My Current Top Tools

Jane Hart Top 100Jane Hart tweeted that her 8th annual survey of learning professionals was out for her Top Tools for Learning 2014.  I always find this list interesting and a great resource to share with my students.  I regularly use quite a number, and have at least played with all but 18 of the top hundred.  Last year’s list is available on her Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies website.  I have embedded her slideshow from last year here:

The last time I submitted my top ten tools to her survey was in 2012, so it was interesting to first develop my list for this year and submit it…and then go back and reflect on how this list might have changed from what I submitted in 2012.

My top toolsWhat is both interesting and maybe a little alarming for me is how little this list changed in the past two years.  The order is a little different, and Google Reader was replaced with Feedly…but the functionality is the same.  Facebook dropped off and the iPad was added.  Two years ago, I stated:

“…these are my top tools for learning “at the present moment” – but I do see shifts occurring in the next year.  I think this is the first year that I have not listed my learning management system (Blackboard) in my top ten, which is pretty telling on its own.  My home institution has moved to Google Apps for email and productivity, so potentially I will shift from using Dropbox to Google Drive, which folds in another favorite tool of mine, Google Docs.  As we all move to more open platforms and mobile friendly applications, some of the above will evolve as well.  I did not list smartphones or tablets in my top ten, but I am increasingly aware of how well my tools work (or do not work) on mobile devices.”

Well…two years have passed… and I have certainly moved beyond Blackboard.  I regularly use Google Drive and the associated docs…but continue to think and use Dropbox first.  Wherever I go these days, my iPad and iPhone are handy…which I use for note-taking, research, and photos.  In fact, the panorama feature of iPhone camera is another favorite.

Reflecting on the evolutionary changes occurring on the web, I think that I have moved beyond “tools” to practices.  I do have my second top ten list that I use almost as often as my top ten…

And two that were on last year’s list that look interesting and were introduced to me by students were Udutu and Trello.  I continue to check out tools…

…but it is the practices afforded by the open web that continue to excite me – not the tools.  (My grammar colleagues tell me “practice” has no plural…but my mind refuses to accept that…)

practiceBy practice, I mean working and learning in the open.  The web (and these tools) are no longer separate entities from my work / life experience.    I met with some colleagues this morning for coffee, and we were discussing the visit this week by Christina Engelbart of the Doug Engelbart Institute.  In many ways, the top 100 tools for learning simply provide evidence of what Doug Engelbart visualized as “augmenting human intellect.”  The tools have become as much a part of me as the clothes I wear…and as such, the use seems to have become second nature and unconscious.

That said, I still find value in Jane crowdsourcing the top tools.  Seeing what might surface provides new ways of thinking about teaching and learning in a digital age.  If you have not done so, join me in voting for your top tools…and let’s see what all of us develop together.

{Graphic: C4LPT, Allen Interactions}

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Top Tools for Learning (at the present moment)

For six years now, Jane Hart has annually compiled the Top 100 Tools for Learning.  She does this by crowdsourcing the list and having learning professionals in the field provide their top ten tools.  One can submit their top ten tools via Twitter or Facebook or a survey.  The 2011 list has had over 160,000 views on her website and over 560,000 views on  Slideshare.  I have been submitting my top tools over the past few years, and both my list and hers continue to evolve.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ontario_wanderer/3496185271/My top ten tools this year are:

1.  WordPress – a blogging platform that I use and suggest to my students.  I am increasingly seeing WordPress as a potential learning management system that is more open than Blackboard, Angel or D2L.

2.  Google Reader – my main aggregator for feeds from news sites, journals, and blogs.    It seems like RSS is losing steam (or simply disappearing off websites), so not sure how much longer I’ll be using this.

3.  Diigo – my social bookmarking platform.  I continue to use it heavily for personal use, but have been using it less instructionally, primarily again because RSS has become problematic.

4.  Twitter – My social networking platform of choice to maintain loose connections with my personal learning network.

5. Tweetdeck – a useful desktop application for managing tweets.

6.  Netvibes – I have used both Google Sites and Netvibes to aggregate student blogs for classes, and my preference is Netvibes, both aesthetically and for ease of use.

7. Facebook – Where the students are…though I have used it more for maintaining connections with past students than for learning with present students.  I plan to play with Facebook group pages for my class this coming year.

8. Camtasia – still very useful for creating short screencasts for my classes.  I tend to point students to Screenr as a free alternative.

9.  Prezi – I have shifted from PowerPoint to Prezi this year and may never go back!  I like the creativity that Prezi allows.  I still use Presentation Zen to guide my Prezi production.

10.  Dropbox – my file service on the cloud.

I stated up front that these are my top tools for learning “at the present moment” – but I do see shifts occurring in the next year.  I think this is the first year that I have not listed my learning management system (Blackboard) in my top ten, which is pretty telling on its own.  My home institution has moved to Google Apps for email and productivity, so potentially I will shift from using Dropbox to Google Drive, which folds in another favorite tool of mine, Google Docs.  As we all move to more open platforms and mobile friendly applications, some of the above will evolve as well.  I did not list smartphones or tablets in my top ten, but I am increasingly aware of how well my tools work (or do not work) on mobile devices.

Thank you, Jane, for continuing to provide this service and for pushing our thinking about the tools we use for learning!

{Photo Credit: Ontario Wanderer}

 

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