Update on VideoANT: A free video annotation tool

videoant update

One of my favourite video tools to use with my students is VideoANT, a free video annotation tool. I have written about it before, but just the other day they updated the interface and made a few other changes. I thought it would be good to do a new review of VideoANT and how it could be used in the classroom.

Registration

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While VideoANT does require registration using either your Facebook or Google account, you can also use the Guest Account option by simply providing an email address. The difference between a full and guest account is the ‘Ant Farm’, a single page that keeps track of all of your projects. A full account gives you access to your Ant Farm, but a guest account only sends an email of a link to your project. To be honest, this isn’t a big deal since I usually keep track of my projects on my own. I encourage my students to use a fake email address, as long as it has an @ symbol and a domain extension (ex. .com). This becomes their ‘username’ for annotations as well.

Another change to registration is the removal of the Twitter account option. Supposedly this has to do with email access by VideoANT.

Adding a Video

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This has been simplified and has removed the option to add your own name to the video. It simply uses the name provided by YouTube or the filename of your hosted video. I have used videos hosted on my own server before, but for most people, the YouTube option is what will be used. Simply add the URL of the video and click on ‘Load’.

The Video Player

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Once you have added a video, the player window will open. You will find the title at the top of the page and the controller at the bottom of the page. This is a noticeable change from the previous player which had the player along the top of the screen. There is also a change in the button to add annotations. Once the video is playing, simply click on the button just to the right of the time display that looks like a chat symbol with a video in the middle. This will automatically pause the video and you will be able to add an annotation.

You also have the option of turning on the closed captioning of the video, something that wasn’t there before. Simply click on the CC button to toggle the captions on or off.

The Annotation and Comment Tools

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Once you click on the annotation button, a box appears beside the video where you can add some text. Simply put a title in the Subject box and your longer comment in the Content box before clicking on ‘Save’. This really hasn’t changed much from the previous version.

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Once you have added your annotation, the video will start up again and the annotation will appear with the content to right of the video. If you would like to skip to the section of the video where the annotation was added, simply click on the grey time button on the right side (ex. the 0:03 button on the image above). If you would like to add a comment to that annotation, your can click on the ‘Respond’ button on the bottom of the box.

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Once you have clicked on the ‘Respond’ button, a comment box will appear. Simple add your comment and click on ‘Save Response’. Your message will now appear below the original annotation.

Usage

I have used VideoANT for a number of things. Here are some ideas to get your started:

  • Bookmarking sections of the video: I mark the start of the section I would like my students to watch and add the questions in the ‘Content’ section of the annotation. Students then click on the time marker and watch that part of the video. They can then add their responses/answers by clicking on the ‘Respond’ button.
  • Video slideshows: Students make a screencast of their slide presentation and then share it with other students who can then comment on things. I encourage students to add ‘audience participation’ questions to their presentation so students can add comments using the annotation tool.
  • Mini lessons: I make a short video lesson and then post it for students to watch and add questions and even writing practice in the annotation.
  • Group projects: Students in groups watch the video separately, adding their comments so they can then come together in class to discuss their findings.
  • Transcripts: Some videos on YouTube have transcripts, but many don’t. You can add your own transcripts this way by adding your annotation before the text in the video.

I am sure you could find some other uses based on these ideas, so feel free to share them below.

Awwapp: A registration-free collaborative whiteboard

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One of the best, free online collaborative whiteboards that doesn’t need registration has always been Awwapp, but that site has added some new features making it even better. This site works on basically every device making it perfect for the classroom. Here is how it works:

  • Go to Awwapp and click on ‘Start Drawing’.

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  • Click-and-drag anywhere on the screen to draw.

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  • To change colour, click on the top-left button and click on the new colour.

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  • To change pen thickness, click on the button with a dot on it and choose a new thickness.

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  • To erase anything, click on the third-button and click on the eraser icon (second option). Click-and-drag anywhere on the screen to erase.

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  • To add text, click on the third-button and click on the ‘A’ icon (third option). Click anywhere on the screen and a text box appears at the bottom of the screen. Type in your message and then hit enter.
  • To add an image to the board, click on the third-button and click on the image icon (fourth option).
    • Choose an image from your computer.
    • Resize the image by clicking-and-dragging any of the double-arrow buttons.
    • Rotate the image by clicking-and-dragging any round rotate-arrow buttons.
    • Once you are done, click on the checkmark button to add the image or click on the red X button to delete it.

