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
  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!


Recording directly to YouTube with your webcam

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 4.45.00 PM

This week, I have two students who have to miss class due to important meetings outside of the city. As a result, I am posting short summary videos on Edmodo for them along with the relevant material they may need to work on their own. I don’t want to spend a great deal of time recording, editing, and uploading my summaries since they are fairly short and informal, so I am using the My Webcam function of YouTube to record directly to YouTube without all of those other steps. Most people I have talked to don’t seem to know that it exists, so that prompted this short post. Here is how it works:

  1. Go to the My Webcam page of YouTube and log in if need be.
  2. The first time you go to this page, you will see an Adobe Flash message asking for access to your webcam and microphone. Click on ‘Allow’ and ‘Remember’ before click on ‘Close’. You won’t need to do this again.
  3. You will see a black box showing what your webcam sees. Click on the ‘Start recording’ button and it will start recording immediately.
  4. Along the side of the video, you will see a green bar moving up and down. This is your level indicator for the sound. Make sure it isn’t going too high or too low.
  5. Click ‘Stop recording’ when you are done. You can play back the recording by clicking on the play button. If you are happy, click on the ‘Upload’ button. If you want to do it again, click on ‘Start over’.
  6. Once you have click on the ‘Upload’ button, you will be taken to the info and settings page. Change the title name, add a description and tags, change the privacy setting to what is appropriate (I usually use ‘Unlisted’ since this takes it out of the search, but gives access to anyone I give the link to), choose a category, and click on ‘Save changes’.
  7. Depending on the length of the video, it should be ready fairly quickly. To access it, click on your ‘Video Manager’ link on the left side of the page. You should see the video listed at the top. Click on the video to view it and to get the ‘Share’ url.
There are plenty of uses for this in the classroom. I have had students record themselves for pronunciation practice or giving a mini-presentation. I can record mini lectures for self-access and so on.
I hope it was helpful.

Simply create a beautiful webpage with Tackk

ImageThere are various ways to put content on the internet including blogs, websites, and online documents. These are all great in their own way, but what if you just want to quickly create a single page that looks nice and is simple to make. One way to do that is with Tackk, a user-friendly, cloud-based webpage editor. Tackk even works on mobile devices. Here are some of the highlights on using Tackk in the classroom:



  • Registration isn’t required to build a Tackk page, but an unregistered page is only available for 7 days.
  • Registration is free and requires either an email and password. You may also connect through your Twitter or Facebook account. Note: I was able to create an account with a fake email address making this available for students who do not want to give their personal information away.
  • An account allows you to create multiple Tackk pages and keep track of them on a ‘My Tackks’ page.
  • A unique page address is created upon arriving at the site. This cannot be changed, but can be freely shared with others.
  • To create a unique URL, you need to register first.
  • There is a share toolbar at the bottom of each Tackk. This allows users to Like, share via many social media sites, email, print, or embed.
  • This is a place for people to browse through the shared Tackks. You do not need to share your Tackk on the Tackkboard. It is also set to not be posted by default.
  • While I haven’t found any Tackks that questionable in content or nature, it is possible that one might appear before being taken down by the administrators.
  • There are a few Tackk templates that can be found by clicking on the Themes tab on the lefthand side of the page.
  • All edits are automatically saved.
Adding content:
  • To add any content to the page, hover your mouse over any content area and a blue plus put-on will appear on the left. Click on that button and a content selector will appear above that area. Choose the content you would like to add and the editor for that section will appear.
Moving content:
  • Hover your mouse over any content area and two arrows will appear to the left along with a blue plus sing. To change the position of the box on the page, click on the two arrows.
  • There are three ways to add text to a Tackk page: as a headline, as body text, or as a bulleted or numbered list.
  • Click anywhere in the text to start editing. Beside the text will be a context-sensitive editing box that appears with buttons to change the content style. This includes colours, fonts, font size, alignment, links, bullets, and bold or italics. Click on the button multiple times to rotate through the options and the changes will happen on your page.
  • Tackk allows you to add pictures, videos and audio hosted on some cloud-based sites, and Instagram photos.
  • You can also add a rounded or square button to the page that will link to any other site.
  • There are 5 areas under the Editor palette:

1: Colors – Changes the background and font colours.
2: Fonts – Choose from 20 unique fonts.
3: Backgrounds: Choose from 20 different backgrounds.
4: Features – There are 5 different components you can add to your Tackk page:

  • 1: Corners – Toggles the corners of the centre page between square and rounded.
  • 2: Contact – Requires registration. Allows users to create a simple contact section to the page.
  • 3: Money – Requires registration. Allows users to sell things or take donations through PayPal.
  • 4: Maps – Add a Google Map to your page set to a specific location.
  • 5: Comments – Allows users to take comments via the reader’s Facebook account.

