Research White Paper: The Value of Social Annotation for Teaching and Learning

screenshot of cover page of Hypothesis research white paper, The Value of Social Annotation for Teaching and Learning: Promoting Comprehension, Collaboration and Critical Thinking With Hypothesis, with an image of abstract-ish figures on a red background—suggesting connections between people, the way social annotation connects people.

We are very excited to share the publication of our long awaited research white paper: “The Value of Social Annotation for Teaching and Learning: Promoting Comprehension, Collaboration and Critical Thinking With Hypothesis.” Authored by Remi Kalir, Associate Professor of Learning Design and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education and Human Development, the white paper focuses on the importance of annotation in education, summarizes key research findings about social annotation and student learning, and includes testimonials from instructors representing a range of disciplines who have incorporated social annotation as an important aspect of their teaching.

Download the white paper, share it with colleagues curious about the efficacy of social annotation for teaching in a range of different disciplines, and scroll down to see some of the educator testimonials included in “The Value of Social Annotation for Teaching and Learning.”

Annotation supports deep and close reading of digital materials, facilitating conversation between students, flipping the expert/novice paradigm, and finding low-stakes incentives for students to engage in course content.

—Dr. Amanda Licastro, Emerging and Digital Literacy Designer, University of Pennsylvania

A lot of my students have given me the feedback that they’re not just skimming the text anymore. They’re not just looking for the main findings or the points to summarize. They’re actually considering each part of the text. And as they’re considering each part of the text, they’re using this tool to communicate to me their interpretations of the readings. And also the ways it connects back to their own experiences. I found it to be quite invaluable for that kind of engagement

—Margaret Schmuhl, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice, SUNY Oswego

I’ve found social annotation to be one of the most effective tools for engaging students in course readings — actually doing the readings, asking questions and starting conversations with each other. I’ve used it for both primary and secondary historical sources and found it to be really helpful in getting students to hone their skills in analysis. I also love the fact that I can have conversations with students about the reading in the margins.

—Mary Klann, Lecturer, Department of History, UC San Diego

When they discovered Hypothesis they were — at the beginning — a little bit surprised. Then they loved, mainly during the pandemic, all the sharing that this made possible. And at the end [of the course], some of them told me that they wanted other professors to use this kind of tool.

—Dr. Rosario Rogel-Salazar, Professor at the Political and Social Sciences Faculty, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México

When I landed in the writing classroom, I would say things like, ‘Writing is a social activity,’ and ‘It’s a myth that the writer operates in isolation.’ But there’s a difference between being able to say that and being able to show it. And even though I would do group work in the writing classroom, I felt that social annotation was a tool to take it back several steps: It allows students to realize that reading [is] key, but thinking and having conversations about what one is reading is really what pushes one forward in the writing process.

—Noel Holton Brathwaite, Assistant Professor of English, Farmingdale State College SUNY

I do have students annotate the syllabus. In this post-ish pandemic world, with so many students being shunted into online learning unwillingly, students don’t really know how to be students in the college setting. A lot of times high schools don’t provide syllabi for their students, so they don’t know how to read [them]. And that document can be pretty daunting, especially as institutions require us to put more and more policies and resources and statements in our syllabi. All of which are very good and necessary, but students will just skim over it and get to looking at ‘What do I have to do for tomorrow’s class?’ So annotating the syllabus is a great way for students to share some of what they’re worried about or curious about in the course.

—Dr. Sheryl Sawin, Associate Director and Associate Professor, Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University

One of the prompts I’ll sometimes give students is, ‘Point out a formula somewhere in the text, and try and put into words what that formula actually means, why somebody should care about that,’ or ‘If you had to explain this to somebody who’s not currently taking our math class, what would that explanation look like?’

—Dr. Matt Salomone, Associate Professor, Mathematics, Bridgewater State University