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"A Flock of Seagulls" by Flickr user Stanley Zimmy. CC BY-NC.

Working Together

Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement. The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking. These skills build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom.

-- Henry Jenkins

Much recent work in the scholarship of teaching and learning stresses the importance of collaborative assignments to develop new multiliteracies. Reading, writing, and learning are all social activities, and digital media make the social aspects of these activities increasingly visible -- and accessible for pedagogical use.

But it can be challenging to develop assignments that facilitate collaboration effectively. Many of us share Danica Savonick's memory of dreading "collaborative assignments, which would inevitably entail having to accommodate other people and get them to see things my way. It would mean email conversations, meetings, and disappointment when the other students didn’t do what I told them."

But when collaboration is structured thoughtfully, it can lead to new discoveries and teach students how to make connections together. Collaborative assignments can guide students to use annotations to develop close reading strategies, facilitate peer review, and help students understand scientific processes, to list just a few examples.

Tools for Collaboration

hypothesis A Chrome browser extension that allows users to annotate the web. By default, all annotations are public, but instructors can create groups or classrooms so students can collaboratively annotate texts without making their comments visible to the entire Internet.

VideoAnt This tool, developed for the University of Minnesota, allows users to comment on YouTube videos and share their comments with a group (for example, a class). These comments appear in a sidebar with the timestamp for the moment that the comment is responding to.

Vocat Developed by faculty and staff at Baruch College, Vocat is a tool for video annotation and evaluation. Users can post and comment on videos, provide feedback, and grade submissions.

Google Docs Users can collaboratively create, edit, and comment on documents. All changes are saved, and users can revert to earlier versions of the text if something goes wrong.


  1. Register for Hypothesis and add it to your browser.
  2. Join our QC Digital Literacy Hypothesis group.
  3. As you read Kris Shaffer's article "The Critical Textbook," annotate the text for our Hypothesis group. To activate Hypothesis, click the dialogue bubble icon in your toolbar.
    Screenshot from the Hypothesis Help page indicating that a dark grey dialogue bubble means Hypothesis is activated.
    The Hypothesis toolbar should now appear on the right-hand side of the page. Click the angle arrow to expand the toolbar.

    By default, annotations are written for the public. Change the selection to the QC Digital Literacy group to join our collaborative annotation.

    Follow the directions in the Hypothesis menu to add annotations. If you encounter any difficulty, email me at lwalker@qc.cuny.edu.


In the comments section below, reflect on your experiences with collaboration. Tell the story of a time when collaboration led to a meaningful learning experience, and tell the story of a time when collaboration seemed to impede rather than facilitate the success of a project. What do these experiences tell you about how to make working together work?


Amanda Licastro, Katina Rogers, and Danica Savonick. "Collaboration." Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. MLA Commons.

Paul Schacht. "Annotation." Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. MLA Commons.

Kris Shaffer. "The Critical Textbook." Hybrid Pedagogy. May 1, 2014.


Gabriel Alkon. "Annotating Literary Texts." teachOER.

Karla Fuller. "Using ePortfolio Image Galleries as Digital Storyboards to Visualize Scientific Concepts." The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. February 23, 2017.

Nancy Ross. "Teaching Twentieth Century Art History with Gender and Data Visualizations." The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. December 2, 2013.

Chris Friend, Maha Bali, Sarah Honeychurch, and Kevin Hodgson. "Collaboration." [Podcast.] Hybrid Pedagogy. October 30, 2015.

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