5: Tags – Here you can set your Tackk to be shared on the Tackkboard and add tags to make it easier for people to search for it.

  • You can move the Editor by clicking on the top of the Editor palette and dragging it to where you would like. You can close it by clicking on the X in the top-right corner.
  • You can comment on any Tackk page use your Facebook account. This comment can also be shared on your Facebook page. There does not appear to be any other ways to comment without using your Facebook ID.
  • Students can share one account, but only one can be logged in at a time.
  • If students use a fake email address, the contact page won’t work since it is based on the profile email.
  • This works on iPads and tablets, but there are some problems with screen keyboards taking over part of the screen and the buttons have to be hit twice sometimes.
  • The map can only have one marker on it. It would be great it you could add more than one.
Classroom application:
  • Use it as the ‘showcase’ portion of a student’s e-portfolio.
  • Create mini-lessons for students.
  • Create a biography page for a historical or significant individual.
  • Students create a ‘how-to’ document such as how to make or do something.
  • Invitations for graduation or any other significant event.
  • Business English classes can create a business webpage selling an idea. Could be combined with a presentation.
  • Students create an individual page to introduce themselves to the others in the class.
  • Groups could use it to research an idea by sharing a page.
  • A reading text could be combined with audio and pictures to make it more understandable (scaffolding).
  • Videos could be combined with pictures and words to make a pronunciation exercise.
  • Have a class weblinks page.
  • Create a visual dictionary of new words.
  • Online self-access library using links to videos, audio recordings, readings, etc.

I created a sample Tackk using the content of this blog post here:

Do you have any other ideas? Add you comments below or send me a Tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

VideoANT: Online video annotation and commenting

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 5.39.08 PM

About a year ago, I stumbled upon VideoANT and was interested in its use in the language classroom. VideoANT is a University of Minnesota project that allows users to annotate videos with long comments and can share those annotations with other people. At the time, I struggled to get it to work correctly and was turned off by the heavy use of Flash. Today, that all changed. I just received an email from VideoANT stating that they have changed their platform and tool completely on the back of HTML5 making it mobile and multi-platform friendly. I have just finished playing with it and I am excited to put it into use in my classroom. Here is how it works:


  1. Go to VideoANT and click on ‘Launch VideoANT’ (you could also link directly to the secondary site, but the main site gives you an overview of the tool and what it can do).
  2. You can start immediately by pasting in a YouTube URL without registering and clicking on ‘Load Video’, but if you would like to archive your projects, it is recommended that you register. You can use your Facebook or Twitter account along with an email address.
  3. You can change the title of the video if you want, otherwise, click on ‘Start Annotating!’
  4. Your video will appear in a window on the left with a timeline along the top and an ‘Add an Annotation’ button on the bottom. To begin, press play beside the timeline or on the video.
  5. When you get to a point where you would like to make an annotation, click on the ‘Add an Annotation’ button and the video will pause with a ‘New Annotation’ box appearing on the right. Type in the subject or title of this annotation, add a annotation, and then click on ‘Save Annotation’ to create that annotation at that time marker or click on ‘Cancel’ to leave.
  6. The video will start up again from where it paused. Continue to add annotations and they will continue to appear on the right-hand side. To skip ahead in the video, click anywhere on the timeline to move the video forward or back.
  7. You may edit or delete any annotation by clicking on the dropdown arrow on the right of the comment.
  8. You can move to the spot of the video where the annotation belongs by click on the annotation itself. The video will automatically move to that spot.
  9. To share your video with the annotations, just copy the URL from the top of the browser and share it with the people you wish to join into the conversation. Anyone who has the link can watch, annotate, and comment on previously made annotations.

Here is a screencast on how to use VideoANT:

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 6.03.57 PM

Note, you do not need to enter an email address or register to annotate or comment. Anyone with the link can simply go to the page and start editing it. Be careful with whom you share this URL. Don’t post it on a public forum or social media page if you want to keep others from seeing or making comments.