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  • To undo anything you have just done, click on the third-button and click on the circle-arrow button (fifth option). You can click on this button as many times as necessary.
  • To delete everything and start fresh, click on the third-button and click on the trashcan button (sixth option).
  • To create a paid account or log in, click on the fourth button from the top and click on ‘Create new account’. An account isn’t needed to create a shareable online whiteboard, but there are options for voice chat, saved boards, and view-only guests for a price.

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  • To invite others to draw together, click on the bottom button and click on ‘Invite to board’. Copy the URL and click on close. Share the URL with anyone you would like to draw together with. Be careful, anyone with the link can enter.

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  • To save your board as an image, click on the bottom button an then click on ‘Download image’. A PNG image will be saved to your computer.
  • To share the image online at a certain stage, click on the bottom button and then ‘Share image’. A new window will open. Copy the URL and share with anyone. Any changes after that point will not show up. You will need to create a new URL for any new changes.

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  • To chat with online users, click on the bottom button and then ‘Show chat’. A chat box will appear in the bottom-right corner. Anyone can type in a message and hit the enter key to send the text.

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Annotate and share a document online with Crocodoc Personal

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.06.24 PMHaving a place to share and annotate documents online with students can be very handy. Instead of swapping documents, such as Word documents and PDFs, anyone can upload these files to Crocodoc Personal for free without registering and without having to deal with ads. Once uploaded, people can highlight, comment, add texts, and draw on the document and others can add their thoughts as well. Here is how it works:

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  • Once uploaded, you can add three different types of comments: point, area, or text.

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  • Point comments add a red mark on the document where you would like to add your comment and links to a comment area on the side where you can add text.

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  • Area comments allow users to drag a box around an area which links to a comment area on the side where you can add text.

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  • Text comments allow users to highlight text which links to a comment area on the side where you can add text.

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  • Users can also draw on the text in four different colours.

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  • Users can also add text comments directly onto the document using the ‘Text’ tool.

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  • Choose the highlight tool to highlight sections of the text without adding comments.

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  • Use the ‘Strikeout’ tool to draw a line through whatever you select and it also gives you a box to add text comments directly above the deleted text.

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  • To share the document with others, click on the ‘Share’ button and copy the ‘Link’ URL. If you want others to comment, make sure the ‘Allow others to add comments to this document’ button is checked, otherwise, uncheck to allow for reading only. Click on the ‘Embed’ tab to copy the embed code to add to your website.

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  • You can also download the original document or the marked-up PDF by clicking on the ‘Download’ button.

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  • An easy way of getting through all of the comments and highlights is to open up the comments pane. Click on the double-arrow button right beside the ‘Download’ button. You can then click on a comment to go directly to that section. You can also use this as a bookmark functions to make it easier to manage a larger document.

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I’ve also created a printable guide on commenting that can be given to students or teachers. Feel free to print, distribute, or edit as long as you keep the credit along the bottom.

 

Video in ELT: Moving from Passive to Active Part 4 – Annotating (Social Asynchronous Webinar)

Welcome to part 4 of the Social Asynchronous Webinar (SAW) “Video in ELT: Moving from Passive to Active”. You can find all of the posts on this webinar here (from newest to oldest).

In this section, we are discussing the use of videoANT to annotate videos. Watch the video and feel free to add your comments to the video as well.

SAW part 4

Here are links to some of the things I talked about in the video:

I look forward to hearing from each of you as we wind down this first SAW.

Thank you!

 

Creating a social asynchronous webinar

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Image courtesy of Mark Sebastian

By now, most people have likely at least heard of the term webinar if not taken part in one. I have had the privilege to have given one and also to have taken part in some. For those who maybe have only have heard of the term before but aren’t sure what they are about, here is a quick overview. A webinar is a short seminar hosted live on the internet where people can watch it streaming anywhere in the world if there is at least half-decent internet access. Also, participants can usually ask questions and participate in polls through the text chat functions. Some webinars even allow for live audio and video based questions, but only when there is a moderator in place that can help things run smoothly. Here is my chart comparing face-to-face seminars to webinars:

Face-to-face

 

Webinar

 

Advantage

 

Location

One location Anywhere with internet access Webinar – Saves time and money not having to travel

Time

One time zone Multiple time zones Face-to-face – Easier to schedule for one time zone.

