A little while ago, I wrote a short overview of collaborative writing tools and amongst them was Scrawlar. What I didn’t know at the time was that Scrawlar was created by Brian Aspinall, a teacher in Ontario, Canada. I found this out when he followed me on Twitter and I started poking around his website. I was initially led to Scrawlar by Doug Peterson, another Ontarian educator and technology consultant. All of this eventually led to another tool that Brian created called Nkwiry, a tool for teachers and students where they can share resources they have found on the internet, a sort of collaborative bookmarking, but private and secure. Teachers create an account and then share the class code with their students. Best of all, this is completely free. Here is an overview:
Creating an account and a class:
- Go to Nkwiry and click on ‘Teacher Signup’ at the top of the page. You will be taken to this dialog box where you enter in your email address, password, and class code. The password is just for you since you will create individual student passwords later on. The class code needs a number in it and must be in all lower case letters.
- Click on ‘I agree to the Terms and Service’ and then ‘Sign up’. You will get access immediately, so you don’t need to verify through your email. That means you can use a fake or disposable email address to sign up, but you won’t get any access if you forget your password. It is better to use your email address if you are comfortable doing that.
- Once you have registered, you will be taken to this screen. This is the default topic setup which can be easily modified. You will notice the Add and Remove buttons located amongst the topics. This is for adding or removing topics. At this time, there doesn’t seem to be a way to edit a topic title, so make sure you choose wisely since you will be adding bookmarks to this area and you don’t want to delete those to change to a new topic name. I suspect this is something that may come in later updates.
- When you click on the ‘Add’ button, you will see this dialog box. Just enter a topic name and a description so participants will know what to add. Once you are done, simply click on ‘Add Topic’.
- When you click on the delete button, the topic buttons change to what you see above. You simply click on the ‘Delete’ link in the box you wish to remove to delete it. Be careful, once it is gone, it is gone.
- Another function found along the top of the page is something called ‘Class Feed’. This is where students and teachers can post questions or comments for the whole class to read and reply. Simply type in the message and click on ‘Post’.
- When you go to the Class Feed, you also can see this message on the righthand side. Clicking on this message will delete the entire message feed, so choose wisely. This could be helpful for when you use this with a different class.
- If you would like to change your password, click on ‘Settings’ at the top of the page and you will see this dialog box appear. Enter your old password and then your new one twice before clicking ‘Save’.
- Once you have set up the topics and are ready for students to join, you will need to add them first and give them each a password for them to login in. Click on ‘Manage Students’ at the top of the page and you will see a page similar to the one above.
- Type in a student name into the ‘Name’ field and hit ‘Add New’. You will then see them show up below with a password appearing beside it. You can keep this password or change it to something else that they will remember. Make sure to give each student a unique password since this is how Nkwiry keeps track of who is adding what on the forum or in the bookmarks.
- Once you are done, click on ‘Save Changes’ to save all of the settings.
- To remove a student, simply click on the red X to the far right of their name.
- When you would like students to join, simply give them the class code and the password you set up for them and tell them to go the main Nkwiry page. From there, they click on ‘Login’ and they are taken to the page shown above. They click on ‘Select’ and choose ‘Student’. From there, they enter the class code and password before clicking on ‘Login!’.
- For you, just choose ‘Teacher’ and enter your email and password before clicking on ‘Login!’.
- For both students and teachers, it is the same for adding bookmarks. Click on any of the topics where you would like to add a bookmark. Type in or paste in the URL, add a short title, and then type of a short description of what it is before clicking on ‘Add Bookmark’.
- Once you have added a bookmark, it will look similar to the link above. Click on the image or the URL button to go to the page in a new window or tab.
- Students and teachers can also give it a ‘thumbs up’ by clicking on the green thumb button. A number will appear beside it showing how popular it is.
- Click on the red X on the far right to remove the link.
- You don’t have to leave Nkwiry to search for links, you can also use the ‘Explore’ function at the top of the page. It is a custom Google search that is safe for students.
That is a general overview of Nkwiry. It isn’t the most comprehensive tool out there, but I think that is what makes it good for most classrooms. Keeping it simple will make is more manageable for students and teachers to use. I think there are some things I would like to see added such as creating different classes for each teacher, but that may come in future updates.
I hope you find it helpful. Share your thoughts in the comment section below or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!