Posted in NowComments

NowComments – Review

NowComment review 

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 is 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 reply, it is a fun tool, but some students, like me – may not feel very comfortable to record video 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 more 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 document.

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 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)”

NowComment and Triple E framework

I thought about the Triple E framework which is introduced by Dr. Liz Kolb. NowComment is well organized and allows educators to use this technology tool along with their instructional part and help students. I compared NowComment Triple E framework because TPACK and SAMR focus on how to integrate technology in the classroom, but do not necessarily think about the social engagement side of it like Triple E does.

In the beginning stage it defines what students’ goals are, and then accordingly plan for this technology tool which is best fit to achieve the goal. Once all students are enrolled with NowComment, then it is important to make sure students understand it and engage themselves with NowComment, share their knowledge and stay connected with their classmates.

highlighting it in the text, and can be encouraged to make connections to other course readings or The first E is Engagement; it focusses on motivating students’ engagement in the class using this technology. For instance, students can engage with a discussion on the NowComment document directly, and this allows them to be engaged with the document itself, as well as their peers. Unlike a typical discussion forum, where students might wait for responses from others or offer simplistic replies, NowComment encourages active engagement with the text (or image, or video) and classmates through its interface.  

The second E is Enhancement; students can share their thoughts with their peers and engage in in-depth conversation, this helps students to boost their self esteem and enhance their social presence by empowering their learning with the use of  NowComment as an educational technology tool. Again, students are able to participate in discussions at their own pace, allowing them to feel more confident about what they have read or viewed and expressing their ideas in writing (which allows for time to process and, if needed, revise their ideas, too). 

For the last E as Engagement; it discusses how to engage students not only with technology but with their soft skills and extend their thinking outside the box and develop new skills that can be used outside the school for discussion and knowledge sharing. For instance, students will learn how to share ideas using both the content-specific language from the course material by materials.  

NowComment and ISTE standards

NowComments can also support educators as they integrate ISTE standards into their work. For instance, with  a strategic use of the annotation tool, educators could: 

 3a : “ Create experience for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributors and exhibit empathetic behavior online and build relationships and community” by promoting healthy discussion and allowing collaborative peer feedback. By reading one another’s posts, and offering feedback, students are able to discern one another’s opinions, discover new perspectives, and explore them in more detail.

  4c: “ Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real- world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.”  By using NowComments educators can promote  a strong and healthy discussion allowing students to engage in a virtual knowledge sharing process in distance learning. We know that online learning works best when students have control over at least some of the decisions about timing and pace, and Now Comment’s features allow them to collaborate at their own speed. 

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 NowCommnet’s web content data entry box.

Conclusion

Educators can facilitate healthy discussion by adding NowComment in the educational environment; as mentioned by Selwyn, “educational technology is not a straightforward, value-free process involving an individual using a piece of technology in order to learn something.”  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.

References 

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