Today's tool came out of a need requested by teachers with our Chromebooks. The ability to do annotation is important to help students take ownership of text, as well as capturing and sharing their thinking. The trouble is finding a cloud based tool that does this, since you can't download programs on a Chromebook. A few teachers mentioned Kami, and once I played around with it, I was very pleased. It is free, fairly easy to use, and because you can save annotated files to your Google Drive, sharing your annotations or reviewing your previous notes is a cinch. (Side note: Kami was formerly known as Notable, if you are a previous user of the tool.)
How does it work? You first must register. Thankfully (especially for students!), you can use your existing Google account to log in. There is also a Chrome browser App and Extension available to install if you like, which would allow you to annotate offline!
As noted previously, Kami is free, but by paying an upgrade fee you can get some premium features, starting with removing ads and autosaving to your Drive. The custom pricing available for schools allows for the inserting of shapes, audio annotations, collaboration among users, and text to speech capabilities. As a free user I can't attest to these bonus features, but I can definitely see their value.
Once logged in, you can import several different types of files from various locations, including straight from your Google Drive, Box, or Dropbox accounts.
Once you bring in a file (like a Google Doc or a PDF), your annotation tools will appear in a sidebar to the left. Two of the buttons (shapes and document signatures) are part of the Premium upgrades.
|Various Kami tools in action. "Wow!" in red shows the drawing tool. "This is text" in purple is the text tool. The orange dot is part of the comment tool (linked to box on the right). Strikethrough, highlight and underline are also shown.|
|Exporting as a "PDF With Annotations" is probably your best bet.|
And that's it! Once you get used to navigating the site, Kami can become a very versatile annotation tool for students.
How could you use it? Annotation, obviously. But if the exported PDFs are put in a shared folder with the teacher and/or other students, the ability for quick feedback (from teachers and peers) would make Kami invaluable.
Downsides? The drawing tool is awkward with a mouse or trackpad; with a touchscreen and a stylus, it would be better. That said, the drawing tool has no adjustment of line thickness, so text notes would be better for longer annotations. I wish some of the premium features were freely available for education accounts, but it's hard to complain when most of Kami is free in the first place.
I've yet to come across a cloud based annotation tool that's free and this easy to use with Chromebooks. Give it a try with your students!
Have you and your students used Kami? What did you think? Leave a Comment below.