Digital Annotation for Student Feedback and Grading


There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the soft, smooth roll of pen on paper. That ability to scribble, strike, crumple and tear. But what about the downsides of this ancient medium? Endless printing cycles. Lack of searchability. A desk stacked to the roof with essays and sheets to mark. It’s these frustrations and a determination to streamline the classroom that have led many educators to trade in their pen for a stylus, and begin embracing the the brave new world of digital annotation.

iAnnotateName: iAnnotate / Adobe Reader
Pricing: $4.99 / free
Compatibility: iOS & Android
Access: No signup required
Privacy: Private


A Quick Look

While there are a number of great annotation tools out there, we are going to focus on the two that are most popular with educators iAnnotate and Adobe Reader.


In Practice

1. Inline comments and feedback

Digital annotation tools attempt to make the annotation experience as close to pen and paper as possible. This means you can draw, highlight, write and stamp your student’s digital documents just as you would with your favourite stationery. If you do plan on trading in your trusty notebook for a tablet, we do suggest investing just a little in a good stylus pen. This will save a  lot of frustration and finger-burn, not to mention make your comments much more legible for your students.

2. Give your comments a voice

One of the really impressive features of using digital annotation is the ability to use media beyond what you can write on screen. Try this imaginative idea from educator Doug Ward, where he uses iAnnotate to record voice comments as he grades his students’ work. This could be of particular value if you have lengthy comments that require additional context or in foreign language classes where pronunciation may need to be emphasized.

3. A step closer to the paperless classroom

While going fully paperless may be a step too far for some (there’s nothing wrong with paper) there are a few key advantages to integrating certain paperless practices into your digital annotation. Try creating a shared location (Dropbox or Google Drive) where your students can submit their work. You can then load these files directly into your annotation tool and provide feedback, comments and grades all in the single file. Not only does this keep everything neat and tidy, it will also save your students printing and submitting their work manually.

4. Peer review

If you have a 1:1 class or a number of devices available to your students, try flipping the grading process and have your students review each others work. This is an excellent way for them to work on their own critical thinking skills, as well as being a more enjoyable and meaningful process to develop their digital literacy skills.

5. Beyond the grades and review

If you find yourself preferring the convenience and composition of digital annotation, try adapting it to other parts of your digital life. Use the tools to highlight and comment resources and worksheets for your students. Draw attention to certain elements and areas of interest in slides. With the ability to read, mark up, and share PDF, DOC, PPT and image files, there is plenty of opportunities to expand.


Links and Next Steps


Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Janitors.

One Comment

  1. You can get all these facilities on Classmint provides online platform for image annotation , text annotation and audio annotation . You can also export online notes into doc,pdf,ppt,txt,odf,rtf,ppt format. We are trying to make paperless classroom. And all these services are freemium. I recommend to checkout

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