Speaker

Local or must travel Can be anywhere Webinar – Greater access to a selection of speakers

Audience

Local or must travel Can be anywhere Webinar – Broader audience

Costs

Room and speaker costs Internet access and speaker costs Webinar – Location fees can drive up the price

Participation

Ask questions on the spot and discuss afterward Can send text and sometimes audio questions and discussion during
and after
Face-to-face – Both can make use of technology to engage the audience during and after the seminar, but talking to someone in person can be a slight advantage

Adaptability

Pretty much set as far as structure goes Somewhat more flexible on changing the structure Webinar – Even though both can make changes ‘on the fly’ to meet the needs of those participating, neither are that flexible

Reviewing

Can be recorded and posted for comments and discussion Can be recorded and posted for comments and discussion Webinar – No major difference other than the questions are usually typed up and displayed on the screen during the recording making it easier to see them in the video afterward

Planning

Needs to be planned well in advance Can be set up on a very quickly Webinar – Clear winner here.

Sound

Depends on where you sit in the room Depends on your computer setup Webinar – While technology can be finicky at times, the option of making it as loud or as quiet as you want makes this the clear winner.

For the most part, webinars win out in regards to the advantages, but upon reviewing the chart, you can see there are still some things that could be improved. For me, the biggest disadvantage to both webinars and seminars is the schedule. For both of these, if you want to be a participant in the session, you need to be there when the session is happening. That is fine if you have the time, but I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to take part in a webinar or seminar, but I had a class or meeting or something else on that made it impossible to participate. Yes, I can also watch the seminar later on, but it isn’t the same as being there. There is a reason we like to be at a seminar when it happens. While not exactly the same, it is similar to a live drama production. People attend live productions in the theatre not for the precision of the execution since that is more possible through the ability to retake a scene as in filming, but the value is in being a part of the production and the energy the comes from those in attendance and the actors on stage. This is the same for the live seminar or webinar.

Once you take all of those advantages, disadvantages, and ideas and put them into a pot, what comes out? That is what I’ve been thinking about for some time now and here is what I have come up with. It is still a work in progress and is open to suggestions and changes, so feel free to chime in.

I want to do an asynchronous webinar that adapts to the what the audience needs and possibly even includes the audience as part of the webinar. To make this happen, it will require the use of various pieces of the technology puzzle.

The first piece is something to host the video and allow for in-video comments and discussion. This would make use of short recorded pieces spread out over a period of time to allow others to watch when they can (the asynchronous part). For this, I have chosen VideoANT from the University of Minnesota. It takes hosted video and wraps it with a tool where anyone can pause the video at any section and add a comment which shows up as a list beside the video. Click on those comments and the video starts playing where the comment was added. People can even reply to those comments to add to the discussion. This is a free tool that requires minimal registration to view and comment, although even the registration has a workaround to avoid giving away personal information. More on that later.

The next piece of the puzzle is the video host. For this, I am going to use YouTube to host my video since VideoANT works best with that. It would be possible to have others share their videos through other means, but for now, simplicity rules here.

The last piece of the puzzle is a discussion board and host for all things related to the webinar. It should be a place anyone could add to without needing to register. For this, I ended up going with a WordPress blog since I can set the comments to anyone and this allows for people to share thoughts and ideas with nested comments. Also, it keep all of the material in one place. There may be better tools out there to do this, but for accessibility reasons, I think this will work.

Here is a video I recorded talking about this same thing, but showing how VideoANT could be used. Go to the link, enter in your email address, or a fake one if you like, and press play to watch the video. If you want to add a comment while watching, click on the ‘Add an Annotation’ and the video will pause and you can add a text comment.

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Watch and comment

Thanks for your time. I welcome all comments, suggestions, and criticisms.

