The ART (Annotated Reading Tool) template allows activity authors to annotate texts they have selected or written themselves. Annotations can be divided into three sets of notes, called “streams.” One stream is designated for vocabulary notes, another for grammar notes, and the third may be defined by the activity author to include, for example, notes about cultural or historical references. An ART activity is therefore more flexible than annotated texts found in books, which typically contain only one stream of notes. ART's note streams allow for explanations, examples, audio, video, and image files, links to external resources found on the web, and space for commentary. ART activities can also contain a fourth stream-an audio stream, reserved for linking the text to a recording of it read aloud.
Texts, both long and short, and on any variety of topics are appropriate for ART (longer texts can always be broken into multiple ART projects). Both author and student views of the ART activity show the main text on the left-hand side of the screen, with a narrower column on the right for notes. The similarity of appearance on the screen for both the author and the student makes the software more intuitive for the author to learn and use.
In addition to textual annotations, notes allow for the inclusion of additional materials-audio, small images, and videos, as well as links to outside sources (dictionaries, encyclopedias, newspapers, etc.). Such tools can expand students' access to and comprehension of the topic covered in both the text and the note itself. Notes can also allow students to contextualize the text within a wider culture. The four note streams (or any subset thereof that the author has chosen to include in a particular activity) may be turned on and off in any combination by students. Once a student has turned on a note stream, text that has been annotated appears as a clickable link. Students can therefore decide for themselves which terms, grammar points, audio clips, and cultural notes they wish to explore. With the “save session“ feature, students can save their place and then review the notes already read when they next access the activity.
ART activities can help improve reading comprehension skills, listening comprehension skills, and students' ability to coordinate audio and text, as well as expand the students' vocabulary in a variety of written media (literature, discipline-specific articles, newspapers, pop-culture sources, reviews, blogs, etc.) and registers.
Creating an ART Activity
The length of time required to create an ART activity will vary depending on whether you write your own text or annotate an existing one, on how much of the text will be annotated, on which note streams you will include, and on how extensive your notes will be. The degree of annotation will depend on the difficulty of the text and on your students' level of proficiency.
First, select your text. Second, consider which note streams to include. Third, choose the parts of the text you'd like to annotate (individual words, phrases, entire sentences, etc.). Finally, decide which components of each note you would like to use: examples, images, audio, video, links to external websites, commentary, etc. Keep in mind there are two ways to use audio in ART: you can record short audio clips to include in any type of note (for example, you might include audio of a new vocabulary word being used in a sample sentence outside the context of the text being studied), and you can record a reading of the entire text to which students can listen a page or a paragraph at a time.
You should create a filing system for all of the materials you would like to include in your ART activity. Consider generating a spreadsheet in which you can list all information associated with a particular note. Record and store your audio in an organized fashion. Store video, images, and external links in a similar fashion.
After generating a project name and description and registering your ART activity, you are ready to create a test section of your annotated text. Starting in edit mode, type or paste in your text. Then, switch to annotate mode, highlight portions of text you'd like annotated and click “add note” to create a note. It's best to begin with a shorter passage to get practice with ART before tackling a longer text.
Sharing an ART Activity
When you assign an ART activity to your students, spend some time explaining to them how you want them to use the software and what options they have. A typical assignment might include an initial reading of the text with all note streams turned off, followed by a re-reading using notes. Do you want them to view every note available to them? Or only the notes for words they don't recognize? Your instructions on such choices might vary from one text or note stream to another. Though the activity you have created will be easy to use from a technical perspective, students may require some guidance in how to incorporate such a tool into their own language study habits, just as they might to make efficient use of footnotes in a traditional text.
If other instructors will also be using your activity, be sure to show them what led you to make various design choices so they understand how the activity was meant to work and how they can explain it to their students. You can show them how your ART activity uses note streams to enhance the students' comprehension of the text, vocabulary, grammar, and context.