1.3. Social annotation and collaborative learning
With a social annotation tool, learners can make text-based annotations on a webpage or a document by highlighting a specific portion of the text and adding a comment. The annotations can be either private or shared with a group. Members within the group are able to see and respond to each other's shared annotations. Social annotation tools, therefore, make it possible for users to discuss and learn a piece of text collaboratively without time and space constraints. Recently, researchers have showed an increasing interest in studying social annotation tools. Various collaborative social annotation tools have been developed (Chen et al., 2012; Desmontils et al., 2004 ; Fu et al., 2005), and a number of studies have been conducted to understand the usability of social annotation tools as well as their effects on users' motivation, learning and social ability (Nokelainen et al., 2005).
A few researchers are interested in understanding the nature and characteristics of conversation afforded by social annotation tools. For example, when comparing the discussion using a social annotation tool — WebAnn with that in Epost, a typical discussion board system, Brush and colleagues (2002) found that there was more discussion in WebAnn, and students perceived the discussion in WebAnn more focused and more thoughtful. Davis and Huttenlocher's (1995) study suggested conversations supported by the social annotation tool called CoNote was much richer as compared to those in a newsgroup, bulletin board or email distribution list. Consistently with these findings, van der Pol, Admiraal, and Simons's (2006) study concluded that discussion supported by the social annotation tool referred more frequently to the text, and was more focused and communicatively efficient than discussion in the threaded discussion forum.
Some researchers have investigated how the use of social annotations tools affects student learning. Wolfe (2008) suggested that annotations stimulated readers to think through the issues and reflect thoroughly on their own positions, especially when readers encountered both positive and negative comments on the same segment of text. Hwang, Wang, and Sharples (2007) conducted a series of quasi-experiments comparing student learning achievements in different learning activities with or without the social annotation tool — VPen and concluded that students learned significantly better with the support of VPen. Similarly, studies conducted by other researchers (Johnson et al., 2010 ; Su et al., 2010) revealed that the students who were engaged with the text collaboratively using social annotation tools had a greater improvement in their reading comprehension than those who worked independently on the text with annotation tools.
Overall, participants across the studies reported a positive attitude toward social annotation (Samuel, Kim, & Johnson, 2011). In Hwang et al. (2007) study, for example, when learners' perceived satisfaction with the annotation system was measured, researchers found that the annotation system increased learners' interest and achievements in learning and improved learner–content interaction. Similarly, Mendenhall and Johnson's (2010) study showed that students had a positive experience in using the social annotation system, and the annotations were considered useful for peer critiques. Researchers also found links between the use of social annotation tools and users' motivation. In Nokelainen et al. (2005) study, the level of students' self-rated motivation had a positive effect on their performance in the social annotation activity and their final grades, suggesting that motivation played an important role in learning with social annotation tools. Razon and colleague's (2012) study also revealed that using social annotation tools could promote learners' motivation for reading.
Reference: Gao, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751612000802