Investigating Students’ Use of a Social Annotation Tool in an English for Science and Technology Course

  • Jianqiu TianEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11984)


This study investigates the linguistic and pedagogical benefits and challenges of using a digital annotation tool (called Perusall) to facilitate second language (L2) reading in an advanced English language course at university level. The goals of the study are to analyze the students’ reading and annotating behavior, examine the effects of social reading on their understanding of English for science and technology texts and investigate how an L2 teacher might effectively incorporate this activity in his/her classroom. The results indicate that students spent an above average amount of time reading (compared to that reported in the literature) and that most students completed their reading assignments before class with the Perusall platform. Moreover, they predominantly used the social reading experience to summarize the sections of the long article, and query fellow students about the meaning of difficult and transitional sentences. Perusall allowed students to co-construct meaning and scaffold their learning while engaged in close readings of the science and technology texts outside of the physical classroom. Drawbacks of social reading in this environment are primarily others’ comments impeding some students’ understanding of the text and students’ frustrations with some technical aspects of the Perusall tool. Pedagogical suggestions regarding L2 social reading include better integrating students’ virtual comments into classroom discussion/activities, and offering more structure for students.


Social annotation tool L2 reading English for science and technology 


  1. 1.
    Abraham, L.B.: Computer-mediated glosses in second language reading comprehension and vocabulary learning: a meta-analysis. Comput. Assisted Lang. Learn. 21(3), 199–226 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ariew, R., Ercetin, G.: Exploring the potential of hypermedia annotations for second language reading. Comput. Assisted Lang. Learn. 17(2), 237–259 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Johnson, T.E., Archibald, T.N., Tenenbaum, G.: Individual and team annotation effects on students’ reading comprehension, critical thinking, and meta-cognitive skills. Comput. Hum. Behav. 26(6), 1496–1507 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kawasaki, Y., Sasaki, H., Yamaguchi, H., Yamaguchi, Y.: Effectiveness of highlighting as a prompt in text reading on a computer monitor. In: Proceedings of the 8th WSEAS International Conference on Multimedia systems and signal processing, pp. 311–315. World Scientific and Engineering Academy and Society (WSEAS), Hangzhou, China (2008)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cadiz, J.J., Gupta, A., Grudin, J.: Using Web annotations for asynchronous collaboration around documents. In: Durand, D.G. (ed.) Proceedings of the 2000 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, pp. 309–318. ACM, (2000)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Jonassen, D.H.: Computers in the Classroom: Mindtools for Critical Thinking. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River (1996)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gao, F.: A case study of using a social annotation tool to support collaboratively learning. Internet High. Educ. 17, 76–83 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lu, J., Deng, L.: Examining students’ use of online annotation tools in support of argumentative reading. Australas. J. Educ. Technol. 29(2), 161–171 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Yang, X., Yu, S., Sun, Z.: The effect of collaborative annotation on Chinese reading level in primary schools in China. Br. J. Edu. Technol. 44(1), 95–111 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Nor, N.F.M., Azman, H., Hamat, A.: Investigating students’ use of online annotation tool in an online reading environment. 3L: Lang. Linguist. Lit. 19(3), 87–101 (2013)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tseng, S.-S., Yeh, H.-C., Yang, S-h: Promoting different reading comprehension levels through online annotations. Comput. Assisted Lang. Learn. 28(1), 41–57 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Thoms, J.J., Poole, F.: Investigating linguistic, literary, and social affordances of L2 collaborative reading. Lang. Learn. Technol. 21(2), 139–156 (2017)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Thoms, J.J., Sung, K.-Y., Poole, F.: Investigating the linguistic and pedagogical affordances of an L2 open reading environment via eComma: An exploratory study in a Chinese language course. System 69, 38–53 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Van Lier, L.: The Ecology and Semiotics of Language Learning: A Sociocultural Perspective. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Vygotsky, L.S.: Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Downes, S.: Creating an Online Learning Community [PowerPoint Slides]. Accessed 19 Aug 2019
  17. 17.
    Webb, N.M., Nemer, K., Chizhik, A., Sugrue, B.: Using Group Collaboration as a Window into Students’ Cognitive Processes. National Center for Research on Evaluation Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST), Los Angeles, CA (1995)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Crouch, C.H., Mazur, E.: Peer instruction: ten years of experience and results. Am. J. Phys. 69(9), 970–977 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Miller, K., Lukoff, B., King, G., Mazur, E.: Use of a Social Annotation Platform for Pre-Class Reading Assignments in a Flipped Introductory Physics Class. Front. Educ. 3(8), 1–12 (2018)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Foreign LanguagesPeking UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations