Expanding the Margins of Annotation for #DiGiWriMo 2015 (Post 3/4): Sound and Video


This is Week Three of #DiGiWriMo and of my posts about annotation and digital writing.  I am going to show you two tools this week–SoundCloud and Vialogues.  One allows you to annotate sound files with text and the other allows you to annotate video with text. Both are free, easy to use, congenial to share, and worth having in your repertoire.


SoundCloud is a free sound storage site.  It is simple to share with all the usual social media ‘suspects’.  They give you three free hours of file time.  I blew through that so I got a paid account for 4 euros/month.  I blew through that so I got the pro unlimited account.  I have plans to do some podcasting over Christmas break so I think I can justify the 99 euros/year; however, the free account should stand you in good stead.

The SoundCloud app is very sound indeed.  You can do everything there on both Android and iOS platforms that you can do on the desktop.  You can upload files or you can record.  Low bar to entry personified.  In other words it is ubiquitous and shareable and here is the secret sauce: it is annotateable.

I ‘cottoned‘ onto the annotation part of this tool early on.  Here is an example from one just published by Kevin Hodgson this week where I annotate how he put together a mentor sound file for his student’s use this week. Be aware that sixth graders are accessing this so annotate as a circumspect adult there but do annotate.

Here’s another one below, a sound file for a podcast done by Hybrid Pedagogy, hosted by Chris Friend. There are comments at the beginning, but the last two-thirds of the podcast need some love. You can practice “scrubbing” through it and commenting at liberty.

Last, here is a playlist by Maha Abdelmoneim. It is a collection of soundfiles created using a game-like music creator called Incredibox.

Incredibox allows you to download the music file that you create. You can use it anywhere so long as it is for “private use, non-commercial projects and student projects.” Upload it to SoundCloud and you have an embeddable digital object to share almost everywhere online. Add annotation to it and you have a collaborative music project. Yeah, it is as handy as that Swiss Army knife.


Annotation gives SoundCloud a depth of use that other apps can only dream of. And it has the added benefit of being very mobile friendly. I am trying to do at least one “mobile only” project this month and I think SoundCloud just might be my golden ticket to getting that done.


Vialogues is a video annotation tool created by Columbia University’s Teacher College EdLab.  I am a full-blown Vialogues fan-boy.  All you have to do to use it is to join Vialogues and get started.  (As an aside, EdLab has a great galloping draft horse of a newsletter and blog called the New Learning Times.  Great links and more.)

What Vialogues does is pretty simple.  Put in a YouTube or Vimeo url and it will wrap it in an annotation box.  If you have never used Vialogues that might not make sense, but check out the one embedded below.  This particular video was one I uploaded this summer for #CLMOOC and as of now it has 128 comments and probably deserves a lot more considering the quality of its content.

If you are signed into your Vialogues account you can comment directly into the embedded object above.  If not, you can still watch the video and look at the comments. And that is what it does.  It allows you to stop and start the video.  It allows you to comment at a particular spot  and then it allows a discussion on the side where you can reply to what others have annotated.

There are a few tools that function similarly (NowComment for one and, also, Thinglink Video), but not quite so simply and transparently. Just join and paste in a YouTube or Vimeo url.  They will even allow you to upload videos in various file formats (Max video size: 1GB, supported formats: mov, flv, mp4, mpg, mpeg, avi, wmv, 3gp). I did say it was all free, right?

There are some other tools lurking within Vialogues including one that allows you to print out all the comments. Upload that pdf to Google Drive and then embed as a shared file from there. All the annotations are in one place and ready to be “messed with”.  Or not. See below.

I use Vialogues at the beginning and end of every semester to show folks the David Foster Wallace commencement address at Kenyon College titled, “This Is Water”.  If you use no other digital writing tool this month, this one will repay generously.

Vialogues is a winner and I have little shivers of fear that someday it will disappear.  May it never happen.

A Couple of Prompts

#1 Sound Annotation:

Annotate this sound file along with me , an episode of Song Exploder that takes apart the theme music to the Netflix series, “House of Cards”. If you haven’t heard the Song Exploder podcast you are in for an aural treat. Nothing quite like it. Share your comments here or create your own SoundCloud and find a group of congenial folk to share with.) Just play about and share what you discover.


#2 Video Annotation:

Share with me this provocative video by VSauce:  “Juvenoia”  Remember–sign up at Vialogues and then sign in so that you can comment.  It really is that simple.