Social Annotation


Annotating texts is one of the oldest scholarly tools available.  Annotations are sidebar comments that help put text into context.  Good annotations add information and provide insight in a concise fashion.  They are also often excellent road maps toward further learning.  In recent years,  various digital tools have emerged to provide a online platform for social annotation, allowing multiple readers to annotate text together.  Genius (formerly RapGenius) was one of the pioneers of this process.  Diigo is another.  Most recently, there is a non-profit, open source competitor in this field called  The New York Times describes all three of these platforms here in this 2015 Learning Network post.


  • Pick one of these platforms and try to create an example of useful historical annotation.

Some models and ideas

See these two model annotations that use Genius and have been embedded at Lincoln’s Writings (a new House Divided Project website):

For your experiment, try to contribute some annotations to Chapter 4 of the Henry Adams classic memoir, The Education of Henry Adams (1907), which is now posted at Genius.  Adams was a pioneering nineteenth-century US historian who attended Harvard College in the 1850s. Just be aware that his recollection of his college days was often sardonic.  For example, he wrote about college, “The chief wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody concerned in it, teachers and taught.”  When offering your annotations, try to do more than just provide opinions.  Do some research and put that research to use in providing valuable context for other readers.