Online Conferences: Virtual Professional Development Opportunities (Part 2)

Online Conferences: Virtual Professional Development Opportunities (Part 2)

by Katie McClintic
Ed Tech IS Co-Chair

Review of k12online Conference Session

Session Title: Social Annotations: Collaborative Online Reading

Link to Session: (transcript available here)

Presenter: Paul Allison
Date: October 22, 2015

Session Description: For this conference session, the presenter, Paul Allison, used content collected from his weekly webcast called “Teachers Teaching Teachers.” The content was related to his work with the NYC Writing Project and the website

The session centered on the use of online annotation to encourage critical reading and the use of public online annotation to add collaborative reading to this goal of critical reading. The three web tools and their key features as discussed in the session were:

  1. allows annotations and discussions around those annotations.
  2. NowComment is similar to, but it also features a dual-pane mode and a text in reader mode, so the right side of the window shows discussion around a piece of text—clicking on the comment will take readers to the place in the text being referenced. It also includes features of dialectical note-taking (summary and comment), and it has an option to sort by a reader’s name and posts.
  3. Lit Genius also has video comments, public editing, and users can embed reading with annotations into other sites. In addition, if viewing an annotated page in the Genius browser, readers can see all users who annotated a certain part of an online text.

The session began with recorded video introductions from the creators of each of these tools and their (brief) vision of how tools will be applied in education. The speaker then gave a real-world example of how each tool was used for collaborative annotation. At this point in the session, the speaker encouraged viewers to stop the recorded video session to go to the example annotated pages and contribute annotations in real time while watching the video. The presenter’s purpose here was to invite the viewer into the ongoing inquiry by accessing example pages and joining the conversation by contributing their own annotations.

The presenter left viewers with a key summary regarding the benefits of using online collaborative annotation tools: “Students can engage in the multi-dimensional dialogues multi-modally—tools that turn annotations into conversations.”

Connection to Current Research

As a participant in the recorded presentation, the presenter invited the viewer to be a part of a CrossActionSpace, which can be defined as “using web-enabled technology within [a traditional learning environment located at a particular physical space at a particular time] to co-expand into [spaces] where learners become reflective makers in groups [within multiple digital spaces across time].” (Jahnke, 2016) Asking viewers to stop the video, access the examples discussed in the session, and contribute annotations in real time while watching the video is an example of how interactions occur in these CrossActionSpaces. Thus, simply the action of watching the presentation becomes a reflective cross-action: listening to the presenter, accessing the examples in real time while listening to the recording, adding to the conversation via annotations, listening to examples and searching for articles mentioned during the recording—all while in the single physical space of one’s office, one year (or several!) after the recording date.

Application in ESL Teaching Contexts

One application that was mentioned in the video was to assign a reading task and ask students to annotate their work. Before class, the teacher would go through the annotations, then group ideas based on topic, particularly related to parts of the material that students were struggling with. The teacher would then refer to the annotation comments during class discussion the next day. This would be one application for reading classes at the intermediate to advanced level.

Other applications for reading classes: Group silent reading—in lab, as a class or in small groups, students would read a text and interact with each other via annotations to interpret/ask questions/discuss meanings for new vocab—all parts of active reading that students struggle with. For this type of activity, it would be good to group students with stronger annotation skills with those of lower skills so that they could learn about the annotation process from each other.

Applications for writing classes: Students could practice paraphrasing longer pieces of text in their own words, and others could comment on these paraphrases, giving suggestions and feedback; students could also do peer reviews of selected writing—students could post their work on the site, and let others comment and give feedback or suggestions for improvement.


Jahnke, I. (2016). Digital Didactical Designs: Teaching and Learning in CrossActionSpaces. New York: Routledge.

Editor’s Note: This article is the second part in a series on Online Conferences. Part 1 is available in the Spring 2017 edition of MIDTESOL Matters.

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