Do – September 2016 is an open, online annotation tool that allows you to take and share notes on digital content.

Hypothesis Intro

Annotations can be public or private, critical or collaborative, formative or summative. It can be a great tool for sharing your own metacognitive reading processes or supporting close reading by students.


Loren Horn Griffin, from the University of Oklahoma, has detailed several possible uses in the college classroom. Moreover, as an open, non-profit, collaborative effort,’ mission fits in nicely with that of a university classroom.

To get started:

Further reading

  • John Stewart takes one step further by creating a custom activity tracker.


Google+, Google’s social network, offers an intriguing space for classroom interactions of a different character than those situated in Sakai. Designed for social networking, Google+ provides an ease of communication and potential for engagement similar to other social platforms (i.e. Facebook & Twitter), but with a relatively clean slate. Since few students are active participants on Google+ (as opposed to, say, Facebook), it can be easier to establish a course-appropriate tone for interactions in here. Moreover, student profiles are connected to their WFU email and username, easing the setup of a private group for your class.

Google +

While we wouldn’t recommend Google+ for all of your course-related discussions, there are a few instances where we think it excels.

  • Less Formal & More Frequent Sometimes instructors want 250-300 word posts from students with an academic tone and source citations. Google+ is NOT the place for those. Rather, it’s a good place designed to generate less formal discussion. Include a poll about students’ favorite text in a given week. Ask students to post their favorite quote, and +1 the other one’s that they also like. The dynamic back and forth of the classroom is sometimes easier to generate online with shorter, less formal discussions.
  • Media-Driven Topics Teaching a course on Sociology and Film? Google+ is designed to easily integrate the of sharing videos, images, and links. Students can easily reference clips, stills, and articles in the context of your discussion…in a way that everyone else in the group knows exactly which scene they’re talking about. This visual element adds something that is difficult to produce in a traditional classroom.Gears Green
  • Learning Beyond the Classroom One of the best features of Google+ is its mobile app (for both iOS and Android). A business professor at WFU designed a brand recognition assignment for his marketing class in which students would photograph examples of specific marketing strategies that they identified in the supermarket. With the Google+ app, students could easily snap the photo, add their justification, and search their classmates’ examples, all while standing in Aisle Nine.
  • Flipped Classroom Its not uncommon to hear of a faculty members who have created a series of short instructional videos in an effort to flip their classes. If you’re thinking of doing the same, a Google+ community offers an interesting opportunity to post and organize your videos. Students can add questions and comments in response to each video, and access them just as easily on a laptop as with their mobiles.

A few things to keep in mind if you think you might want to use Google+ in your course:

  1. Have students set up their Google+ profiles and join the community early. While profiles are linked to their WFU emails, they still need to complete parts of their Google+ profiles to receive community invites. It’s also a good time to encourage them to confirm their privacy settings. Give the class one to three weeks to join and settle in.
  2. Initiate participation with a low bar of entry. Communicating on a new platform or in a new context can be disorienting. Provide students one or more low-stakes opportunities to engage with each other early on (i.e. A poll question, an icebreaker post requiring comment, etc.). This helps to build familiarity with the platform and rapport with the class.
  3. Elicit feedback and remain flexible. Google+ as an extension of the classroom is probably new for both you and your students. Instructors rarely get everything exactly right the first time. Plan accordingly and hold firm to your primary goals, but don’t refuse to change tactics if there’s reason to think it might improve interactions.

Getting Started

Category: Newsletter