Class Matters in American Literature and Culture

Class Matters in American Literature and Culture

WRIT 132  •  Anne Brubaker

After attending the MIT Annotation Studio Workshop that Wellesley organized here last spring, I was inspired to use this tool to develop better reading habits and practices in my students – something I hoped would translate into better papers. MIT Annotation Studio is a free, web-based collaborative annotation software that enables students to comment on a document in dynamic, interactive ways.

The problem for me was that I didn’t want to introduce a new component of the course and also learn and teach the software at the same time. So I decided to use Google Drive and Google Documents to approximate what MIT Annotation Studio offers.

I also wanted to move away from an earlier component of the course that asked students to develop their own “commonplace” blog, a site that contained their reflections on the readings, but for which I was often the only reader. As I told my students, reading is both a solitary and a social act; reading can be a dynamic process. I think we read better – more deeply and reflectively – when we engage others in the process, whether it’s through verbal discussion or written communication.

On a practical level, I created separate shared folders in Google Drive for each reading group – made of up of three students – and in these folders I placed Google doc versions of the readings, so that they could use the comment function to annotate the readings.

Students have told me that they feel like they are reading more deeply and analytically; that they like seeing what their classmates have to say because we can’t always exhaustively discuss the readings; and they also have told me that they meet outside of class to talk about the readings and that this has been nice for them to connect with others in the class, talk through their ideas, and has even influenced what they write about in their papers. Some students wish for more interactivity between one another’s comments, so I think it will be important to emphasize this expectation in future versions of this assignment.

Video camera iconWatch a brief video overview of this project: