Annotation Studio: an open-source, collaborative multimedia online note-taking tool for humanities teaching and learning

workshop / tutorial
  1. 1. Kurt Fendt

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  2. 2. Jamie Folsom

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  3. 3. Rachel Schnepper

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  4. 4. Liam Andrew

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Work text
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Annotation Studio is a collaborative online annotation tool developed at Hyperstudio, Center for Digital Humanities at MIT, for teaching and learning in the humanities. It is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is one of several annotation tools that incorporate The Annotator from the Open Knowledge Foundation (, thereby benefiting from and participating in the highly collaborative community around that code library.

This is a half-day (3-hour) workshop for educators, administrators, librarians, developers and technologists interested in exploring what Annotation Studio has to offer. The content and format has been refined based on feedback from workshops delivered over several years. All participants will come away with an understanding of the tool and what it can do.

In addition, we aim to convey the adaptability of Annotation Studio and to illustrate how individuals and institutions can adopt it, integrate it into humanities teaching and learning, deploy it, extend it for specific use cases, and how to contribute back to the growing community of practitioners.

We’ll open with a walkthrough of the tool and its functionality, then quickly move to structured hands-on work, followed by focused discussions and a final Q&A and networking opportunity. In the hands-on session, all participants will take on the roles of readers, writers, and instructors. Through this exchange of roles, all will gain a comprehensive understanding of the functionality of the tool. Participants will then choose one of two breakout sessions--one on pedagogy and theory or one on development and deployment--to focus on their more particular areas of interest.

Pedagogy, curriculum, and theory. Participants in this session, led by Hyperstudio Director Kurt Fendt and Communications Officer Rachel Schnepper, will gain insights from instructors into how the tool has been used in humanities teaching, examples of assignments and ways to integrate the tool into the curriculum, and discuss possible new applications of annotation in their own field. Forms of assessment will be discussed as well.
In the development, deployment, and administration session, led by Hyperstudio Web Applications Developer Jamie Folsom and Research Assistant Liam Andrew, participants will look at how they can add features to the tool, deploy it on their own infrastructure, and contribute their feature changes back to the project for use by others. We will invite technologists attending the conference who have adopted Annotation Studio to share their experience in this session.
In both sessions, we will introduce an online support forum we are using to facilitate conversations across time and distance, and invite all participants to join that conversation.


Goals of the workshop
Tour of the tool
Resources including support forum and user manual

Read and annotate
Search and organize annotations
Compose and get feedback
Add and manage documents
Create groups and organize tasks
View and assess readers’ work
Break out sessions

Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Theory
Sample syllabi and assignments
Discussion of classroom integration
Use cases by participants
Development, Deployment, and Administration
Run an instance of the application
Customize the application
Contribute to the project

Discussion, feedback, support
Q&A / Brainstorm (discussion)
Networking (marketplace)
Target Audience
The target audiences for this workshop include: students, instructors, developers, and administrators in the humanities, in both formal and informal settings. In the past, this workshop has attracted between 30 and 40 participants from diverse fields and institutions. All participants should bring a laptop equipped with Wi-Fi with the latest Google Chrome, Safari, or Mozilla Firefox web browser installed prior to the workshop. The application does not work offline and does not work in Internet Explorer.

Core content
Annotation Studio is an easy-to-use platform for collaborative note taking and commenting with a special focus on education. This workshop provides an introduction to the application (30 minutes), and hands-on practice in different roles (60 minutes). Two breakout sessions will address topics of interest to specific audiences in more depth (60 minutes). The workshop wraps up with 30 minutes of question/answer, feedback, and networking.

Length and format
Part 1: Intro, (30 minutes)

Part 2: Hands-on (60 minutes)

Part 3: Breakouts (60 minutes)

Part 4: Debrief (30 minutes)

Workshop Organizers
Kurt Fendt, Executive Director, MIT Hyperstudio

Dr. Kurt Fendt is Principal Research Associate in Comparative Media Studies and Executive Director of HyperStudio – Digital Humanities at MIT. He teaches a range of upper-level German Studies courses in Foreign Languages and Literatures. Fendt has held Visiting Professorships at the University of Cologne, the Technical University of Aachen (both Germany), and the University of Klagenfurt, Austria; in 2001 he was Visiting Scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute in Sankt Augustin, Germany. He is co-Principal Investigator of Annotation Studio, an NEH-funded web application for multimedia annotation in humanities education. Since 2005, he has been organizing the MIT European Short Film Festival. Before coming to MIT in 1993, Fendt was Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bern in Switzerland, where he established the Media Learning Center for the Humanities and earned his Ph.D. in modern German literature with a thesis on hypertext and text theory in 1993 after having completed his MA at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany.

Jamie Folsom, Lead Web Applications Developer, MIT Hyperstudio

Jamie builds tools to support teaching and research in the humanities. He participates in all aspects of the lab's work, from consulting with faculty and collaborating with partners, to developing and deploying web apps and services, to presenting the lab’s work and training people on the use of its tools at conferences. He has extensive experience teaching with and about technology, managing technology projects, and building web sites and applications.

He is particularly interested in the technical challenges peculiar to Digital Humanities Centers: how to conceive, design and develop tools highly tailored to specific research and instructional goals, while remaining agile enough to serve a range of disciplines and fields.

He holds an AB in French from Vassar College and a Master's Degree in Technology in Education from Harvard University, and has been a teacher, a technology trainer and manager, and a web applications developer for 20 years. He is from Boston, Massachusetts.

Rachel Schnepper, Communications Officer, MIT Hyperstudio

As Communications Officer, Rachel brings over ten years of higher education experience with her to HyperStudio. Prior to working at HyperStudio, Rachel taught at Rutgers University, Princeton University, DePaul University, and Washington and Lee University. Accordingly, Rachel is intimately familiar with the needs of faculty and is committed to helping them integrate digital humanities tools into their research and teaching.

Rachel earned her PhD in early modern European history in 2010 from Rutgers University. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the North American Conference on British Studies have supported her research, which focuses on media transformations in the seventeenth century English Atlantic.

Liam Andrew, Research Assistant, MIT Hyperstudio

Liam Andrew graduated from Yale University in 2008, where he studied the advent of sound recording and its influence on modern language, literature and music. After stints as a book indexer, French-to-English translator, archivist, and English teacher abroad, he dove into programming and emerged as a software engineer for Delve, a newsreader and aggregator that helps organizations find and share important reads. As a graduate student in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program, his research interests lie at the intersection of sound and text on one hand, and classification and recommendation systems on the other. He is also a sound designer for theater and multi-instrumentalist in Dinowalrus.

Kurt Fendt, Executive Director, MIT HyperStudio

MIT HyperStudio

MIT Room 16-635

77 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

phone: 617-253-4312

skype: kendt


twitter: @fendt

Jamie Folsom, Lead Web Applications Developer

MIT HyperStudio

MIT Room 16-635

77 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

mobile: 617-669-0852

skype: jamiefolsom


twitter: @jamiefolsom

Rachel Schnepper, Communications Officer

MIT HyperStudio

MIT Room 16-635

77 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

phone: 617-324-0102


Liam Andrew, Research Assistant

MIT HyperStudio

MIT Room 16-635

77 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139, USA


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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

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Conference website:

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None