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Hypothesis Annotation Module

Page history last edited by Chris Werry 3 years, 5 months ago


Annotation Module: Using Hypothes.is for Charting, Peer Review and Feedback


What is Hypothesis & What Can You Do With it?

This semester we will make use of the annotation and bookmarking tool “Hypothesis.” The free, open-source tool is very simple to use and has applications that are a great fit for writing classes. Hypothesis is a web browser extension that lets students (and you) annotate online documents (web pages, pdfs, and Word docs.) These annotations can be shared and seen by everyone, or just by people in a group you (or your students) create.  For more on Hypothesis, what it is used for, and the philosophy behind it, see https://hypothes.is/about/ 

Here are some things you can do with Hypothesis in your class:

  • Use it for collaborative reading and analysis of texts. You can assign students to look up key words, research references in the text, identify strategies, etc. The work they do will then be linked to the text, and as students go on to draft papers they can refer back to the work done by everyone. They can perhaps even cite this in their papers.


  • Students can “chart” a text (annotate the rhetorical moves) and share annotations with everyone in class. The record of everyone’s (or each group’s) response to the text will be recorded. Furthermore, students can “reply” to an annotation, helping foster conversations around texts.


  • Provide “model” readings of a text by sharing your annotations with your class. You could also show how other expert readers have annotated texts, speeches, books, etc.  Some of the texts we will read this semester have been annotated. For example, if you look at Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” you’ll see a scholar has recorded his response in the margins. (You will need to have added the extension to see this). 
  • Political speeches are starting to be publicly annotated by academics. For example, the sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom annotated Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic national Convention using Hypothesis.


  • You can comment on the work students do online. For example, if you ask students to submit their work on a blog, you can comment on blog posts and students will see this. You can set up groups so only some students (or just one) can see your comments.
    You can also have students comment on other students’ blog posts. 



  • This animated video explains how Hypothes.is came to be and the developers' vision for this tool.  




Screenshots of Students and Scholars Using Hypothes.is 

Below you can see screenshots of three sample annotations of texts we have used in our first year writing classes:

1. Open, public annotation of Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"  

2. La Farge's “The Deep Space of Digital Reading” has been annotated by scholars who have provided a "model reading." Note the tool allows multimedia as well as text annotations.

3. Student annotations of Boyd's "Are Today's Youth Digital Natives?" Students can reply to comments and link to other texts.




Using Hypothes.is to Explore Annotation and Digital Literacy

One reason we will experiment with Hypothesis is that it embodies some of the ideas and principles that the authors discuss. For example, Clive Thompson talks about the importance of “public thinking” and “networked” reading and writing of texts. At the end of his chapter he asks, “What tools will create new forms of public thinking in the years to come?” His answer is that “as more forms of media become digital, they'll become sites for public thinking… Marginalia may become a new type of public thinking, with the smartest remarks from other readers becoming part of how we make sense of a book.” Thompson also discusses how reading and writing are becoming “blended,” and quotes literacy theorist Debbie Brandt: “People read in order to generate writing; we read from the posture of the writer.” Hypothesis helps make some of these ideas concrete, and also allows us to evaluate them.


Hypothesis is an example of a wave of new tools and experiments with social reading and writing. Here are a few other examples:



How to Use Hypothes.is 


A guide for Students

A Guide for Teachers


The quick and dirty guide for teachers: See https://hypothes.is/quick-start-guide/. The longer answer. The home page for Hypothes.is is https://hypothes.is/. The easiest way to use the tool is to go to the Hypothes.is home page, download the extension and add it to the Chrome web browser (or Firefox with a bookmarklet – see below. Other browsers don’t work). On the Hypothes.is page there is an “Install” button that will add the extension to your Chrome browser. You can also use Hypothes.is with the Firefox browser, but you will need to add a “bookmarklet” instead of an extension. The bookmarklet is also on the main home page (look for the link under the “Install” button). Note that the bookmarklet does not seem to work well with other browsers. You will be need  to submit your email address to get an account and get started. Using it is fairly simple. Once you have installed it an icon will appear at the top of your browser. You may need to click on the icon if it is “shaded” and thus not active.


After that, once you visit a web page and select some text, click on the Hypothesis extension, and a menu will appear at the side of the web page (you may need to click on the “expand” button to make it come out fully).  You will see an “annotate” and a “highlight” tool. If you select annotate, you will be able to tag the page, and insert notes. If someone else has already made a comment, you can reply to it.


Hypothes.is will email you a summary of your annotations. If you create a group, it will also email you the annotations made by others.


There is a very useful page with help for teachers who want to use the tool in class. See https://hypothes.is/education/ I particularly recommend you learn how to use groups:


If you want to explore the tool further, here are some other helpful resources:

For model assignments, product tutorials, teacher testimonials, and much more, visit the Educator Resource Guide. Direct your students to the Student Resource Guide for student-centered materials from tips for best annotation practices to inspirational poetry about marginalia.


Where and How to Use Hypothesis in Your RWS100 Class 

  1. We suggest you introduce students to the tool in the first few weeks of the semester when you are examining short texts in class. Ask students to chart an online text in groups, or find and annotate the main claims, evidence, appeals, strategies, etc. If they later do this on paper, ask them to reflect on the differences. Does “charting” or annotating online and in public make a difference?
  2. Students will post some (or all) of their homework on their blogs. If at some point you want to share or discuss some of this homework in front of the class, you could select passages from student blogs using Hypothesis (you could also tag them). From your Hypothesis account you will be able to click on each highlighted item and go straight to the passage in the blog so you can quickly talk about the section with the class.
  3. Once students have posted some homework or reading responses to their blogs you can give them some feedback, updating them on how this is going. If you also give feedback on their homework using print/pen, you could ask them to reflect on the difference (if any) this makes.
  4. Once you have started reading Thompson you could talk about Hypothesis and the similar tools and sites mentioned above (Rap Genius, Medium, etc.) and the extent to which they illustrate or support Thompson’s claims.
  5. When students start drafting parts of their Thompson paper, have them give feedback via Hypothesis.
  6. Have students compose a significant portion of peer review using Hypothesis for at least one paper. When they later do peer review using paper, ask them to reflect on the differences.
  7. Give feedback on one of their drafts using Hypothesis. If you later give feedback using paper, ask them to reflect on the differences.
  8. Once you have started reading Carr ask students whether tools like Hypothesis address some of the problems Carr describes. That is, if one is reading actively, annotating, making connections and seeing how others have responded, does this help with the challenges Carr outlines?
  9. Once you have started reading Boyd ask students if tools like Hypothesis have a place in her ideas about digital literacy.





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