I’ve been thinking a lot about Mike Caulfield’s idea of choral explanations, the way we use Etherpad for collaborative note-taking in Software Carpentry workshops, and the idea of having learners work with an instructor in a single shared Jupyter Notebook during a live-coding session. I don’t think that having a bunch of novices edit the same piece of source code together is going to work well, but what about having them edit the comments?

Critical editions of Biblical texts, Shakespeare, and legal documents are sometimes laid out in two columns: one contains the source, while the second contains comments on it. I imagine a tool to do that during live coding: the instructor writes Python or R in the left pane while the learners are attaching comments and questions on the right. Comments would have to stay anchored to the text they referred to, but this would combine two of the three things I like best about our teaching methods (and I’m sure I can figure out a way to work in sticky notes somehow). Like Etherpads, this would let learners write down what they want to remember about the source, at a variety of levels, and to learn in real time from the notes their peers are making.

Has anyone seen or built something like this? If so, I’d be grateful for a pointer.

Later: see also this paper on CodeR.