Hypermedia Annotations in Second Language Learning

Author: Justin Parry

Within the sphere of second language teaching, technology has been rapidly growing and being implemented as a tool for motivation and efficiency in the hands of capable teachers. Among the countless online tools available, hypermedia annotations have been shown to be helpful for improving vocabulary learning and reading comprehension. Annotations, or glosses, are usually short definitions or explanations that accompany a text. These usually have appeared in the margins of books, within text, or at the bottom of the page. Hypermedia comes from the combination of hypertext (information given through links, as you would find on the internet) and multimedia. Thus hypermedia annotations are a computer form of traditional glosses, with clickable links.

There are several advantages to hypermedia glosses. They are quick and efficient, and allow readers to focus on comprehending a text or learning words more deeply. In a number of studies, students have commented on the enjoyability and usability of glosses—so they are also a good way to enhance motivation. Several students have also shown their affinity for L1 glosses over L2 glosses, particularly at lower proficiency levels. Possible disadvantages to glosses include that they may make students expend too little effort, not engage in deep learning, or simplify the meaning of words and passages. Although it would intuitively seem clear that glosses are effective, this issue is actually controversial within SLA studies. There are too many results to present generalizations, and an astounding amount of variables in past studies on hypermedia glosses.

CERCLL is currently developing texts with hypermedia annotations for Arabic, German, Turkish, and Portuguese using TIARA (The Interactive Annotated Reading Application) software, which was developed by the ARCLITE (Advanced Research in Curriculum for Language Instruction and Technology in Education) lab at BYU. This project is directed by Dr. Chantelle Warner, and more details about the project can be found here. This tool allows users to access a text and display all glosses or choose between text, image, audio, and video glosses on an interactive page. In addition, the glosses promote intercultural competence since they serve to explain words and phrases that are important to cultural understanding. Here is a screenshot of the application:

 

The current project with hypermedia annotations is an extension of a past CERCLL project, directed by Robert Ariew, which used different software to create materials for Arabic and Italian.

This tool offers many possibilities, for either the classroom or individual language study. There are a number of other tools for hypermedia glosses, which present their own strengths and weaknesses. One free tool for hypermedia creation online is http://redhotwords.com. This site allows you to download free software to create your own hypermedia glosses, and it is definitely worth checking out!