This is a wonderful tool for students to view and make comments on YouTube videos without registering. Teachers can have students view videos and add their thoughts. Students can share videos with their classmates on a project. Teachers can make a mini lesson out of it by providing more information alongside the video. The videos with comments can even be embedded in websites or places like Edmodo.

As a language teacher and teacher trainer, I can see a lot of uses for this. What do you have to add? Share your thoughts in the comment section or send me a Tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you for visiting!

Using archived TV news broadcasts in the English language classroom

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 11.57.05 PM

I was visiting the Internet Archive the other day for my class and came across the TV News archive. This is a searchable database of over 437,000 TV news broadcast video transcripts and the corresponding videos with them. I think this has a number of uses in English language learning. Here is how it works:


  1. Go to the TV News Archive of the Internet Archive website.
  2. Type in a word or phrase search in the search box labelled ‘Search captions through 24 hours ago’ and click on ‘Search’.
  3. A series of videos with their transcripts will appear along the bottom of the screen. The first video will start immediately, so you may need to click on the pause button. All the videos will start a little before the word or phrase that you have searched for and will continue to play for a total of approximately 30 seconds.
  4. After the video has finished playing, it will automatically move on to the next video or until you pause it. If you would like to see a larger version of the video, click on ‘More/Borrow’ at the top of the small video. This will give you a larger version of the video along with a ‘Share’ button to get the video’s URL. Close the large video mode by clicking on the red X in the top-right corner of the video. Use the back arrows of you browser to go back to the search results.
  5. In the search results area, you can scroll right and left to see more videos and transcripts.
Here are some ideas on how this could be used with English language learners:
  1. Students could search for word collocations such as searching for ‘take’ and seeing and hearing the words that normally go together with it. This would take the role of a corpus.
  2. Have students search for a video on a particular word to see if they can figure out what it means in context.
  3. Since the video is fairly short and starts in the middle of a conversation, see if they can guess what happened before this section of the video or what is coming up next. This could be followed up with a research project on the topic mentioned.
  4. Students can listen to the pronunciation of a word along with the possible intonation or rhythmic usage in different contexts.

These are just a few ideas that come to mind. If you have any ideas that you would like to contribute, please share them in the comment section below or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

Draft: A fantastic collaborative text editing tool


An important tool in teaching writing is the ability to give and receive feedback from fellow students and the instructor. There are a number of tools, both offline and on the cloud, that allow someone to do that including Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Open Office, Google Drive, Zoho Writer, TitanPad, and so on. Many of these tools are far more complicated or difficult for this task. This is where Draft comes in. Draft is an online collaborative writing tool that is clean and easy to use and integrates with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Evernote. It is also free and has a simple registration that can be overcome quite easily. Instead of typing out all of the features and steps on how to use it, I did a simple screencast to demonstrate:


Please feel free to add your comments or send me a Tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

How to schedule appointments online for free with Doodle


Doodle is a great registration-free event planner and scheduler that can be a handy tool for teachers. It can be used to find the best time to do something or to schedule appointments for one-to-one conferences or online instruction. Here is how it works:


  1. Go to and click on ‘Schedule an event’.
  2. Type in your title, location (optional), description (optional), name, and email address. If you don’t want to give your real email address, put in a fake email address, but be aware that you may not be able to see the results (depending on the options you choose). Click on ‘Next’ when you are done.
  3. Choose the days you would like to schedule. Click on ‘Next’ when you are done.
  4. Enter in the times you are available for each day. You can add more time options by clicking on ‘Add further time slots’. You can also copy the information from the first row by clicking on ‘Copy and Paste First Row’. Click on ‘Next’ when you are done.
  5. If you only want to create a poll on which time everyone is available, just click on ‘Next’. If you want to schedule appointments, click on ‘Settings’ and then click on ‘Participants can only click on one option’ and also ‘Limit the number of participants per option’ and set the number to 1. You can also choose to hide the names and results to the participants by clicking on ‘Hidden Poll’. Once you are done, click on ‘Next’.
  6. Click on ‘Finish’ to get the addresses. You now have access to the ‘Participation Link’ and the ‘Administration Link’. If you used a real email address, you would also get these in an email along with emails from the participants when you make their choices. If you didn’t give your email, make sure you keep these addresses since this is the only way to get access to the poll.

Here is a video on how to use Doodle as a scheduler:

Please feel free to add your comments or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!