Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2017

Weava

Chrome extension helps organize web-based research

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Grades
7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: All-in-one tool for highlighting, annotating, organizing, citing, and exporting website and PDFs research.

Cons: Highlighting colors are easily mixed up. No built-in plagiarism info.

Bottom Line: For Chrome users and mostly digital classrooms, this is a fairly intuitive tool that'll help students wrangle their research.

This Chrome extension allows users to highlight, annotate, organize, and cite content from PDFs (online or local), online journals, websites, and more. Students (and teachers) can use Weava to grab content from a variety of online sources, and keep this content in one place during the writing process. In middle schools, teachers should help students learn to organize their notes by providing them with suggestions for how to categorize/label highlighter colors and collection folders. For older students, allow them to determine their own categorization, but make sure to have them do this first and to revise their organizational system as they go. Teachers will also want to support Weava's use by teaching students to annotate (using the built-in notation feature) as well as how tips for avoiding plagiarism as they move their research into a document (which can be done in the tool and then exported). Weava can also be used to help students understand citation as there's a tool to generate and tweak works cited entries.

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Weava is a Chrome extension that synthesizes bookmarking, highlighting, annotating, and citation in one tool. It installs in minutes, and then it’s as simple as opening a website or online PDF, highlighting documents, and then organizing and annotation highlights in the Weava dashboard. While it supports websites and online PDFs, users can also upload local copies of PDFs. The highlighter colors can be given names (e.g. "Primary Sources") and research can be organized into collections as well as sub-collections for three layers of organization. Users can also invite collaborators to share research.

The Weava dashboard shows highlighted text snippets on the left panel, along with the names and URLs of the highlights. These highlights can be dragged and dropped into different collections, filtered (e.g. by oldest to newest highlight), and also annotated. Clicking on a text snippet opens up the full document on the right, so users can see how the highlighted section fits in context when sorting through their research. This feature worked most of the time, but for some websites the highlighted section wouldn't be highlighted in the full web page view. 

Finally, users can drag the desired content right into Weava’s word processing tool, generate citations (although these will need to be tweaked), and then export their document to Word (the developers claim that more choices are in the works).  

Note that there is a free or paid version. The paid version adds more organizational versatility, increased storage, image clipping, and more collaborators. This version costs $5.99 per month or $49.99 per year.

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Weava delivers a simple, yet effective way to gather and sort information during the prewriting and planning stages of the writing process (as long as that research is done primarily online or with PDFs that have been scanned). While Weava does not teach students the research or citation process, it supports both by encouraging students to highlight interesting information, then annotate and organize it, and finally cite it using a feature that auto-generates a citation (which will need to be edited) and then exported into APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard formats. Gone are the days of files piling up on a desktop and then copying and pasting to and from multiple sites and documents into a writing project.

It's possible some students will go highlight happy with Weava and get lost in their research, especially since the only onboarding is a text-based document students will likely skip right over. To mitigate this, teachers will want to run through a demo of Weava as well as help students prep an organizational system for students for their highlights. Teachers might also require students to annotate each highlight they make. As with any writing program, teachers will also have to help students choose credible sources, scan for relevant information, and synthesize research without plagiarizing. While Weava doesn't explicitly help with this learning, it does enable students to focus more on learning by removing a lot of the frustration and tedium of research.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

It's motivating to be able to collect, organize, and cite research in one place. A good learning tool for middle school and a huge time-saver for high school and college students.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Provides some sanity to the often disorganized process of gathering research and then analyzing it and synthesizing it; teachers will need to help with these latter pieces of the puzzle though. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

It's fairly intuitive and the built-in manual is useful. However, it could better scaffold how to organize highlights, and provide some more contextualized help for the features.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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