Remi Kalir on Annotation

This year’s Summer Institute on Teaching features two keynote speakers: Dr. Susan Blum (Professor of Anthropology at Notre Dame and editor of Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning) and Dr. Remi Kalir (Assistant Professor of Learning Design and Technology at University of Colorado Denver) author of Annotation. In preparation for their talks and workshops, we reached out to them to learn more about their research and teaching.

Remi Kalir’s book Annotation was just released this month with MIT Press and we asked him to answer three questions about his work. Here’s what he told us!

(Faculty Commons) Much of your recent scholarship has focused on annotation, so much so that your new book is simply titled Annotation. How do you define it and what should educators know about?

(Remi) You annotate—when adjusting a cookbook recipe, or when grading a student’s paper, or when reviewing a manuscript. Annotation is the addition of a note to a text. You’re an annotator and a regular participant in a centuries-old, everyday literacy practice. As I argue in Annotation, your annotation of personal and professional texts, across both everyday and academic contexts, can provide useful information, share commentary, spark conversation, express power, and also aid student learning. For educators across disciplines, it’s important that we appreciate how annotation makes our students’ thinking visible, encourages their social reading, and serves as an invitation for connection and conversation. Our students’ comprehension of disciplinary concepts, their textual interpretation and analysis, and their shared meaning-making are all aided by annotation.

(Faculty Commons) How do you define social annotation and what does it mean for a university-based community of educators?

(Remi) Social annotation predates social media by centuries. From the Hebrew Talmud to book marginalia shared among friends in the Elizabethan era, annotation has long exhibited social qualities and has helped encourage social connections among curious people. Today, it is useful for us – as educators – to think about social annotation as associated with digital education. Social annotation describes the ways in which learners can mark up digital resources to share information, interact with one another, and produce new knowledge. This type of social annotation can occur wherever a group gathers and reads together online – as with a news article, or blog post, research article, open textbook, even a dataset. Social annotation turns online texts into discursive contexts. I’m eager to share with the University of Delaware community examples of social annotation from the natural sciences, journalism, the humanities, and the social sciences that can help inspire students’ deep disciplinary engagement and collaborative learning.

(Faculty Commons) You also have a strong interest in access and equity. How can annotation play a role in increasing access and equity in teaching?

(Remi) First, when discussing annotation and educational equity, it’s important to emphasize that annotation is all about power – who gets to write in a book, whose voice is placed into conversation with texts and peers, how knowledge can be contested by annotation, and how annotation can help write counter-narratives to dominant discourses. I look forward to discussing the critical qualities of annotation with SIT participants as there are many practical implications for us educators to consider when designing and facilitating our courses. And second, annotation can also encourage learners to read, discuss, and make sense of equity-oriented topics – especially if those topics present new viewpoints, or challenge beliefs, or require critical self-reflection. Since 2016, I’ve helped facilitate and research a project called the Marginal Syllabus that invites educators to read and annotate scholarship that is expressly concerned with educational equity and justice-directed learning. I also plan to share takeaways from this project with the University of Delaware community during my keynote presentation.

The Summer Institute on Teaching will take place June 2-3, 2021 virtually. Learn more and register here.

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