Annotation, Social Reading, and Digital Technologies

In a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Charlie Wesley describes the value of annotating texts and explains that many of his students don’t seem comfortable with the practice. He recommends that instructors should encourage students to develop their own language of annotation, and that it is important to model different ways to mark up  texts.

In Frank Ambrosio’s course on Dante and the Christian Imagination, students interact with MyDante, an online environment for the study of Dante’s Divine Comedy. They can not only annotate the text but can also read — and respond to — other students’ annotations. Ambrosio’s own “guide” annotations lead students through a particular interpretation of the text and help to model the practice of annotation. Students can also add images and sounds to the text.

In this article in the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, Frank Ambrosio and I, along with our colleagues Eddie Maloney and Bill Garr, examined this idea of social annotation in MyDante. As we continue to develop MyDante, and our related project on Proust, we are continuing to explore how digital technologies can enable various ways of interacting with texts.