Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Sean P. Connors

Committee Member

Vicki S. Collet

Second Committee Member

Christian Z. Goering


Bakhtin, Comprehension, Dialogue, Digital Literacy, Digital Resources, Educational Technology, English Language Arts, Pedagogy, Textual Understanding


This study explores how web annotation—through a process of online reading, writing in the margins, and replying to others’ comments—influences student dialogue in ways that research suggests are associated with improved comprehension. Viewing data through a dialogic lens, and using a qualitative, multiple case study design to observe two high school English Language Arts teachers and their students, this inquiry was guided by the following research questions: (a) How do English Language Arts teachers use web annotation to support student comprehension of texts? (b) To what extent, if any, does web annotation appear to support student comprehension of texts? and (c) How do English Language Arts teachers and students perceive the usefulness of web annotation in supporting student comprehension of texts?

Both teachers in this study implemented web annotation practices with hopes of getting their students to engage in meaningful dialogue about texts, and that goal was evident in how they structured web annotation activities so students could drive the discussion and how they both tried to build upon students’ online discussions during subsequent face-to-face (F2F) class discussions. Despite such dialogic intentions, analysis of web annotations based on indices associated with high-level thinking and textual understanding revealed that, generally speaking, web annotation discussions did not exhibit rich dialogue. Additionally, there was a widespread lack of textual connections—annotations that connected a text to other texts, to the reader’s emotions or personal experiences, or to experiences the students shared as a class—evident in students’ annotations. However, discussions in which the teacher gave specific requirements for the number of annotations and replies and provided specific writing prompts tended to result in a higher prevalence of the indicators related to increased textual understanding. Although web annotation did not generally result in a substantial increase in these measures, findings revealed that students found great value in seeing and being able to interact with their peers’ thoughts about texts and that teachers saw enough benefits for student learning that they planned to continue its use going forward.

Recommendations invite teachers to explore ways to establish a dialogic culture in their classroom and to make intentional decisions for inclusion of web annotation—or any other digital tool—based on sound pedagogy and on the learning goals they set with their students; approaching technology implementation in this way places teachers and pedagogy at the center of the process, helping them to leverage the affordances digital technologies provide. Recommendations for future research include focused examinations of (a) the thinking and composing processes students undergo as they annotate on the web; (b) the impact web annotations have on specific learning outcomes, potentially using comprehensive reading comprehension assessments; and (c) methods for web annotation use in elementary, higher education, or adult learning settings.