• Promote the application of concepts from performance theory to contemporary politics, and also attune students to the embodied and dramaturgical "form" of politics, rather than just its verbal or ideological "content."
  • Encourage close, detailed analysis of video evidence using the VideoAnt annotation tool.
  • Use VideoAnt’s peer comment features effectively for both detailed asynchronous responses and quick bookmarking of video evidence for synchronous discussions.


  • VideoAnt, a free video annotation tool from the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development

Featured Faculty

Christopher Grobe






In his course “The Performance of Politics,” Chris Grobe challenged students to see politics in the same way that a person with “an eye trained on performance (theater, dance, film, comedy, spoken word, etc.)” would. To encourage detailed, evidence-based discussion of this topic, he used video annotation as a tool to analyze recorded political performances.  VideoAnt allows annotations to be attached to a particular moment in a video. When people subsequently watch the video, these annotations would scroll by at the appropriate moment. The VideoAnt interface also allows you to scroll through annotations, then jump directly to annotated moments in the video. Students were tasked with watching videos individually and brainstorming ideas, then rewatching sections of the video with peer comments. 

Grobe would start with a video-based micro-lecture, which students would watch asynchronously. In those lectures, he modeled the close analysis of political performance via video evidence. When combined with a VideoAnt activity,  these lectures gave students tools to use in performing such analysis themselves. Viewing the comments of peers informed their thinking and allowed them to develop the analysis collaboratively. The record of this collaborative analysis then provided the basis for a synchronous discussion.

The VideoAnt activity, therefore, was one of the methodologies for students to develop and demonstrate critical analysis in this course. Grobe and the students found the VideoAnt interface quite intuitive and quickly learned to use it. Timestamps were useful in identifying the unique contributions from each student and providing reference to specific points in a video. VideoAnt also allowed students to make threaded responses to each other’s annotations.

Two approaches to promote Intellectual learning Communities

Grobe designed two different approaches that empowered students to develop as self-directed learners and develop intellectual learning communities.

Approach 1 - students use guided questions to develop analysis

For one assignment, students were asked to watch a video reenactment of a Trump-Clinton debate, in which the actors were intentionally played by a different gender - that is, "Clinton" was played by a male and "Trump" was played by a female. Students used guided questions from Grobe to watch the video, post comments, and build upon peer discussion. Students were asked to place an “original annotation at a specific moment in the video” to support their response to one of several questions. An example of these questions is: “What was your own experience of seeing one person’s gestures, expressions, or words attached to another person’s body—a body of a different gender?” They were also asked to comment on another student's annotation in a way that would “do more than agree or disagree” and provided some examples of how to more effectively comment, such as adding further supporting evidence, expanding on their point, or bringing up possible limitations or exceptions. Click here to view a detailed version of this prompt.

Screenshot of arrows used to expand video
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Students use VideoAnt to comment on various aspects of a video showing a gender-reversed version of a 2016 debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as performed by two professional actors.

In the above example, students comment on the theatricality of body movement as well as the role of gender in political self-presentation. For example, one student notes that “Male Clinton smiles incredulously and looks around for support” and that this “break from stature… is a very theatrical gesture.” Another student points out that when the female Trump calls the male Clinton a chicken, “the cross-gender context turns the impact of the words into an attack on insufficient masculinity (coming from a masculinized female politician).” These comments touch on aspects of the performance beyond the verbal content, providing a critical analysis of the paralanguage.

Approach 2 - students select key points for discussion

Grobe also used VideoAnt by having students view a video during a class session and asking students to insert comments to flag key moments they wanted to discuss. In this case, annotations were used more like “bookmarks” to help other students find a specific moment referenced during the class discussion. This approach gave the students agency to build the learning community and avoid it being instructor-driven. It also encouraged detailed, evidence-based analysis instead of general, global discussion.

Screenshot of student comments on VideoAnt video

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Students add a few words to create “bookmarks” in a video to use for reference during class discussion.

Copyright and Privacy Bonus

VideoAnt works equally well with copyright-protected (or otherwise sensitive) video. Because VideoAnt is built on top of YouTube's video-hosting infrastructure, and because YouTube allows videos to be posted to a private channel, you can upload and annotate any digital video without putting it on the open web.

How To Resources

Readings and References


Published Fall 2021 by Academic Technology Services