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Published September 20, 2020 | Multidisciplinary

Annotating and Correcting on a Tablet

In the context of distance learning, handing in assignments in electronic format has quickly become essential. Although all office software suites (Microsoft 365, iWork, G Suite, OpenOffice and LibreOffice, among others) allow documents to be highlighted and annotated efficiently, the tablet provides an experience that is closer to correcting on paper. Here are some considerations and tips for transitioning from paper to digital in a user-friendly way.

Which tablet?

The first step is to determine what type of tablet you want to use. Indeed, both electronic tablets and graphic tablets allow you to annotate and correct on screen.

Graphic Tablets

A graphic tablet

Graphic tablets connect to a desktop or laptop computer like a mouse. Styluses generally do not require a battery.

  • Graphic tablets allow you to use software already installed on your workstation.
  • You can also use them to annotate presentations, for example when making video tutorials or giving a lecture via video conference. (Teams and Zoom, the two most popular videoconferencing platforms, also offer a whiteboard feature).
  • On the other hand, the fact that annotations appear on the computer screen rather than where you write may require a period of ergonomic adaptation.

Digital Tablets

Writing on a digital tablet using a stylus

iPad or Android-style digital tablets are standalone devices, usually compatible with styluses, available separately. Pen-style styluses contain a battery that must be recharged regularly.

  • Digital tablets allow you to be away from your usual workstation. They are available in a variety of formats and are easily portable, providing flexibility similar to annotating on paper.
  • You can also use them as a whiteboard or to annotate presentations during a videoconference course in Zoom or Teams. To do this, it is recommended that you join the meeting from your desktop to manage participants and chat, and then connect from your tablet to share its screen as well. Don't forget to grant the necessary rights to do this (for example, by giving your tablet co-host status). Turn off the microphone and speakers on the tablet to avoid sound feedback.
  • On the other hand, viewing and annotating assignments can be more complicated on an electronic tablet depending on the method of receiving the documents and their format. Take the time to validate if there is an application that meets your specific needs before you get started!

Receive, Annotate, Return

In order to foster an experience that is both efficient and enjoyable, it is essential to design a well thought-out workflow, as illustrated in this real-life story published on Profweb. This workflow should take into account how you plan to receive your students' materials.

Microsoft Teams with its Assignments module and the integrated OneNote Class Notebook allow you to easily receive and annotate documents in all formats supported by Office. If your device supports graphical input (because your computer has a touch screen or because you use a graphics tablet or the Teams application on a digital tablet), the Draw menu is available in the interface of your Office software. It disappears if your device does not have this feature, but you can activate it manually, if necessary: in the file tab, choose options > customize ribbon > draw.

The Draw menu in Word 365

In the Teams application, it is possible to annotate notebook pages and documents received through the Homework module. Everything is synchronized in the cloud.

If your students submit their work through a learning management system (LMS) such as Moodle or Omnivox, it is best to download all the documents to your workstation before extracting the files from the ZIP archive. At the time of publishing this text, the Moodle and Omnivox mobile applications allow you to view individual files, but it is not possible to annotate them or download all the files received at the same time.

If you want to use a digital tablet for correction, then upload these files to a cloud storage service (such as OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox) that you can access from your tablet.

If you are annotating or correcting typed documents, the PDF format is the most user-friendly because you can add inking and comments without undoing the document layout. That said, the Microsoft 365 suite software also allows you to annotate all document types you open with it.

Here is a list of the most popular applications among the members of our College pedagogy and technology group:

  • PDF Element (completely free, iOS, Android, Windows) offers all the basic annotation features and allows you to synchronize files automatically with a folder in the cloud. You need to create a free account to use the application.
  • PDF Expert (freemium, iOS) allows you to annotate PDF documents, offering many options including predefined comments and stickers. A paid version offers more possibilities.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (freemium, iOS and Android) allows you to view and annotate PDF documents. A paid version offers more possibilities.
  • Notability ($11.99, iOS) allows you to annotate PDF documents and insert audio comments as well. The paid version allows, among other things, to convert handwritten comments into typed notes.
  • iAnnotate ($13.99, iOS) allows you to annotate files in several formats: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, images and website captures.`
  • Other applications were mentioned, some of which have interesting advanced features but are more expensive (LiquidText), while others (Showbie) offer integrated solutions for storing and annotating documents in the cloud, but may not comply with your institution's information management policy.

About the Author

Andy Van Drom

Andy Van Drom enseigne l'anglais, langue seconde, et la linguistique depuis 2005, d'abord à l'Université Laval, puis, depuis 2012, au Cégep Limoilou. Après avoir terminé des études doctorales en linguistique, il travaille maintenant à temps partiel à une maîtrise en enseignement collégial avec Performa. Andy a également publié 3 manuels chez Pearson ERPI et a développé plusieurs ressources éducatives libres en format numérique. Son grand intérêt pour les outils technopédagogiques et l'apprentissage actif l'ont mené à travailler avec Profweb, où il est éditeur depuis 2017. En 2019, il a reçu une Mention d'honneur de l'AQPC et le prix EF Excellence Award in Language Teaching.

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