I’m always on the look-out for web tools that can mimc a key instructional strategy I use with students in the classroom — having them use post-it notes to annotate books or articles so they can demonstrate their use of reading strategies (asking questions, making connections, etc.).
I thought it would a good subject for another “The Best…” list.
In order to make this list, it had to be available free-of-charge, be accessible to English Language Learners, and not require any downloads of any kind.
Here are my choices for The Best Applications For Annotating Websites (not in order of preference):
Awesome Highlighter is easy to use and no registration is required. My students and I periodically find that it doesn’t work very smoothly, and a fair number of the webpages we’ve wanted to use aren’t compatible with the application. However, even with those drawbacks, it definitely deserves to be on this list.
Jog The Web is so easy to use. It allows you to easily create a slideshow of websites or images, and you can leave comments on each page. It’s not possible, however, to physically align your comments with specific parts of the website’s text. I just have students use a strategy for each paragraph, and then just number the paragraphs in the comments section.
Voxci looks like a potentially useful tool. It’s a very, very “bare-bones” Flowgram in that it doesn’t give you the ability to write anything, but you can leave audio annotations. The drawback, however, is that right now you can only leave comments by calling a Pennsylvania phone number. They are planning on adding the capacity to record by computer microphone, and when they do that it might be worth trying out. The New York Times recently had an article about a new web-based tool called Calling America, which lets you call anyplace in the United States for free. Though I haven’t tried it with Voxci, it seems to me that an application like Calling America might work with Voxci and other Web 2.0 sites that offer phone-in options.
A.nnotate is the newest addition to this list. Instead of describing A.nnotate in detail here, though, I’m going to suggest you read a very thorough description of it — with screenshots — at The Make Use Of blog.
Blerp, I think, might now be the best tool on this list.
Once you register (which is extraordinarily easy and doesn’t require activation by email), you type in a webpage address, click on “post” and you can type on a virtual post-it note and place it anywhere on the text of the page and you are then given the page’s url with the notes. It’s extremely user-friendly.
But that’s not all.
It also allows you to see what other readers of the same page have written. All those virtual post-it notes are listed on the side of the page. All you have to do is click on a note and it magically appears at the location on the page where it was placed.
I believe a lot of the things many web tools allow you to do are neat, but don’t necessarily provide much “value-added” benefit to doing the same task using non-tech tools. Even the other tools on the “website annotating” best list only let you do the exact same thing you can do with hard copy.
With Blerp, however, after students have completed demonstrating their reading strategies, they can then see what everybody else has written, too.
Now, that’s what I’m talking about in terms of a way technology can enhance learning.
I’d like to highlight a couple of great features, though. One, you don’t have to register for it. And, two, all you have to do is put “roohit.com/” before any web URL address and you can start highlighting and leaving notes about it.
The only negative I see is that it looks a little “busy” — English Language Learners could be a bit confused by all the initial options and text. But a short teacher explanation should take care of that.
Layerpad is the newest addition to that list. After registration, you can make comments on the site, and see comments others have made. In that way, it’s similar to Blerp. However, Layerpad doesn’t let you position the comments in different places around the page, which limits its effectiveness as a way for students to show that they’re using reading strategies. Even though I’m adding it to the “The Best…” list, I won’t be able to highly recommend it until it adds that feature.
WebKlipper lets you easily, without requiring registration, annotate any webpage with virtual post-it notes or a highlighter. You’re then given the url address of the annotated webpage. It’s quite easy to use. However, as far as I can tell, it appears that anyone can then remove your annotations. I may be missing something, and have emailed the site to find out if I’m correct. If that’s the case, it makes a problematic for student assignments that would be posted on a student/teacher website/blog.
Nevertheless, it’s a nice app.
Channel.me is a new application that lets multiple people view the same webpage and chat about it. I guess that could be useful for students who are researching topic together, but what really has be excited is the ability to easily annotate websites with virtual sticky notes that can be placed on the site — whether or not you using the group text feature. The site maintains the sticky notes indefinitely on the unique url address you’re given for the website you input, so this might be the easiest tool around for students to use and save for research notation and, more importantly, to illustrate their use of reading strategies. You just have to copy and paste the url address on a student blog or website. Unfortunately, in order to save those notes and then do the same thing to a new page, you have to go back to the main Channel.me site and input the new address — you wouldn’t be able to do it “within” the first unique url address you started with. But that’s a minor inconvenience compared to its general ease of use.
MydesignCrit is another simple web tool.
As always, feedback is welcome.