A Hub for Annotation-as-Discussion

The alternative title for this post may very well be, “And thank goodness, yet another reason to do away with the dreaded discussion forum.”

Like the lecture, discussion forums are too frequently a presumed feature of the graduate education landscape – particularly in online education. And while a discussion forum does afford certain learning practices – just as there are necessary “times for telling” – INTE 4320/5320 Games and Learning looks beyond the expected and seeks to embrace more dynamic, and more improvisational, approaches to teaching and learning. Such playfulness is elemental to a course that both studies games and learning, and also infuses a lusory attitude – or more gameful approach – among teaching and learning activities. As with the difference between telling and showing, Games and Learning errs toward showing, and is designed to do so through practices that are participatory, risky, and open-ended.

Given this course’s emphasis on reading, discussion, and debate, a primary means of our playful – and public – learning will be mediated by the annotation platform Hypothesis. As the good folks at Hypothesis have created “an open platform for discussion on the web. It leverages annotation to enable sentence-level critique or note-taking on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and more.” Watch the following for a useful introduction to the platform:

As an alternative to discussion forums – and as an experiment identifying the benefits and limitations of new media platforms for teaching and learning – Games and Learning readings will be accompanied by the practices of social and networked annotation. This course is neither the first to embrace public and collaborative annotation, nor is it among the first higher education efforts leveraging Hypothesis. In fact, Hypothesis already features many useful resources to support educators in using the platform. Check ’em out. This blog is a hub for annotation-as-discussion. It is here that students, visitors, and collaborators can access all course readings and resources, and then jump into the back-and-forth discourse of mediated annotation.

So how to begin? A few practical steps for students – and others – interested in using Hypothesis for annotation-as-discussion.

  1. Use Google Chrome as your browser
  2. Visit Hypothesis and select the red “Install” button (mid-page)
  3. When prompted, select “Add Extension”
  4. Follow instructions in the newly opened tab – create a username and password, and voila!
  5. Also, at hypothes.is/welcome note how you toggle the annotation menu via a button in Chrome’s location bar, as well as the types of annotation – notes, highlights, and replies – that you can create.

Complementing these steps, the Quick Start Guide for Teachers is also quite helpful, and relevant to students in Games and Learning (for example, please tag annotations with ILT5320, similar to our hashtag #ILT5320).

As Games and Learning experiments this semester with annotation-as-discussion, it is likely we’ll take some risks, encounter frustrating limitations, and develop our own set of meaningful norms. A pro tip from the start: tag all annotations with ILT5320, similar to our #ILT5320 hashtag on Twitter. In other works, our annotation-as-discussion will be playful. Forward!

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