10 November, 2016

Delve into Digital Texts These Annotation Tools

It's not usually something we stop to think about, but today's digital texts are quite complex.  Websites, ebooks and other digital text formats are rich and dynamic with their links, multimedia, widgets, social spaces, advertising and more, all communicating information in a variety of ways, for a variety of purposes.

Effectively making meaning from digital texts requires us to break down and identify their elements and analyse them for things like structure, bias, relevance, purpose and more.  To help teachers and students do this, they should consider using tools that allow readers to annotate, highlight and markup these texts digitally.
Here's a couple solid annotation tools that are super easy to set-up and use right now:

Commenting and Suggestion Modes in Google Docs

Many teachers and students are probably quite used to the commenting features in Google Docs to some extent.  Users can place general and targeted comments on a Doc depending on whether sections of text are highlighted or not and then pressing on one of three commenting icons (see image below).
But a handy and often overlooked feature is the Suggesting Mode.  By default, Docs are set to editing mode unless they've been set to view or comment only.  Suggesting Mode allows users to put the document into a track changes kind of status.  Once set to Suggesting, users can highlight sections of text, type in alternatives, delete sections, format etc without altering the original document.  Changes are colour coded on the document and show up alongside the original text while a summary of suggestions appears on the right-hand side similarly to comment boxes.
If the collaborating author agrees to the changes, they can approve and apply the suggestions by clicking the checkmark in the suggestion box or reject them by clicking the x.
Using Suggestion Mode is a great activity for peer review and editing processes because students can read each other's work, make suggestions, review and compare those suggestions with their text, and determine whether they should be applied or not.


Text Help and Read&Write for Chrome

The good folks at Text Help have developed an add-on for Docs and a Chrome browser extension for marking up web pages, PDFs, epubs and more.  Users can select from a range of colours to highlight text with, and when finished, can collect text that has been highlighted and extract it into a separate Google Doc.

In addition to this handy feature are:

  • A picture dictionary:  simply highlight a word and click on the picture icon for a selection of clip art representing the word - fantastic for ESL/EAL learners.
  • A vocabulary builder:  highlight individual words within the text and then select the vocabulary icon.  Read & Write will automatically create a new Google Doc with a table and your highlighted words inserted within it.
  • Text to Speech:  Highlight any text and have it read back to you in a variety of voices by clicking on play.
  • Read Aloud:  Highlight a selection of text, click on the read aloud tool and have a separate tab open up with only that text selection as well as a record button. Readers can read the selection of text and play it back to themselves.  They can even send a link to the recording.

The premium version of these tools are free for teachers to use, but does requires a sign-up and verification process that you work for a school based on your domain address (  

No comments:

Post a Comment