NowComment is an online platform that helps groups of students mark up and have conversations about texts, websites, videos, and more. Students can upload and annotate online media to determine if it's satire, propaganda, or downright false. Working together as fact-finding detectives, students can talk about how harmful misleading information can be and how they can work together to promote the truth.
[NowComment] allows us to have private discussions about texts and has become the perfect tool for promoting discourse! Even better… the format is in line with the new PARCC assessments students will have to take. My students love anything I put onto a screen for them and beg me to access work digitally from home. This tool really helped me turn my less motivated students who would only do the minimum to stretch above and beyond with their participation and thinking. [full review]
Heidi Weber, Loveland Primary School (OH)
2015 PBS Digital Innovator, 2013 winner of the national NCTE's Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of English. Heidi describes NowComment in a contributed chapter to the 2016 book Online Teaching in K-12: Models, Methods, and Best Practices for Teachers and Administrators.
One special feature of NowComment is the way comments are invited with two boxes. [the developers] didn't have dialectal notes in mind, but I use it that way with my students. When they are commenting on the text or replying to another student's comment I ask them to first paraphrase what the writer or the other reader said before writing a more expanded response themselves. If your students are familiar with dialectual notes this feature will fit their purpose well. I suspect that this and other more technical features on NowComment are why this tool seems to invite the most extended threaded conversations around specific parts of a text.
Paul Allison, New Directions Secondary School (NYC)
Tech liaison for the New York City Writing Project, facilitator of YouthVoices.net and host of the weekly Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast (NowComment is featured in show#501 and show#460).
Unleash the power of introverts and host vivid discussions using NowComment, a free and easy-to-use online discussion tool with a wealth of features!...Yes, there are many other tools available for collaborating and discussing texts online (hello, Google!), but NowComment is particularly useful for moderating and organizing online discussions.
Rebecca Bogard in a July 2016 Differentitech Blog review of NowComment
...NowComment, my new fav provides a cross-platform tool for encouraging online conversations centered on a specific document, image, or other piece of evidence....Google Docs can do this sort of thing but NowComment provides a ton of features that aren't available with Google. It's specifically designed to encourage conversation. I especially like the ability to tag comments, sort comments, and because NowComment is web-based, I can use it full featured on tablets and iPads....This seems like a powerful tool for encouraging document analysis.
Glenn Wiebe, Curriculum Specialist/Consultant for ESSDACK (Hutchinson, KS)
from his February 2016 History Tech blog review of NowComment
“Digital Tools like Google Docs and NowComment provide opportunities to comment on and analyze texts with others.”
From a Literacy Today article Modeling Digital Learning by Stephanie Affinito (Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning, University at Albany).
My two 7th grade honors English classes had read [two articles about recycling] in their separate classes, and had annotated them, marking places where they were surprised, and places where they had questions. I then introduced them to your site, and first asked each student (a total of 68 in the two classes) to make three comments on each of the two articles, basing their comments on their annotations. They did this "blind": I did not allow them to see other students' comments. The day after they made their initial comments, I opened the document so that they could see all the comments, and then asked them to respond to at least three comments on each of the two articles. They did this during class, although the "blind" comments were done as homework. As they began reading and responding to the comments of others, several of them got very excited, and I began to get questions like "Can I answer a response to my comment?" "What if I want to add another comment now that I've thought more about it?" etc. All music to an English teacher's ears!...I have to tell you that both my students and I are very impressed with the ease and user-friendliness of NowComment, and I certainly plan to make good use of it in the future.
Elizabeth Harrington, Jefferson Middle School (CA)
NowComment.com offers a no-strings, totally free service to facilitate detailed discussions about texts — and this is a great resource for teachers seeking to engage students in deep analysis. Students can use the interface to do a close reading of a poem, a passage from literature, a historical document, an informational article, or even a math word problem.
What's great is how the interface visually links specific comments with paragraphs, sentences, or even individual words. I remember, as an English teacher, how many of my students, by default, trended toward broad generalizations — but instead I wanted them to make focused interpretations supported by evidence. NowComment.com, by providing visual linkages, makes it easier to focus comments in a targeted manner.
Think of it as an interactive tool for annotations, or a threaded discussion presented side-by-side with source material…
[from a November 2014 review on the International Literacy Association website (formerly Reading.org)]
Teachers from the elementary grades through college have used NowComment. For example, a second grade teacher uploaded a “Time for Kids” article and then entered the class discussion into the interface, modeling how to comment online. A middle school teacher whose class read Omnivore's Dilemma used NowComment to have her class discuss “The Father of the Chicken Nugget.” A high school AP Statistics teacher in a hybrid setting uploaded an article exploring the correlation between the salary of Major League Baseball teams and their winning records. Undergraduate university students in a screenwriting course provided peer review on a piece of original writing, “Chess Club.” I've also used it in a MAT graduate class that I teach.
Chris Sloan, Judge Memorial HS (UT)
This may be the most effective teaching I've ever done… I'm so loving it as a “student” myself right now, not just as a “ teacher.” It really is a wonderful way to enjoy the art of Slow Reading.
Clay Burrell, (Singapore American School)
former Editor/Curator of http://education.change.org
I've used NowComment with my 7th graders for several years and had great success with it. My students love it. Sometimes 7th graders just blurt things out, but this tool helps them be more thoughtful, make better comments, have better conversations. It gives them time to think.
