemented collaborative annotation on their campuses. They will share stories and research about how incorporating this emerging technology has transformed specific teaching and learning practices around reading in different disciplines, at a variety of skill levels, and at a range of institutional types.

Session Goals


Participants will come away from the session with new understandings of how educators are using collaborative annotation to revive reading and build traditional and emergent literacies, as well as practical examples for how to integrate annotation into real classroom experiences in different contexts, and their reflections on how they might start using annotation in their own work and with others.

Engagement Strategy


Speakers will present real-world examples of how collaborative annotation is being used by teachers and students to engage with texts and each other. Participants will then have an opportunity to reflect on how annotation could be used in their own educational practices by contributing to an openly-published resource guide on annotation in teaching and learning. The group will then discuss best practices and issues that arise from their sharing and reflection. The resource guide will be shared with the broader OLC community to spread ideas and gather additional contributions.