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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Annotating on a Chromebook? Check out what I've found!



As our fifth grade has moved away from iPads to the Acer R11 Chromebook as our device of choice this school year I have been searching for and researching annotation options as we move forward. The chromebooks we have chosen are touchscreen and android app ready. We are using Google Classroom with these fifth graders and within the Google Classroom App, students have the ability to annotate with the "pencil" option at the top of an open file.

While it's fairly easy for a student to annotate on a PDF file in Google Classroom, it's a bit more cumbersome for a teacher to annotate and share back to students. A copy has to be made of the document and reshared in order for students to see the teacher's remarks through digital inking. Google is remarkable in how quickly it updates Google Suites for Education to best meet teacher's needs. I don't think it will be long before they will have a process within Google Classroom that makes this easier for the teacher.

As we are looking at ways to annotate, we have found 2 options that I really like. The following are choices we can use at our school for annotating (digital inking) and how to get them:


  • Kami https://www.kamihq.com - we are using the free version of Kami and it integrates with Google Drive to allow students or teachers to save their annotations directly to their drive account. The downside to the free version of Kami is that it does not integrate with Google Classroom. I'm currently looking into whether this is a worthwhile investment or not by asking for a quote for a school usage license. Their teacher license covers 1 teacher and 30 students for $99/year. I can see where having this license would streamline the grading process for teachers but really wouldn't change much for the students.


  • XODO https://www.xodo.com/ is also a PDF reader and annotator and would work on any laptop that uses Chrome and can be accessed straight from a browser or if the Chromebook is app ready, there is also an app option for this. XODO allows students to backup their annotations straight to their Google drive (just like Kami) but I am not a big fan of the way you erase annotations on their product. You have to draw a square and delete it, as opposed to using an eraser (something that seems more natural for students).
As I look at digital inking and the way we are using it at our school, I find myself still seeing the ease of printing off things and having students do fill in the blank being easier for some teachers than all these extra steps. The bottom line is what is most important to the teacher...
          The ability to streamlining and not having paper to wag back and forth to school to grade?
          Saving trees?
          Saving time by being able to just quickly get grading done on paper?
          The ability to have a digital record of all work?
          Could it just as easily be done through Google docs and have students type their answer?

As we have moved to chromebooks I appreciate the hearts of my fifth grade teachers that are willing to try and experiment with different approaches at the things they have done. As I introduced them to Google Classroom they wanted to have a place where we can do so much in one location. In the past, we have used the Seesaw Learning Journal app and notability for annotation using iPads and we knew both very well. The Seesaw app has already been downloaded on the students chromebooks and may be the best way forward until Google Classroom makes the teacher side of grading annotations a bit less cumbersome. 

I end this by saying that I am thankful for teachers with innovative hearts that don't balk at the roll of being "trailblazers" at our school.  These teachers create a culture of acceptance for the early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards that follow in tech integration (blog post of these levels coming soon.)


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