This is the second installment in a three-part series about social annotation. Part 1 (Teaching in the Core) explored social annotation in the context of teaching in the undergraduate Core; Part 3 will consider the context of graduate training. This series on social annotation and collaborative close reading builds on a March 2021 post on the ATS blog: “Social Annotation and the Pedagogy of”

Approaching Texts and Entering New Languages

Social annotation offers unique opportunities in the language-learning classroom, particularly because of the ways it addresses the specific pedagogical and experiential challenges that accompany teaching and learning new languages. Whether studying an ancient or modern language, working with a Roman or non-Roman script, targeting reading mastery or oral fluency, students encounter rigorous but low-stakes opportunities to practice reading, writing, and speaking in a new language.

By creating new digital spaces for immersion and collaborative thinking and exploration, platforms such as are distinctly positioned to support a critical instructional challenge: the teaching of grammatical and orthographic concepts, structures, and rules of a new language, and the fostering of familiarity and fluency from within that language. The ease of creating digital annotation exercises – and the ease with which such exercises can be adapted to a range of pedagogical purposes, ranging from collaborative projects to independent assessments – further sharpen the usefulness of social annotation for language instruction, as four faculty members share below.

Language Pedagogy: Ancient/Modern, Reading/Oral, Linguistics/Culture

Foreign Language Dictionary

Working across languages and at varying levels of instruction (from introductory to intermediate to advanced courses), these four faculty members – Colin Shelton, Maeve Hooper, Shiva Rahmani, and Nicole Burgoyne – emphasize two keen opportunities presented by social annotation: first, to help students master discrete rules and objectives through iterative practice, and second, to challenge students to develop their voices and to work speculatively in a new language. Crucial to both of these opportunities is the freedom to take low-stakes risks… and the freedom to fail, try again, and correct a misunderstanding for the future.

Colin Shelton (Assistant Instructional Professor in Classics and Language Program Coordinator for Latin and Ancient Greek) invites students to undertake collaborative speculative translation exercises in his introductory Latin courses. Creating a social annotation exercise centered on short excerpts and verses, Professor Shelton creates a digital space in which his students contribute translations of specific words and phrases, raise questions and register points of confusion, and try out partial or incomplete paraphrases with their colleagues. The resulting text is richly annotated and represents both a record and a scene of learning, capturing thoughts, questions, insights, and conversations in a single digital space.

Teaching in the substantially different curricular context of German, Maeve Hooper (Assistant Senior Instructional Professor in German and Director of the German Language Program), Shiva Rahmani (Assistant Instructional Professor in German), and Nicole Burgoyne (Assistant Instructional Professor in German) challenge their students to try out and master a variety of exercises oriented around translation, circumlocution, textual analysis, and paraphrase. Professor Hooper, Professor Rahmani, and Professor Burgoyne focus their students’ engagements in through precise instructions and prompts that guide students through layers of cognitive complexity in their new language. For example, one assignment might prompt students to answer factual questions about the text, to locate evidence in a text that supports an idea or represents an important theme, and finally to raise clarificatory or interpretive questions about their reading.

Furthermore, Professor Rahmani and Professor Burgoyne emphasize the importance of building student discourse across annotations by requiring students to read and respond to one another’s observations and ideas. In her introductory courses, Professor Hooper challenges students to do the same independently, occasionally creating individual annotation assignments in which students address and raise questions, record observations, and initiate a conversation with her.

Using Information and Support

If you have any questions about or digital social annotation, Academic Technology Solutions can help. Set up a consultation with us, or drop by our Virtual Office Hours. To learn more about, please see Use the Hypothesis-Canvas Integration.

Image Attributions

John Schnobrich, @johnschno on Unsplash. 2018.

Edurne Chopeitia, @edurnetx on Unsplash. 2019.