What is Hypothesis, and how can it be used to annotate the Web for learning?

What is the Hypothesis Project?

The Hypothesis Project is a non-profit organization that has created an open source platform to: 

  • Allow users to “Annotate the web, with anyone, anywhere”.   
  • Facilitate “a conversation layer over the entire web that works everywhere, without needing implementation by any underlying site”.   

The project’s principles include “free, open, work everywhere, non-profit, neutral, and 100% community moderated”.

Session Information

Outcomes

By following along with this article, you will be able to:

  • Use Hypothesis to view and make web annotations
  • Explain how Hypothesis can be used in higher education
  • Describe one way you could use Hypothesis in your teaching

Outline

What role does Hypothesis have in learning in higher education?

Annotation as a practice is a longstanding way to analyze texts. Hypothesis allows students and instructors to analyze digital texts collaboratively and across the web, including standard web pages, PDFs, and documents uploaded to cloud services like Google Drive. Instructors and students can use Hypothesis to:

AnnotatePoetry and literature
Letters
Court decisions
Historical documents
Wikipedia pages
Journal articles
OWL pages (with limitations)
Co-create and editWebsites
Scripts
Press books
Designs (apps, programs, or interfaces)
Enhance course materialsTeacher annotations
Students questions
Student annotations
Provide In-line feedbackPeer feedback
Instructor feedback
Other

Hypothesis provides additional examples of the use of Hypothesis in higher education, but notes also that many of the classroom use occurs in their private groups feature. Another route we have successfully used to find ways of using Hypothesis is using their search feature. There is also a helpful resource page specifically for educators using Hypothesis.

Getting started with Hypothesis

Viewing Hypothesis annotations

Anybody can view public annotations on Hypothesis.

  1. Go to https://web.hypothes.is/
  2. Click “Paste a Link” at the top of the page
  3. Paste this link:
    • https://openamlit.pressbooks.com/chapter/narrative-of-the-third-voyage-1498-1500-excerpt
  4. Click the “Annotate” button
  5. Click the “<” button in the top right corner to see the public annotations on this page

Getting a Hypothesis account

To move beyond viewing annotations and make your own annotations, you will need to make an account at https://web.hypothes.is/start/ (using the “Create a Free Account” button and following the prompts).

Experimenting with Hypothesis

You can use Hypothesis directly from the Hypothesis web page or using the browser extension. Now that you have an Hypothesis account and should be logged into it, try both of these approaches following the directions below.

A. Using Hypothesis without the browser extension

  1. Navigate to Hypothesis and choose the menu option “Paste a Link” 
  2. Paste elearningtoolkit.uwo.ca into the space at the top of the web page, and press enter or click the “Annotate” button
  3. Click the “<” button in the top right corner to see the public annotations on this page
  4. Find a tool on the eLearning Toolkit that you have used or are interested in, and annotate the page with any or all of the following, making sure to use the tag: twt.
    • An example of how you have used the tool in your class
    • A question that you have about the use of the tool
    • A reply to someone else’s question
    • A suggested edit for the tool description or an update to the tool assessment. 

B. Using Hypothesis with a browser extension or bookmarklet

Add Hypothesis to your browser (first time only)

It is not required to add Hypothesis to your browser, but it makes for a smoother experience in turning Hypothesis on and off on different web pages. To do so, go to https://web.hypothes.is/start/ and either:

  • Click the Chrome extension, OR
  • Add the Hypothesis Bookmarklet to your bookmarks bar in a different browser.
Step 2: Add Hypothesis to your browser (screenshot from the Hypothesis website)
Step 2: Add Hypothesis to your browser

Using the browser extension or bookmarklet

  1. Navigate to elearningtoolkit.uwo.ca
  2. In Chrome, click the browser extension OR, if using another browser, click the bookmarklet you created.
  3. Look for annotation tools on the right side of the website.
  4. Find a tool on the eLearning Toolkit that you have used or are interested in, and annotate the page with any or all of the following, making sure to use the tag: twt. You can find the annotation tools on the right margin of the website.
    • An example of how you have used the tool in your class
    • A question that you have about the use of the tool
    • A reply to someone else’s question
    • A suggested edit for the tool description or an update to the tool assessment. 

Advanced Features

Hypothesis has a number of additional features that could be useful for applications like student groups or classes, including groups, tagging, and searching. 

Private groups

It is possible in Hypothesis to make a group that is only accessible to those you invite (your class, your committee, your team). To make a private group: 

  • When logged into the website, go to “Groups” in the top right corner, then choose “Create new group” 
  • Or, when using the Chrome extension, expand the Hypothesis panel on the right, click the “Public” dropdown, and choose “+ New private group”
  • For more information, see https://web.hypothes.is/help/how-to-create-a-private-group/

Tagging

Tags are freeform, meaning that anything you add as a tag becomes a tag, so you can decide as a class what tags will be most helpful.

Go back to one of your previous annotations and click the pencil to add additional tags (for example: question, comment, suggestion, application, online).

Searching

To search within public annotations, head to: https://hypothes.is/search

  1. Search for your discipline or a subject of interest within your discipline
  2. Search for a user (for example: “user:jmh237”)
    • What happens when you select one of their tags?
  3. Search for a tag (for example: “tag:twt”)

How might you use the search tool and tagging to help facilitate a learning experience?

How could you use Hypothesis in your classes?

Activity: On your own, consider ideas for using Hypothesis in your own classes. Discuss ideas in your groups.

  • Consider ways in which things you currently do could be facilitated using Hypothesis
  • Brainstorm brand new learning activities and assessments that could be facilitated using Hypothesis
  • Summarize your group’s ideas by annotating the Hypothesis page on the eLearning Toolkit
  • Be prepared to share an idea with the group

Looking for more information?

Hypothesis has been reviewed on the eLearning Toolkit.

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