Last night, I went in search of something that I could use to highlight something that I needed to read for my MAET class this summer. I found quite a few options, and I settled on using the PDF Online Reader.
At my school, copies are worth their weight in gold, but we are also a 1:1 school (Chromebooks). This leads to using technology to deliver reading passages a large amount of time. Conversely, we also want our students to be able to close read/annotate. I saw this as an opportunity to test drive something that we may be able to use with the students.
It’s free. You can’t understate the importance of that. You also don’t need to login to use it, so it simplifies the conundrum of how to get under 12 year old students signed up for new tools (ie. have them go ahead and do it for simplicity sake, have them sign up at home, or have parents sign off on a letter giving permission). Additionally, it is a pretty easy (if clunky) interface. If you want to highlight, click on the one with an arrow. Do you want to write a question to the side? Use the green box. Want to skip ahead or mark a place that you want to go back to? Use the book mark.
There is also an intriguing link feature. Students (and teachers) can link to other parts of that PDF or to an external page. It is odd though. There is no visual indication on the downloaded PDF that the link is there unless you put your mouse in the correct place. You can highlight it and then add a link to get around that. A suggestion would be to use a different color highlight for where you want the student (or teacher) to click.
As I mentioned, I first tracked this down so I could use it to highlight something I was reading for my MAET class. I made it 18 pages into a 32 page document, and I needed a break. I came back after five minutes to find that all my work was gone. Imagine the frustration level students would rain down on you if that happens to them. This weakness can be overcome. The passages should be short. Students need to be made aware that they have to keep working consistently.
Another, less severe restraint is that you have to click on the down arrow (or up) to get it to go to the next page.
It has obvious uses for literacy. It will enable students to mark up the text the way that we teach them to do on paper. It also adds the interesting ability for teachers to create a PDF with links that students can use for definitions, background information, videos, or anything really.
Overall, it is an intriguing program which I should point out is in Beta, so check it out and see if you can use. I’m probably going to keep looking.
All images are screenshots from http://www.pdfonlinereader.com