The Power of Virtual, Interactive Annotations

I have added another tool to my connected learning tool belt this week.  My exploration of the online educator participatory forum, Marginal Syllabus opened my eyes to a virtual world of educative contemplation and a wealth of people’s viewpoints.  As a lover of learning, I have marked up mostly all of my assigned readings and books over the years.  It is a way to bring the words to life, to latch on to a deeper meaning, and to make personal connections to the author’s thoughts.  As an eighth grade social studies teacher, we use highlighters and pens every day to mark up primary source documents as well as news articles.  Modeling this skill is something I find important for their own journey to high school and beyond. And teaching the students to develop their own unique style of notetaking and reflection is at the center of it.  

But, this type of text annotation is old school compared to the power of Marginal Syllabus and the tool.  When using Marginal Syllabus, I was able to connect with other educators and education philosophers.  Reading the comments of others helped me understand Dewey’s words more, and in different ways. Having a chance to use an online medium for annotation was easy, and it was wonderful to have a community working on the very same text, not just my own independent notes.  One of the most helpful features is the ability to use hashtags and connect your work to the work of a unique community of thinkers.

In the realm of connected learning, educators could utilize Marginal Syllabus to cultivate an activist group, whether they want to simply discuss ideas or put together policy for change.  Using such a staple text like John Dewey’s “The School and Social Progress,” it would be easy to peruse the comments and find people who align with your own thinking as well as think in a different way.  Using a tool similar to this in my classroom would provide students with a chance to learn from one another and capitalize on the varying thoughts of their classmates.

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