Mary Moore, Nagel Middle School (OH)
I was skeptical at first, but now I can't imagine teaching my “flipped classroom” AP Statistics without it. I love it because I get to hear all my students' thoughts, not just those from the ones who always raise their hands.
Jenny Breissinger, Ursuline Academy (OH)
Prof. Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University English Department, author of six Educational Technology books:
As a teacher of writing and educational technology, I have been quite impressed with the features that NowComment offers. 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. As I think about designing the discussion task, looking for ways to optimize student learning, I know that I will be able to do this kind of advanced sorting when I prepare to evaluate their participation. And, for me, this is the crux of online (or face-to-face) commenting/annotation. We want to invite and encourage conversation, not just comments. [From his Digital Writing, Digital Teaching blog]
“Group work extends to social-annotation tools, too, said Troy Hicks, a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University and the co-author of Connected Reading. Digital resources like NowComment allow teachers to upload texts and have students highlight, add questions, and create discussion threads with other students.” [Quoted in a June 12, 2017 Education Week article.]
...U.Va. faculty members are helping public interest organization Fairness.com to test and develop NowComment, a web-based tool...which can help the professor then generate more in-depth discussion during class time.University of Virginia President's Report 2009-10 (January 2011)
NowComment is a kind of mandatory class participation that students can do it on their own time and without concerns about speaking up in class. I also pick up a lot about their writing skills, even when they write very short one sentence answers to my questions on NowComment. I can point out quite quickly certain common grammatical errors. And since NowComment counts student responses for me, I know how much participation I'm getting from individual students. The site is a lot less cumbersome to use than Blackboard. When I haven't understood something about the site, the site administrator has responded almost immediately to my queries.
Professor Carl Rollyson (Baruch College/CUNY)
Especially in the larger 50-student class, the online discussion was remarkably lively and useful, better in fact than the in-class discussion. I love the software and will definitely be using it again. The new PDF capability works great!
Professor Bruce Williams (UVA)
Media Studies Department
I love NowComment and will be telling my colleagues about it at Temple and elsewhere! I will also make it a part of every future course I teach.
Professor Chris Rabb (Temple University)
Fox School of Business
We are using the Now Comment in a large lecture course of several hundred students and have found it easy to use, elegant, and powerful as a means to facilitate intellectual exchange amongst large numbers of students through the medium of a primary source.
Prof. David Germano (UVA)
Director of SHANTI (Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts Network of Technological Initiatives), co-director of the Tibet Center.
I am loving using NowComment in my courses. It is so helpful. I have not had any trouble.
Professor Heather J. Evans Anderson (Winthrop University)
Associate Professor of Biology
Students' second draft essays were measurably improved after using NowComment to give peer feedback on the first drafts. NowComment's design encourages "close reading" comments on specific sentences and paragraphs, which produced concrete, helpful suggestions. Using NowComment was a breeze; we used no class time teaching its use.
Dorothe Bach, Assistant Director, UVA Teacher Resource Center (TRC)
John Alexander, Associate Director, UVA Center for Emerging Research, Scholarship and the Arts (CERSA)
I used NowComment software in my British Romanticism class and was gratified to see how easy it was to use. My students were all able to add comments and questions to a common text… producing a whole range of interesting interpretations and points of departure for the class discussion that followed. The students were overwhelmingly impressed by the NowComment interface, and remarked on its ease of use and the ways in which the exercise elicited more thoughtful conversation; they had only positive things to say about it. Students too shy to participate in class discussion were particularly enthusiastic about the venue that the NowComment exercise provided for their contributions.
Professor Andrew Stauffer (UVA)
Director, Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship (NINES)
My students enjoyed NowComment. The quality of the discussion was comparable to face-to-face verbal discussion, but NowComment made the logistics of document sharing and collaboration within and between groups so much easier!"
Prof. Ruth Ferree (UVA)
Curry School of Education
NowComment worked well to help the students in my Italian literature survey course prepare for discussion of assigned texts in Italian. I had the students enter comments into NowComment [in Italian] before class; even without specific instructions the students naturally responded to one another's comments as they made their own. This online social interaction primed them very effectively for in-class interaction. I also projected the NowComment webpage during class discussion so the students could see the text integrated with everyone's comments. NowComment worked reliably, and the students didn't need any training to use it.
Jessica Otey (Duke University)
Italian Department (adjunct)
The software was excellent. The quality and quantity of the student's comments on the speech were outstanding, much better than I expected; their ability to see and respond to each others' comments in context was the best part. They were very enthusiastic about the software.
Prof. Brian Balogh (UVA “History Guy”)
Miller Center Of Public Affairs
I had my students use NowComment within small groups to peer review each other's papers. I was really impressed with the quality of the online comments; they were often much more constructively critical and substantive then I was expecting.
Prof. Scot French (University of Central Florida)
For the last three months, subgroups of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim scholars from the International Society for Scriptural Reasoning (SSR) have used NowComment to study one another's sacred literature. NowComment has given us a new capacity to share scriptural commentary and analysis with one another in the cyberspace equivalent of a face-to-face discussion. The results have been very exciting and productive.
Professor Peter Ochs (UVA)
co-founder, Society for Scriptural Reasoning
as a professor teaching 100+ students, it gave me a sense [of] student understanding and personalities that I would never had otherwise obtained, and as a consequence, I feel like I know my students better and can teach them better....[in a second course] On the final exam students demonstrated a great familiarity with the material covered using NowComment, so it clearly made a difference in an important way.
Professor Jennifer Burns (then UVA, now Stanford)