After another lengthy hiatus due to the summer term, cricket and laziness during the summer holidays, I’m getting back to blogging again. I have been fairly busy with work projects to be honest, as I’ve been occupied with populating my school’s Spanish department VLE. It is a source of pride and motivation to me that this should be a leader in the school, and the aims of it are as follows:
– to provide resources for independent study for pupils and suggestions for further study.
– to collate resources for the benefit of teachers
– to provide a framework for study for the department
– to enable the improvement of IT skills for pupils
As such, I am making use of many of the Web tools and Apps that I have blogged about (and will blog about in the future, hopefully!) and one of the web tools I am using a lot is Annotary. Annotary is a effectively a resource collection site, in which you can create ‘Collections’ for websites. This can be done on various other sites, but what I most like about Annotary is that you can download a tool for your internet browser’s toolbar that allows you to annotate texts that you have collected. This gives a lot of nice possibilities such as highlighting important vocabulary, key phrases, important parts or facts of the text, or to add questions to check understanding of the article. Pupils could also use it as a way of collating their resources towards project work (for instance IB extended essays, 6th form coursework or oral exams, other investigation work) and make notes as they go on. It is also possible to collaborate on projects, and to invite other users to these collections.
Here is a video made by Annotary to explain their product briefly.
Registering for Annotary is free. First go to the website http://annotary.com and you will see the screen below.
Click on the ‘Sign up for Free’ button’ and fill in the relevant details. You can sign up with Facebook, though as a teacher, I do not use this option. As with most of these tools, I use a fairly formal username, though for Annotary I have created a Spanish Department account that all the teachers can use. The weekly newsletter comes to my email address, but the username is that of the departments. (Obviously, each member of the department has access to the password and usernam so they can add and annotate resources)
Having signed up you will need to download the toolbar app that eventually you can use most easily to add websites to your collections, though this can also be done without the tool, slightly less quickly, but still with few difficulties. You will then begin the process of creating collections and finding websites or articles to include in them. To create a collection, simply click ‘Create Collection’; then give the collection a title and if you want a short description of what the content will be, and then decide if you want to make it public or private. If you make it public then anyone can see it, if private then only people you can invite can see it, and the collection will not appear in the search function either.
Alongside my hard working Colombian speaking assistant, we have created folders for each topic within the AS and A2 syllabus (as well as the IB topics and subtopics), and our idea is to collate useful texts within each of these. These Annotary collections are linked to prominently on the relevant page on our department VLE, and hopefully they can be used by teachers and pupils alike. Teachers can quickly find a text they like, and pupils can read around the subjects and also use the texts for their preparation for their speaking lessons.
To add a webpage to a collection, find a useful page, and if you have not downloaded the toolbar app, then copy the URL address, go back to your Annotary page, click the green ‘Add Bookmark’ button, paste the URL into the relevant section, and then choose the folder to add the bookmark to. Finally click Add Bookmark again, and it will be in the folder. Alternatively, if you have downloaded the toolbar app, you will see a yellow ‘a’ in the toolbar, click on this and you will see a mini drop down menu of chain icon, a pen icon, an envelope icon, two little people icon and a home icon. To save the link click the chain button. The title will be there already but you can change it, add a note if you wish to, perhaps to be specific about what the text is about, and then choose the collection to add it to. It is worth noting that a new innovation enables you to use # hashtags and @ mentions for twitter.
You have to have saved a text before you can annotate it. To then annotate a saved text, click on the pen icon. Then highlight the area of the text you want to make notes on and a little sticky note will appear for you to type into. As mentioned earlier, various uses of this function suggest themselves such as :
– highlighting key vocabulary, such as topic words, useful phrases
– highlighting use of grammar, such as tenses (even proposing questions)
– asking questions to elicit understanding of the text
– suggest synonyms for words
– summarising key points
– highlighting most important info from the text.
When you are finished, click on the save button again. To share the text, click the envelope to send to pupils for instance or colleagues.
I hope this tool will be very useful this year with my students, and I intend to use it a great deal with my 6th form students in particular. I am very keen for them to read and listen to as much as they can to back up what is covered in class, and to facilitate that process.
Here are some other links about Annotary that may interest you.