Enrich Classroom Discussions with NowComment

NowComment is a free online discussion and annotation platform that teachers can use to enrich in-class dialogues and encourage introverted students to speak up. The tool was developed in 2007 by the public interest group Fairness.com and piloted in several university courses over a three-year period, according to the organization’s website.

Common Sense, a nonprofit that evaluates the latest technology for parents and educators, awarded the site four out of five stars. According to their website, NowComment offers a “great deal [more] depth … than some other document collaboration environments.” It is especially helpful in flipped classroom settings and can be used for all academic subjects. 

Here are some specific ways to use NowComment:

 ● Upload a document — HTML, Microsoft Word, PDF, photo, audio, or video — and have students link their comments to specific parts of the document — e.g., a paragraph or a section of an audio file.

● Customize the time for when and how comments appear and disappear so that learners can state their impressions without being influenced by their peers.

● Skim the comments to quickly assess how students read the text, how well they understood it, what parts they focused on, and any points they missed. Then use the online comments as a guide for more in-depth classroom discussions.

● Sort comments by date, students’ names, or tags in order to evaluate or grade them.

● Assess learners’ annotation skills by having them annotate a text online.

● Print the document with comments or embed it in your class website for following up on specific issues or giving students general feedback.

● Challenge students to upload their own documents for discussion, such as an article they found interesting or a piece of their own writing that they want to workshop.

A two-pane interface allows users to view the text and the comments side by side. The balloons show how many comments exist for each chunk of text.
A two-pane interface allows users to view the text and the comments side by side. The balloons show how many comments exist for each chunk of text.

Class discussions are an invaluable pedagogical tool, and NowComment just might provide both students and teachers with much-needed support for making these conversations deeper and more successful.