NowComment is an interesting tool for creating online conversations centered around shared documents. While you could do something similar in Google Docs, NowComment was designed for hosting threaded discussions and works with a wide variety of document types including PDFs and Word files.
NowComment lets you upload a document then create a discussion about the document as a whole or about selected portions of the document. If your document includes images, you can create discussions about those images as well as the document and selected portions of the document. In other words, you could have three threaded discussions running at the same time about the same document. In this scenario you would have a discussion about the whole document, a discussion about a selected portion of the document, and a discussion about the image in the document. That might sound like it would be confusing, but it’s not. At the top of the document that you upload into NowComment you can select the conversation(s) that you do or don’t want to view.
Applications for Education
NowComment is the kind of tool that can be helpful in facilitating a discussion about a primary source document in a history class. Similarly, it could be a good option for facilitating online discussion and evaluation of research reports.
Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for adding NowComment to his list of tools for annotating websites.