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


Versatile annotation tool helps users critically connect with content

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: Easy to upload and share files; promotes collaboration and a paperless classroom.

Cons: Some features are awkward to use and will require practice; limited use on mobile devices, and the free version may frustrate some.

Bottom Line: Kami is an effective way to promote student interaction with texts, authentic documents, and pictures.

Since Kami is an open-ended tool, the possibilities for use are diverse and far-reaching. Students can look at a piece of art or literature, write a critique, and compare their critique to published ones. Or they can annotate a poem alongside supporting historical documents and pictures in order to gain contextual understanding. Challenge students to be more information-literate by comparing different headlines for the same event and identifying bias, or provide historical documents followed by a close reading of critiques or editorials of the time period. Teach expository writing by having students pair up to write descriptions of objects, and have their partners draw the objects on a blank page. Upload a PDF of a famous inventor's journal and have students collaboratively annotate the scientific process the inventor used.

Need documentation? Students can easily demonstrate their understanding of the writing process via peer-editing or self-editing while teachers add feedback via the Comment feature. And weekly article annotations about high-interest topics allow students opportunities to interact with text and spark engaging classroom discussions. No more running to the copier!

PDFs can be added, split or merged, and pushed out or linked in minutes, as long as you can find the PDFs. That said, adding search capabilities to find and add PDFs right in the tool would be a great addition. Although some of the features may take some getting used to, the tool is fairly easy to learn, and there are plenty of ideas and information available on Kami's website, community forums, and social media pages.

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With Kami, teachers can share PDF files with students, and students can annotate the files via track pad or keyboard shortcuts using several different features, including Highlight, Add Text, Draw On, Add Shapes, and more. Users can either upload PDF files from their computer or from Google Drive, or create blank documents or assignments via Google Classroom (with the paid plan). Kami automatically saves all files as they're uploaded, so this is a great option for teachers who want to go paperless. Teachers can also merge PDF files so that students can work with multiple files on one screen.

Certain features do not work on a tablet, such as moving the text boxes, highlighting phrases, or changing colors. In the basic version, teachers can send or embed a link enabling students to annotate a document, or they can save PDFs for students to access in Google Drive. Premium features include syncing with Google Classroom to send out to or collect documents from up to 150 students. Additional premium features include adding images and blank pages to open documents along with a text-to-speech tool, which reads the PDFs to students.

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In the right hands, Kami provides a way to bring context to lessons for nearly any subject. It supports critical reading by allowing teachers to guide and comment on students' annotations and by giving students a way to make connections between different documents. This is a fantastic way to provide visual aids to texts and allow students to interact with material and make meaningful connections. Add to that the fact that it's easy to convert documents to PDF files, and teachers have a very real tool to enable them to run a paperless classroom.

With Kami, teachers can upload any PDF file within seconds and share it with students. For this reason, teachers should avoid using Kami as a worksheet substitution tool. Having students simply fill out online worksheets does them and this tool a disservice. Lessons that promote critical thinking and creativity can be quickly and easily uploaded, but it will take some thoughtful planning to ensure that students are getting the most out of the materials; it would be nice to see Kami develop a lesson repository where teachers can share and vote on effective lessons.

Drawing is easier on a tablet versus a laptop or desktop, but for most other features, mobile devices are not ideally suited for Kami. The user experience can be a bit clumsy, but overall Kami's easy to learn and use.

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Overall Rating

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

Students will like the interactive features of this tool, most notably the highlighting and drawing capabilities, but teachers will still need to design thoughtful and engaging lessons to provide the best learning experience. 

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

Contextualizing content using artifacts and visual aids is a great way to enhance student understanding. Ease of use provides for easy transfer of content, but teachers should be cautioned against using Kami simply for substitution.

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

Kami's website and social media pages provide access to written and video tutorials, user questions and answers, and ideas for how to use the tool effectively. Mobile device use is possible but not ideal.

Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Kellie A. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Great Web-based Annotation Tool for PDFs
Notable is a great option when you want to interact with a PDF in a web-based environment. As a PDF viewer, it's clean, has search capabilities, and allows the reader to adjust text size with a zoom tool. As an annotation tool, you can select and highlight text, add text onto the page, include margin comments, and use the underline or strikethrough formatting options on the document. The annotation version can be printed, exported/saved to Google Drive or your computer, and shared via link with others for collaboration (if uploaded to Notable). The Notable version can also be embedded on a web page where others can respond to comments in the margins. The presentation mode is a nice option for displaying on a projector, and the flexibility of using this with PDFs on the web or stored in Google Drive or a computer make this a powerful way to read and work with PDFs. Read full review