Annotate Video on the Fly: A Review of VidBolt

Vidbolt_-_Watch__Share__and_Add_Comments_to_VideoAs a literature professor, I’m always looking for new ways to teach my students to pay close attention to what they are reading or watching. I’ve found that one of the best ways of doing this is through encouraging them to mark up their texts and have integrated shared annotations as an assignment in a few of my classes. But I’ve been limited to texts for these assignments so far. Because of this, I’m really excited by the pedagogical possibilities offered by Vidbolt, a new platform that allows users to easily annotate Youtube video and to share their comments either publicly or with a specific community.

To illustrate what a Vidbolt annotation would look like, I transcribed parts of one of my favorite Youtube videos–Aamer Rahman’s “Why Reverse Racism Does Not Exist”–with my comments.

Once the user uploads the Youtube video URL to their Vidbolt account, it will start playing. When you begin typing in the box marked “bolt your comment to the video timeline,” the video instantly stops playing until you’ve finished your comment and hit return. It will then automatically start playing from where it left off. Click on a comment to get to the point in the video it refers to. Once a video has been commented on, it will show up as a red spot in the video timeline. If you play the video from the beginning, it will highlight comments as it hits points they refer to.

New users can sign up either with their email accounts or through Facebook. Facebook integration is especially useful if you want to tap into your existing network to share your video annotations.

What I Really Like About Vidbolt

  1. Video comments can be made completely public, or open to a select community. The latter is especially helpful to instructors who might want to create a sandbox environment for initial student forays into annotation.
  2. Videos can be annotated by multiple people simultaneously. When annotated, the timeline becomes a “heatmap” (red for more comments, blue for less, black for nothing). This would make for a very useful classroom experiment to see what students are paying attention to, and to direct their attention to specific points of the video.
  3. You can share your Vidbolt annotations easily by using the Share button in the top left of any video to many social networks, and will output a thumbnail and video description to Facebook immediately.

What I Hope to See in the Future:

  1. Vidbolt integration with more educational content providers. I show a lot of videos from the Media Education Foundation, which has just implemented livestreaming for classroom use, and would really like to integrate shared annotations as an assignment with their videos. Vidbolt tells me that they are working on making a connection with premium content partners such as the MEF and adding the features to allow direct user uploads and Vimeo videos.
  2. The site is beautifully designed but some of its features are not immediately intuitive to a user. I hope that this will improve as Vidbolt progresses.

All in all, Vidbolt looks to be a great tool, and I’m already thinking of ways I can integrate it into my classes in the Fall.

Have you tried Vidbolt? If so, what do you think? Have you used other video annotation tools that you like? Please share in the comments!

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