Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An invitation to join me (and Remi) in annotation and online activism...kind of like climatefeedback.org

This blog post was originally published on November 15th, just six days after the US elected Donald Trump. When I pressed "publish" then, I knew I was publishing a rough draft, as is so often the case with this blog. Almost a month later, President-elect Trump has stunned the nation by selecting enemies of federal agencies as nominees to lead those federal agencies. Reading the news, it is as if Vladimir Putin himself is selecting Trump's nominees in order to cause panic in the US. As an English teacher, I don't know if I should teach about fake news or lead literature circles about dystopian societies. In the meantime, I've updated the post below with titles of news articles that have shocked, and continue to shock people who love diversity, the outdoors, and public schools, just to list a few of my own passions that cause me to feel horrified. 
Click here to annotate
Click here to annotate

Click here to annotate

Talking with educators in the last year about the importance of, and potential for, online annotation, I refer often to the work of the folks at climatefeedback.org. When I get puzzled looks from teachers or the predictable, "So what?" from school leaders after I show how to mark an online text using hypothes.is, or how to see public annotations in the hypothes.is stream, I step back from the logistical demonstrations to describe an emerging example, saying:

 "There is a group of scientists who are concerned about the popular media's presentation of climate change and climate science. They have organized an online annotation effort to effectively fact check the media." 

In that way, I try to justify my interest and excitement about online annotation. Digital notes in online margins are not just a tool for bookworms, they are a tool for bookworm activists. Here's how those climatefeedback.org bookworm activists describe their project on the homepage of their website:
Today’s media climate leads to confusion
 With so much information available online, trying to figure out which information is credible — and what is not — is a real challenge. When so much of what we read falls outside of our own expertise, how can we know which headlines and news articles are consistent with science?

On the heels of an election that challenged journalists, pundits and citizens alike to determine what information was credible and what information wasn't, I find myself reading the excerpt above thru a different lens, seeing it now not as a description of a project, but as a call to action for experts across disciplines to peer review news articles, editorials, and policy statements.

In the education circles I am passionately connected to, the call to action is timely. Today's media climate leads to confusion about an endless list of school-related topics. Here's a short one:

1. The state of public schooling in urban areas.
2. The role of digital tools in the lives of students today.
3. The role of digital tools in the learning spaces that serve our youth.
4. The impact, or lack thereof, of the Common Core Standards and standardized testing.
5. Gaps- achievement gaps, access gaps, and participation gaps.
6. Issues of race in schooling.

Even as I write this list, it looks incomplete to me and I think about revising the list. If this post stirs your passions or your activist bent, please join Remi Kalir and I in one of our marginalsyllab.us conversations. For now, I'm pushing it out into the interwebs where it might spark thinking, garner a few comments, and perhaps stir a few other bookworm activists.


  1. A little push back: Writing in the margins (as we often do with Hypothesis ... a powerful crowd annotation tool) is often invisible to many because it sits just outside the view of the web (unless you have Hypothesis engaged), so I wonder if that tool is the right approach here. In other words, if I wrote this particular comment in Hypothesis in your post, only those few of us with that tool engaged would read what I am writing. That's a small audience. Perhaps even more Echo Chamber-ish than you intend (in fact, I know that is NOT your intention). It seems like you are aiming for a larger audience, Joe. I'm not sure how best to go about that but keeping the limitations of our tools in mind is important. I'm off to peruse some of your links, and will be following along.

  2. Thanks for the push, Kevin. You bring up and important point that has me thinking about audience size and who my audience is. I'll think about that and write about it some more.

    I would concede that H needs a better integration with Twitter that would show the article title or the annotation itself when a user shares a note link in a tweet. That pushback has me wondering about the utility of that very link as a way for me to ping friends with not only a link to an article but one question.