My name is Jason Lipshin and I’m a research assistant with Hyperstudio, MIT’s digital humanities research lab. Along with HyperStudio’s Director Kurt Fendt and Lead Developer Jamie Folsom, I’d like to propose a workshop on Annotation Studio, a digital annotation tool we’re currently in the process of developing. Created specifically for classroom use, Annotation Studio enables online, multimedia annotation of source documents by allowing users to collaboratively comment on a text at any scale (from a single word to an entire chapter, using different kinds of media).
Although there are many annotation tools currently in existence, Annotation Studio differs in its emphasis on pedagogy. While other tools often focus on annotation for the purposes of historical scholarship or assume familiarity with technical standards like TEI, Annotation Studio makes sophisticated analytic tools immediately accessible to students, with the aim of fostering skills in close reading and composition. Implemented in many MIT humanities classrooms over the past year, Annotation Studio has been used to support every step of the writing cycle, from students’ first engagement with primary sources to essay writing and revision. By supporting such practices as the filtering and exporting of annotations, as well as the importing of student texts (so that teachers can use the tool for feedback), many instructors have responded that Annotation Studio has allowed their students to engage with texts at a greater level of granularity.
In addition to its current, core functionality, Annotation Studio will also eventually feature innovative data visualization tools which track students’ interaction with a text (these tools are currently in development). Such visualizations could allow teachers to better understand how students read and interpret (for instance, identifying particular “hotspots” of interest within a text), while also allowing teachers to iteratively revise their lesson plans based on this dynamic feedback. Through this workshop, we hope to introduce Annotation Studio to interested parties, but also discuss the larger significance of annotation practices to humanities pedagogy and how such insights might fold back into the development of our tool.