Friday, September 27, 2019

Annotate PRO for responding to student message board posts

Annotate PRO is a tool, developed by 11trees, that helps teachers streamline response to student writing by providing a library of common comments that they can easily insert into writing projects.

The Annotate PRO site asks teachers, "Do you ever feel like you say the same thing over and over again to students?" While acknowledging that of course teaching often involves repetition, the site asks what would happen if teachers could streamline that process when responding to student writing, thus putting more energy into deeper feedback and teaching. A series of screenshots show how to use Annotate PRO:
  • Once downloaded as a Chrome Extension, Annotate PRO appears as a sidebar.
  • Users simply click anywhere that feedback can be provided within a browser: "Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, Blackboard, Canvas, Google Classroom, Schoology, Gmail – just about anywhere you can type feedback into a webpage."
  • From there, users add a comment.
  • Groups of comments can be saved to create personal, program, or even institutional libraries.
Annotate PRO allows for "smart automation." Teachers can use it to reduce repetitive keystrokes, but they can customize it using a "Free Form Comment" function that pops up in sidebar when using the tool.

Annotate PRO has great functionality for helping teachers respond to digital papers, and, I suppose, such is still the traditional framework of teacher writing feedback: A teacher giving feedback to a student essay/report/paper. 11trees provides a video description of this core use here.

However, I want to focus on another aspect of Annotate PRO: Its use in developing a library of responses for electronic forums like discussion boards.

As I have written about numerous times, a large component of student writing, and not just in OWCs, involves short, informal writing on electronic platforms. In many courses, students compose most of their words in these environments.

Teachers want to encourage this, but how do they respond/moderate in ways that are helpful for student learning? I've come across and written about a number of strategies--a favorite source is the book Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators by George Collison, Bonnie Elbaum, Sarah Haavind, and Robert Tinker--and I think Annotate PRO is a smart tool that offers another possibility.

With Annotate PRO, after installation, I simply opened a Discussion in Blackboard Learn (my LMS) and clicked in a message. Voila! I could instantly drop in a comment that had been stored in a library.

It was impressive and powerful in its simplicity, and I saw immediately how Annotate PRO reduces the literal keystrokes and would free up time for for more substantive teaching. Library comments could help me with the frequent encouragement and questioning posts while I used "Free Form Comments" for more specific moderating and commenting posts.

A common--and, at times, legitimate--complaint from students is that they feel no presence from their teachers on discussions. Teachers are seeking strategies and pedagogies to work more fully and carefully with students in discussion environments. (The Community of Inquiry framework [1] offers a way to think about teacher presence.) Annotate PRO provides them with a technology to help them do that.

1) As described by Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher educationmodel. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

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