Thinkport Annotator Tool: A simple annotation tool with multiple highlighters

Image courtesy of Philippa Willitts

Image courtesy of Philippa Willitts

There are a fair number of ways to annotate a document with software or online tools, but Thinkport’s Annotation Tool is a simple, online tool that allows for teachers and students to markup and annotate a text using a number of coloured markers. The best part is it is free and students don’t need to give their personal information to use it. Here is how it works:

  1. Go to http://annotator.thinkport.org.
  2. Choose either Teacher or Student .Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.47.44 PM
  3. Select either to Create a new project or Manage an existing project.
  4. If you create a new project, give your project a unique name and then type in a password for you to manage the project. If the name already exists, you will get an error and you will need to rename it.
  5. If you manage an existing project, you will be asked for the project name and password.
  6. Once you are successful in either creating or logging into a previous project, give your project a name, a subtitle (could be a simple one line instruction), the author of the text, and a citation. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.51.25 PM
  7. Type in or paste your text into the Text to Annotate box at the bottom of the page. There are some font, text, and pasting options in the toolbar at the top of the box. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.51.47 PM
  8. There are a series of highlighters along the left side of the page. Label the colours to match what you would like the students to use that colour for. Only the colours you label will be available for the students when they log in. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.51.36 PM
  9. At the top of the page, there is a Project Instructions button. You can use that to enter instructions for the students.
  10. Once you are done editing, click on the Save button. You can also choose to Save and Send Email, but I wouldn’t suggest it.
  11. Once you are ready to have students annotate the text, give them the main page link along with the project name.
  • Students who visit the main page, click on the Student button and then select Begin your assigned project. They can then enter the project name you have given them and create a new username and password for themselves. This can be used to log back in to edit the project at a later time.  Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 3.01.25 PM
  • To highlight a word, students choose a colour and then just click on the word. You can’t click and drag lick other programs. If you want to highlight multiple words, you click on the first word and then click on the last word. Everything in-between will be highlighted in that colour.
  • Once you highlight something, a box will come up and give you a chance to label your annotation with text. Student can either just save the project to edit later, or can save and submit to the teacher for review.
  • The teacher can then log in and click on Student Submissions to review them and add comments. If you do add comments for the students, make sure to click on Save Comments before leaving the page. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 3.12.09 PM

While this isn’t the most comprehensive of the annotation tools I have used, it provides a safe place for students to use without having to give any personal information away (ex. email address). I also like the labels for the various colours. It’s also quite simple for students and teachers to use.

You can also find hundreds more webtools that don’t require student registration on my list here.

Let me know what you think and share your ideas for how you might use it in the classroom by adding your comments below. Thank you!

PDFZen: Upload, annotate, and share documents online without registration

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There are a number of places to upload and share PDF, Word, and other documents online. A new site that I came upon today uses HTML5 instead of Flash making it more mobile friendly. PDFZen allows users to upload documents and then comment, add text, highlight, and draw on them and then share it with others who can do the same. All of this is done for free and without registration. Here is how it works:

Steps:

  1. Go to PDFZen and click on ‘Open File’.
  2. Drag a document from your computer on the screen or click on ‘Select a File’ and select a document from your computer.
  3. Once your document has loaded, you will see a series of tools along the top of the page. They include a type tool, a comment tool, and a drawing pencil. Click on any of the tools and add your annotations to the document. You can even resize the annotation and move it around afterward.
  4. Once you are done making your annotations, click on the ‘Download’ button in the top-right corner to download to your computer. If you don’t sign in. If you create a free account, you can store your document on their server. You can share the URL with others.

I tried this out on a number of browsers and devices and had luck with most of them. There were a few small problems (such as the Uploading indicator), but it was pretty slick with my iPad, Mac, and even Windows 8 (not all browsers, though). I am not sure if there is a file limitation since I haven’t tried to upload anything really large as of yet, but it worked with everything I threw at it and the rendition of the viewer in the browser was excellent.

This is a great way for students to share documents with one another and it enables them provide peer feedback as well as collaborate on projects. Since it is mobile friendly, students can read and make annotations and comments wherever they are and on the devices that they are most comfortable using. I can see this being used for self-access learning materials where students can interact with the material instead of just using receptive skills.

What about you? How would you use this in your classroom. I always appreciate comments and suggestions. You can add your comments here or you can send me a Tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!