Publish at May 02 2022 Updated May 09 2022

Hypothesis - A tool to annotate the web with several people

Social annotation to boost student engagement

What is it?

Hypothesis is a free, open access platform that stands out from many other annotation tools with broader functionality. In particular, it offers students the opportunity to work collectively to share information and build on the work of their peers as part of a collaborative (or social) annotation strategy.

How does it work?

Jean-Marc Meunier, lecturer at Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, gives us a quick introduction to the Hypothesis annotation tool in the following video. This video vignette was produced as part of the EAD Passport (Université Paris 8/FIED) with the support of the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.

For more information on getting started with Hypothesis, I invite you to visit this article from the U of M's Centre d'expertise numérique pour la recherche (cen-r) document area, which covers how to install the tool, create an account, use the annotation feature, view annotations, and retrieve annotation content.

Hypothesis also offers a YouTube channel on which you can find a set of tutorials and videos dedicated to education (in English) (N.B.: You can enable automatic translation of comments in a YouTube video.). And you can explore annotation with Hypothesis in the three most widely used formats for published documents (web pages (HTML), PDFs, and EPUBs) from the platform's "Annotation Demos" page.

For what uses?

- Chloe Collins

An English teacher at Edouard-Montpetit College, Chloe Collins explains in the article "Collaborative Annotation to Boost Student Engagement" on Eductive how Hypothesis has made annotation dynamic, effective and fun.

In a small pilot project she conducted with support from the Eductive team, she integrated Hypothesis into the Moodle digital learning environment. As a result, she writes, she watched her students dig into their readings, feeding off each other to come up with rich ideas while having fun. She goes on to explain, that overall her groups seemed to be more confident as a result of the experience and to be more open to the work that followed.

She feels that having a tool like Hypothesis takes the pedagogical benefits of annotation to another level and enhances the experience for students and teachers. 

- Alexandre Enkerli & Susan MacNeil

In the article"Hypothesis: a digital tool to help students take ownership of reading exercises" published on the Profweb (now Eductive), Alexandre Enkerli (techno-pedagogical advisor at Collecto) and Susan MacNeil (Profweb editor) outline different ways to integrate collaborative annotation into a course using Hypothesis. These examples are from a article by Jeremy Dean, Hypothesis' Vice President of Education. Here are the examples from his article:

  1. Teachers can annotate a text ahead of time with topics or icebreaker questions to draw students' attention to key concepts. Students respond directly to the questions by adding their own annotations or preparing to discuss them in class.
  2. Students can identify difficulties or more confusing elements in a text or in the lecture notes you shared. 
  3. In a literature course, students could analyze literary works by noting the different writing techniques used by the author and explaining them.
  4. Students can experiment with a new form of writing  by annotating a text using multimedia elements such as images, GIFs, and videos. 
  5. Teachers can ask students to annotate different texts on a chosen topic. Hypothesis' "stream" feature allows the teacher and other students to see and comment on everyone's annotations in the same place.
  6. To prepare a research paper, a teacher could ask students to annotate different ones they have chosen by making a summary, and then producing an annotated bibliography and a glossary that lists specific vocabulary related to the topic.

My take on Hypothesis

I agree completely with Chloe Collins, when she writes in her article that annotation theoretically helps one to stay attentive while reading and that commenting and/or questioning allows for deeper reading. But, as she so rightly points out, traditional annotation is no longer a particularly attractive tool. And as Alexander Enkerli and Susan MacNeil also point out, good old-fashioned highlighting with a yellow highlighter probably doesn't help students in their quest to understand a text or retain important elements either. 

This is why I believe that using a tool like Hypothesis significantly enhances the pedagogical potential of annotation, especially in the context of collaborative (or social) annotation. This provides a more vivid and authentic participatory knowledge-creation experience for students, who are then engaged in collective peer-to-peer inquiry within a learning community.

- Gérald TIROT -



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