Author: Simon Hawkesworth
Hypothes.is is an application that allows you to add annotations, tags, images and highlighting to webpage content.
Users can share the comments that they add to pages to create forums for discussion and to share content. It allows ‘communities’ of users to work together and to develop discussions about website and online resources.
The app is free. It’s designed to work primarily with Google Chrome, but has support for use with other browsers.
As well as being used in areas such as journalism, research and publishing, Hypothes.is is also being used as an educational tool to allow students to collaboratively annotate online and with other internet resources. Hypothes.is have provided some examples of what teachers and students are saying about the impact of the application on their educational experience, and there are additionally some examples of classroom use of the Hypothesis tool.
One of the more interesting aspects of this approach, is not simply the ability to allow margin notes to be easily created, but the way the process of note making, and the sharing of those annotations can be an educational and intellectual process in itself. As one Hypothes.is blog commentator notes:
“Annotation is typically perceived as a means to an end. As marginal note-taking it often is the basis for questions asked in class discussion or points made in a final paper. But annotation can also be a kind of end in itself, or at least more than a rest-stop on the way to intellectual discovery. This becomes especially true when annotation is brought into the relatively public and collaborative space of social reading online.”
The ability of users to add rich content to their notes (images, text formatting and hyperlinks) creates layers of content that can be explored and further commented upon by other users where the content is made public. As well as an exercise in note making, this process become a process by which ideas and commentary can be developed, responded to, and amended. It’s a process not dissimilar to the development of a wiki, but one in which the focus is not the wiki page itself, but the web content around which the commentary and dialogue is developing. This process of ‘social reading’ not only allows the students to collaborate, contest ideas and develop a collective online resource, but the tutor can observe and facilitate the process, intervening as little or as much is considered necessary – adding their own annotations as required. Yet the students can remain the primary producers and publishers of content, allowing them to remain centre stage in the pedagogical process.
As an application, it’s a simple, well constructed tool that used even without the collaborative aspect, is very effective. Collaboratively, it seems to have great potential to facilitate discussion and further investigation.
Further details of the tool’s use in education can be found at: https://web.hypothes.is/education/