Using to Help Students Read Scholarly Papers

One of the things I’ve learned from #OpenLearning17 has been the ability to use to collaboratively read something online. is free software that allows one to annotate any webpage as one is reading.  The annotations are a layer “on top of” the webpage.  They do not modify the page itself.  While the annotations are reason enough to find interesting, the software allows one to share the annotations with anyone else using  But wait–there’s more!  A group of people can read the same webpage and annotate it in parallel, each seeing each others’ comments.  This raises some interesting possibilities.

In my upper level courses, it’s not unusual for me to assign students to read scholarly journal articles.  This is not trivial.  Economics journal articles are a particular type of technical writing.  It takes practice to figure out the format of journal articles, but more importantly, the argument contained in them.  This is especially true when the argument is mathematical, or when the argument includes statistical analysis, as are often the case. I imagine professional writing in other disciplines is similarly challenging.  I assign these readings and hope for the best.  When I discuss the articles in class, I ask if there are any questions, and I ask students what they made of the articles.  A few students ask questions or express opinions.  Most are silent, perhaps because they found the task too difficult.  They can’t even say what they didn’t understand.

What if I told students we were going to read the article together as a group?  What if I left signposts in the form of annotations to guide the reading?  What if I asked students to identify things they didn’t understand and asked others to respond if they could?  I suspect it would be a different experience than my previous practice.  It’s possible that students would get more out of it.  At a minimum, it would harder for students to pretend to do the work when they’ve left few or no comments.  I think this is worth trying.

I wonder what other possibilities there are for using in one’s teaching?

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1 Response to Using to Help Students Read Scholarly Papers

  1. Meg Mulrooney says:

    You captured my thoughts. I can also see having students work in small groups to annotate multiple articles at the same time and report on their findings. A collective bibliog perhaps?

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