NowComment

NowComment 

NowComment is a cloud based collaborative tool for group discussion and digital annotation. It is a free tool which can be used for any groups including business and educational purposes. It is easy to create and use the free account by providing your email address. It allows the users to contribute their thoughts in discussion with online documents. It helps educators and learners to label and mark up text, videos, and images. Especially while working remotely during this pandemic, this great tool allows you to engage with your peers to increase interaction. Inviting students to become involved with existing texts, images, and video by commenting directly upon them, a tool like NowComment allows students the opportunity to engage in specific conversations on the document itself (unlike a traditional discussion forum) and it allows the instructor to clearly see the ways in which students are identifying their own ideas and relating to the ideas of others. 

In today’s digital world, technology use in the classroom has undoubtedly increased. There are several online discussion tools available for class interaction such as discussion boards on different Learning Managements System (LMS), Hypothesis.is, Kami, Flip Grid etc. While using LMS, it is not easy to find any specific comment, Hypothesis.is is more popular and commonly used as public annotation but it layers on top of existing websites. Kami is useful especially while working on PDFs.  Flip Grid allows teachers to create “grids” and engage their students with video discussions instead of text replies. It is a fun tool, but some students, like me – may not feel very comfortable recording videos of themselves for discussion. NowComment allows instructors to upload documents in several formats such as text, Word file, image. These documents need to be uploaded on the site for further discussion. Even though an instructor must upload a document (text, Word file, PDF, image, and/or video) into NowComment, that small hassle is worthwhile as it allows teachers to select the portions of the text that are most pertinent, as compared to an entire website or the whole document .This is important in helping students focus more intentionally on one segment of the subject document.

Thus, I find NowComment to be a powerful digital annotation tool for class discussion. I like the cleaner look of it, including features for viewing the document and comments, as described below. Moreover, NowComment helps students to interact with their classmates in online learning and create a social presence by building a healthy learning community. This intentional interaction can increase students’ socialization with their classmates, and improve learning. For a class discussion on NowComment, the whole class can join one document, or educators can create subgroups to limit the number of students for discussion. Students can reply to their peers’ comments at any time. One minor drawback is that students could, potentially, click into the wrong group document unless teachers invite them by email, keeping the other group’s document private. Still, a teacher can set up a number of documents based on the subject and references.  

Creating class group with NowComment

For the class discussion educators can create a private group and invite all students to join. NowComment can successfully run small groups with 4 to 5 people, and large groups of 50+ users. Making the group private gives access to the document to the group members only. Educators can upload the document in several formats such as text, pdf, video and image etc. There is no limit on the document size, but it is recommended to keep the document below 50 pages, to make sure that students do not lose their focus. If educators are using a Learning Management System such as Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas; NowComment can be integrated in existing LMS.

After members create a free account by providing their email address and join the class, they can start to add their thoughts through comments. While adding comments it gives an option to add a summary line, which later makes it easier to find the comments. Members can add comment text, and also include the hyperlink for referring to another webpage or document. NowComment provides few options to view the comments and documents.

Two pane view – The comments can be visible on the right side of the document. If you like to see the whole document on one side and comments on the other you can select the 2- pane option, and the document can be divided accordingly.

Combined view – It allows you to follow and write comments under the text that you like to refer to. This option allows us to read comments and corresponding text together.

Sorted view – It is similar to a two pane view, but comments can be grouped together according to last name, first name or comment date.

The helpfulness of NowComments in higher education as explained by Dr. Hicks in his blog, “In addition to a user-friendly interface, NowComment’s ability for me to look back through threaded discussions and to sort my students’ comments individually has been immeasurably helpful. (Hicks, T., 2016)”

Limitations

 NowComment is a great technology tool to use in the educational field as it  allows students and educators to engage in the class discussion asynchronously, but I do not think there are any good options for real time conversation opportunities as a synchronous discussion. Just like any other online educational tools, following digital citizenship rules should be an important thing to consider while using NowComments. Although this tool has several great features, I could not find any reliable source which mentions the privacy and  members data security policy, but it allows discussions to be kept  private or open to the public. Also, to add any audio and video and make it work, it is required to add media players “embed code” into NowComment’s web content data entry box.

Conclusion

Educators can facilitate healthy discussion by adding NowComment in the educational environment. In general face to face discussion, students need to focus on the class discussion and take notes. NowComment makes it easier to  share class related information and simultaneously engage in multiple discussions with full attention at their leisure.  NowComment  is a powerful tool that moves beyond the limitations of a typical discussion board. The goal of integrating NowComment in learning is to help them understand and work smoothly with their content knowledge.

 

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