Hypothesis and Scalar Lesson Plan

Amanda French and Quinn Warnick

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA


Access this document at http://j.mp/hypo-scal-lesson 



  1. You were recently using Medium -- what’s unique and interesting about it?
  2. Why use Hypothesis? To add a non-hierarchical critical layer to anything on the web at an even more granular level than Medium, even when comments aren’t enabled. Hypothesis can also be used as a “notebook” where you can store quotations from things you find on the web for your own personal use.
  3. Read more about Hypothes.is and annotation generally in the recent NYT article: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/12/skills-and-strategies-annotating-to-engage-analyze-connect-and-create/?_r=0 
  4. Some key terms:
  1. Extension / add-on / plugin - a small piece of software designed to “plug in” to another piece of software. Hypothes.is is available as a Chrome extension.
  2. Bookmarklet - a small JavaScript browser bookmark that allows you to do something interactive, a bit like an extension but without being one.
  3. Highlights / Notes - you can highlight phrases or sentences and comment on them, or you can just comment on the page without selecting text first.
  4. Only Me, Public, Groups - the three levels of access.
  5. Filter (search), Sort, Share - more or less self-explanatory.
  1. Demonstration:
  1. Demonstrate adding a highlight and note to the Scalar site “The Nicest Kids in Town” at http://nicestkids.com/nehvectors/nicest-kids/share-your-memories and sharing it with our Hypothesis group.
  1. Exercises:
  1. View the highlight and note added in the demo.
  2. Highlight something, add a note, and share it with the group.
  3. Play around with filtering annotations, sorting them, and sharing them. Raise your hand if you have questions.


  1. Resources:
  1. Scalar 2 User Guide: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/guide2/index 
  2. Our test Scalar book: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/quinns-class-book/index 
  1. What’s a Content Management System (CMS)? Anyone remember? You’ve studied WordPress and Omeka -- what are some of the differences between those tools, and why would you want to use one rather than the other?
  2. Scalar is a CMS as well, a very sophisticated and powerful one, and has certain features that WordPress and Omeka do not, namely:
  1. Non-linearity - all objects (pages, media, paths) exist on the same plane as one another: they are all undifferentiated relational objects
  2. Integration with existing multimedia repositories (including the Internet Archive, the Shoah Archive, and YouTube)
  3. Built-in visualizations, which can be used as navigation
  1. Scalar is a platform that came out of the seminal multimedia journal Vectors, also out of USC.
  2. Note that there are two versions of Scalar: Scalar 1 and Scalar 2. We will be using Scalar 2.
  3. Note too that Hypothes.is and Scalar have partnered: you can now enable Hypothes.is on your Scalar site.
  4. Let’s explore these sample Scalar sites -- what features (or content) do you see that you like?
  1. http://nicestkids.com/nehvectors/nicest-kids/local
  2. http://scalar.usc.edu/works/prudence-persons-scrapbook/index
  3. http://scalar.usc.edu/works/race-and-migration-in-the-united-states-/index 
  1. Key terms:
  1. “Page” - everything in Scalar is a page, even things you don’t think of as pages, like media objects, annotations, and paths.
  2. “Layout” - the kind of page you want to create, and what it looks like.
  3. “Import Menu” - the menu that allows you to import (really, embed) media from partner digital archives and digital archives with APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).
  1. Demonstration:
  1. Demonstrate importing a video from YouTube and embedding it on a page using the Import Menu.
  2. Demonstrate annotating the video by going to Dashboard → Media and clicking on the media file’s page, then clicking the Annotate button (marked with the paper clip icon) in the top menu.
  1. Exercise:
  1. Import a video into a page and annotate it.
  2. Raise your hand if you have questions or need help.

Creative Commons License

Hypothesis and Scalar Lesson Plan by Amanda French is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.