Inquiry based learning is going viral in the modern teaching community. This process requires students to take notes and conduct independent research. Students come to class with different ideas about how these notes are collected. Some copy and paste off the internet, while some carefully rewrite the information in their own words. The latter is preferable, since students should engage with and synthesise the information , developing a personal understanding. This is one of the goals of inquiry based learning. The drawback to this method is it takes forever. Students who write out these types of notes are often bogged down in the research. They can struggle to move efficiently through the process. It can be frustrating for teachers to witness the ineffective methods in which students record their learning.
Annotation strikes an almost perfect balance between efficiency and engagement, which can alleviate the frustrations of note taking while still reaping the benefits. Miriam-Webster defines annotation as “the act of adding notes or comments to something”. Apart from writing on the page, sticky notes could also be used; students can write short comments and ideas then attach these notes to the information. By making marks on the page students are required to think about the text and develop a deeper understanding of the information. Students are required to read, react and think critically about the text. University professor and classroom consultant Harvey Daniels supports the use of annotation as integral to the inquiry process. He explains the need for students to be able to create meaning when reading. He explains how making connections and reacting to content pushes students to develop a more thorough understanding of the text.
Traditionally, annotation has been impractical, requiring mass printing of online resources or, even worse, annotating hard copies, preventing re-use. Bot nowadays annotation can also be conducted using technology. There are numerous web tools that allow students and teachers to annotate information directly online, streamlining the process. Using Diigo , students can highlight websites, add comments on digital sticky notes and tag websites for retrieval at a later date. Another advantage is that students can also share their annotations with the teacher or the whole class. Awesome Screenshot allows the user to take a screenshot, draw on the image and also add text. Students then amass a collection of screenshots and ideas to use as reference for presenting their learning. Images and annotations can even be added to Prezis or Powerpoint presentations. It’s a very dynamic method of note taking that fits into the 21st century context.
Essentially, annotation is about managing content and developing understanding. It requires students to collect information in a more effective manner. They are doing more than just recording facts – they are reacting to the text in front of them, while saving time compared to traditional note taking. Annotation is just one of many strategies that can be used to enrich the learning environment and assist students in the process of inquiry.