Hypothes.is – a digital annotation tool for collaborative and active reading


To define annotation it is when you add notes, comments or opinions about a piece of writing,  or a drawing, photo, or diagram. Often these are critical explanations to add extra insight about something. These explanations can be necessary to understanding writings in which the language might be difficult to make sense of without clarification.

The term reminds of my time at school whilst taking English Literature and trying to make sense of Shakespeare in particular. The study guides which provided annotated notes were invaluable!

Hypothos.is is an online tool that enables users to digitally annotate the open web and save these notes. This can be an individual or social learning activity where users can annotate in either public or private groups.


To get started, you will need to register an account. Then see the resources at the bottom of this post. These explain how to use Hypothis.is in more detail, including how to create the Chrome extension you need to use this tool.

Essentially Hypothis.is provides the user with a text box in which you can add notes. The tool bar allows users to bold or italicise text and to add “pull quotes”. These can also be hyperlinked to the source. The notes made can be structured in numbered or bullet points. To supplement the text images can be added.

Another feature is being able to add tags. This enables you to add keywords to highlight thematic elements. As a shared class or group collection of annotations you can add an agreed ‘hashtag’.

Below you can see an example of the text box to be used for capturing the annotations. On the left is the paper open on my screen – Engagement or Distraction: The use of Social Media for Learning in Higher Education. On the right is the annotation space which pops up when you click on the Hypothes.is chrome extension at the top of your screen.

using hypothisis

If you click on the share icon you can easily share a link with others to collaborate on the annotations.  The options allow you to simply grab the link or share via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or email. There is also a drop down menu next to Public where you can choose to share with a specific group (which you can easily create).

Share options

Uses in the classroom

Hypothesis can used in an education context to collaboratively annotate course readings and other internet resources.  Below is a list created by Hypothes.is providing ten suggestions on how the tools could be used in the classroom:

  1. Teacher Annotations
    Pre-populate a text with questions fro students to reply to in annotations or notes elucidating important points as they read.
  2. Annotation as Gloss
    Have students look up difficult words or unknown words or unknown allusions in a text and share their research as annotations.
  3. Annotations as Question
    Have students highlight, tag and annotate words or passages that are confusing to them in their readings.
  4. Annotation as Close Reading
    Have students identify formal textual elements and broader social and historical contexts at work in specific passages.
  5. Annotation as Rhetorical Analysis
    Have students mark and explain the use of rhetorical strategies in online articles or essays.
  6. Annotation as Opinion
    Have students share their personal opinions on a controversial topic as discussed by an article.
  7. Annotation as Multimedia Writing
    Have students annotate with images or integrate images and video into other types of annotations.
  8. Annotations as Independent Study
    Have students explore the Internet on thier own with some limited direction (find an article from a respectable source on a topic important to you personally), exercising literacy skills (define difficult words, identify persuasive strategies etc.)
  9. Annotation as Annotated Bibliography
    Have students research a topic and tag and annotate relevant texts across the Internet.
  10. Annotations as Creative Act
    Have students respond creatively to their reading with their own poetry, prose or visual art as annotations.

You can read the full article here.

Help Guides

Quick support guide: https://hypothes.is/quick-start-guide/

Hypothesis for educators: https://hypothes.is/education/

About Sue Beckingham

A National Teaching Fellow, Educational Developer and Principal Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
This entry was posted in Social Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Hypothes.is – a digital annotation tool for collaborative and active reading

  1. Pingback: OTR Links 02/06/2017 | doug --- off the record

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s