Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Redefining Annotation

Redefining Annotation
Ditch That PDF and Hyper-Annotate

Learning how to read and annotate text is an important skill all our students need to truly understand stories, articles, and *GULP* textbooks. This is a skill which needs to be taught and learned over time to master. The hard reality of the situation is though, most college level texts are now distributed in PDF or other digital formats for our students to manipulate. In the face of this new reality, it has become a necessity to teach our younger students the skills of digital annotation and manipulation. With digital devices we encourage students not to not simply substitute traditional annotated techniques with digital tools, but rather level up their annotation practices to create a redefinition of the entire model. Below we will see how one single PDF can be transformed into a living annotated document with a few simple tricks, tips, and (...).

Your first step is to locate a PDF which you wish to have your students annotate. My favorite site to grab up to date current event articles for any subject and lexicon level is NewsELA. Once in NewsELA  find the article you wish to use and select the “Print Icon”, of course we are only going to digitally print it as a PDF. NewsELA will ask how you would like the article, select “Article Only”. This will redirect you to a chrome PDF “preview” screen where you will select the download icon in the upper right. You now have the PDF of the article which you will then upload to your Google Drive.


Once the PDF article is in your Google Drive, right click on the file, select “Open with” → Google Docs. The PDF with instantly be transformed into an editable Google Document, after a little formating takes place. The article is now ready to be distributed out to our students via Google Classroom. Now we can get to hyping up our annotations.

It’s not paper, Supersize your workspace and Change your Orientation

Hey, this is a digital document! Because of this fact, we are not limited to the confines of a 8.5x11 piece of wood pulp. So let's supersize our workspace. Go to file in the upper right corner of the Google document. Select “Page Setup”. Change the orientation to landscape, then change the paper size to something larger, I like the “Tabloid” option. Your students now have a supersized workspace to annotate like a rockstar.


Split text up with columns and tables

Annotations work best when you have a space to leave your thoughts/notes/comments on the article as you read it. To help with this great strategy why not create a 2 column table. First copy all the text on the document by using “Ctrl+A” then “Ctrl+C”. Now delete all the text, select “Table” on the toolbar and create a 2x1 column table. Now paste the copied text into the left column by using “Ctrl+v”. Now you have your text on the left and a place for your students to write on the right. But wait there's more! Add a 1x1 single box table underneath each section of the text and type “Summary”. Want a third of fourth column? To insert new Column, “Right-Click” in current column, then select “Insert Column Right”. A digital document is malleable, it has no set size, shape or form, make use of its transformational properties! Now you have a space for the students to summarize that portion of the text.

“Talk to the Text” with the Comment tool

One of my favorite strategies when reading an article or text is to “Talk to the Text”. This refers to the reader commenting on what the article is making them think/feel when they read that portion of the text. Statements like “This sentence is confusing” or “I can relate to this scenario by…” . This strategy can be easily done with the comment tool built right into the Google Docs tools. Just highlight the text you want to “Talk” to, you will see a comment icon pop up to the right of the document. Click this icon then type in your comment. Easy Peasy!

Highlight and Group text with Highlighter Add-On

Here is a great way to allow your students to create easy highlights on their document, with each highlight representing a specific task, and then extract them to automatically create a color coded table of those highlights. First, in your Google Doc go to the Add-on option on the toolbar. Select “Get Add-ons” and search for “Highlight Tool”, you want the one as seen in the picture below, then select “Add to Drive”.


Once you have added the tool, it should now appear as an option in your Add-Ons. Open the Highlight Tool, then select Highlighter Library. Here you can select your Highlight colors and label them for whatever purpose you would like such as: “Main Topic”, “Confusing Statement”, “Will be on Test” ect. Select save and then begin to highlight the text. Once you have concluded your highlights, go to the bottom of the highlight tool where it reads “Extract Highlights”l and select “By Color” and extract to “This Document”. The tool will then extract all your highlights and place them in a color coded table at the bottom of your document. Amazing tool to help “collect” your students thoughts for easy reference.

Add relevant images using the “Explore” tool

One of my favorite activities to include in text transformation is the skill of identifying images to support the topics of the text. Google docs has made this process a snap with its embedded “Explore” tool, found in the bottom right corner of any document. This “Explore” tool allows students to research relevant images to the text. After clicking on the “Explore” tool it will automatically search the article text for content, then bring up images it thinks will be relevant. If the images it suggests do not fit what your students have in mind, they can use the search bar at the top of the tool to make another search. To add the image all they need to do is drag and drop it into their favored location on the document. Once brought in, I ask my students to label the image and explain why they brought it in and how it relates to the text.

Add student created images or models with Drawing option

When standard images won’t do, why not insert a drawing. At times I want students to create a visual of the text. This can be a recreation of a item described in the text, a mind map of their thoughts about the text, or a model of the content being described. Students can even bring in an image which they believe is relevant, then label/annotate over this image for a greater impact.

Hyperlink outside learning resources (websites/videos),and leave “Sticky Notes” on these resources.

The “Explore” tool is also a great place to locate supportive texts and articles on the internet to further student knowledge of the article content. Simply click on the “Explore” tool in the bottom right corner and search keywords for related articles and websites. Students can visit the website to expand their knowledge or fact check information found in the article being read. If the website was helpful the students can then hyperlink the website to their text and comment on the reason they found the article helpful. Students can even easily cite the website as a footnote by simply clicking on the icon next to the article link in the explore tool. The citation can be placed in MLA, APA, and chicago format with an easy click of the “Three Dots” next to the web results icon in the explore tool.

An extra step students can take is leaving a “Sticky Note” on the website they visited and leave information behind to review later. This digital sticky note can be place right where the student gathered information they deemed helpful, and leave a note as to why they choose to use it. To use the sticky note, simply install the Google Chrome extension Note Anywhere so it is available in your extension toolbar at the top of your Chrome browser. When your student is on the webpage they click on the “Note Anywhere” extension and a sticky note will pop up. Move the note anywhere on the webpage. This note will now be on this webpage until it is removed by the user.

Create artifacts and Short Video Screencasts of learning with Awesome Screenshot Extension.

How many times have you left a comment or taken notes only to come back to them days later and not know what the heck you were talking about or referring to? Now we can leave short screencast reminders/tutorials for any idea, concept or tool. To unleash this powerful new strategy add the Google Chrome extension “Awesome Screenshot” to your chrome browser. Once it is installed, click on the “Awesome Screenshot” icon in your Chrome extension toolbar. This will bring a dropdown box with many different choices to take a screenshot of your page. If you simply want your students to take a “picture” of a certain portion of a webpage have them select “Capture Selected Area”. This will take a picture of the area of their choice and then annotate over it with ink, highlights or text to create an artifact of learning. This image can now be added to the document in the pictures column of the Google Doc.

This artifact of learning is great, but sometimes you need a visual and narration to remember key points of your learning. When this is the case select “Record my Screen” from the Awesome Screenshot extension menu. This will allow your students to record their screen and voice for up to 30 seconds. Select “Record my Screen”, turn the microphone option on, then select, start recording. This video clip is then saved to the local drive or in Google Drive and can be easily hyperlinked to their document for easy review later.

It’s NOT a Substitution task

Technology is meant to advance our knowledge and leverage the 21st century skills our students will need in college or their next step in life. Simply substituting handwritten notes or annotations, with a digital medium is not acceptable. We must take which is not possible with traditional tools and redefine possible with digital tools. Try one or two strategies in your class to get started, and add more as your students begin to understand their purpose. Some of the tips above are simple, other are a little more complicated, yet all leverage the power of the digital device to make the impossible, possible.


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