Annual Reflection on My Tool Use

carpenter-tablet-computer-manual-worker-hammer-toolbeltJane Hart has opened up voting for the 2017 Top Tools used for learning.  With the 11th Annual Learning Tools survey, Jane Hart will once again be compiling an overall Top 200 Tools for Learning 2017 as well as 3 sub-lists:

  1. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning 2017 – ie. the tools used by individuals for their own self-organised learning and self-improvement – inside and outside the workplace.
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning 2017 – ie. the tools used to create and/or manage e-learning or for performance support, or tools used by work teams and groups for informal social and collaborative learning.
  3. Top 100 Tools for Education  2017– ie. the tools used by educators and academics in schools, colleges, universities, adult education etc.

Voting closes: mid-day GMT, Friday 22 September 2017
Results released: 8 am GMT, Monday 2 October 2017

I frequently use her annual Top Tools for Learning in both my doctorate and masters courses.  My look at my use of tools and my Top Ten were posted last September.

So my Top Ten this year are:

  • Twitter
  • Tweetdeck
  • Diigo
  • Feedly
  • Netvibes
  • Camtasia
  • SnagIt
  • WordPress
  • Facebook
  • Apple Watch

Not much has changed in the past 7 months…though I changed out my number ten:

Some of the shift over the past three years comes as I retired from full-time faculty development and spend more time in online teaching.  However, I still dabble in faculty development – I have just spent the past two months consulting for the VCU School of Social Work as they update their elearning offerings.

I teach for both Northeastern University and Creighton University.  That means two different LMSs (Blackboard and Canvas), but the LMS does not make my top ten…and I continue to be comfortable teaching in any (or none).  I introduce my students to blogging and social media, so Twitter, Tweetdeck, Diigo, WordPress, and Facebook are all actively used in my instruction (and in work submitted by my students).  I personally use Tweetdeck, Feedly and Netvibes to organize student tweets and blogs.  Camtasia and Snagit are used frequently to create multimedia for my classes…or respond to student questions.  I also instruct my students on curating their own content, and a favorite of my students this past year has been Pinterest.

I started using the Apple Watch this year..and it is amazing how quickly that becomes a part of daily use, from seeing social media to texts to fitness apps…and the timer keeps me on time to meetings!  So it seemed right to add it to my top tools, even though I continue to use the iPhone, iPad, and laptop daily…as well as my trusty Dell desktop.

I poll my students frequently to see what they are using…and some surprises show up (at least for me):

Big shout out to Jane for continuing this interesting snapshot of tool use across corporate and education settings!  I look forward to seeing this year’s list…and I hope to spend some time this summer exploring some of the emerging tools that showed up last year.

{Graphic: Dreamstime}

Course Captured in Image

We are half-way through my ILD-831 course at Creighton University on Technology and Leadership.  Over the past couple of weeks, my students have been exploring connections internal and external to their organizations, with Husband’s “wirearchy” as a lens for discussion.  We also have looked at some of the tools provided in Jane Hart’s most recent Top 200 Tools for Learning 2016.

So this morning, I am checking my blog feeds on Feedly and find this post by Jane Hart, linking to her article in Modern Workplace Learning Magazine entitled, “The Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit.”  In this article, she provided a diagram that shows the key tools a Modern Professional Learner might use in 12 different contexts – many of which appeared on her Top 200 Tools for Learning.

professional toolkit

MPL Toolkit

One could repurpose this diagram as “The Modern Leader’s Toolkit” and effectively capture the essence of my ILD 831 course.  In my course, we explore how the digital world impacts leaders and those they lead.

As one circles around the twelve different contexts – which fit well with leadership – one can easily see the integration of digital aspects of life with leadership.  Digital connections and personal productivity tools help help filter and organize the “bottomless knowledge” that Weinberger noted in Too Big To Know.  There are digital options for networking, building and engaging in online communities, and continuing both professional and personal growth through knowledge flow ware, online courses, and online knowledge repositories.  Workflow within an organization can be enhanced through collaboration apps and web conferencing.

Jane noted:

“…A Personal Learning Space lies at the heart of the Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit. It is a privately-controlled space where an individual can organise and manage his/her own learning, by recording and reflecting on experiences wherever and however they take place – in the classroom, online, in the office, in a conference or elsewhere – as well as evidence changes and improvements in her/her performance change. (It might  be termed an ePortfolio or even a Personal LMS)…”

This concept of a personalized learning space seemed to align with comments made this week by the President of Northeastern University:

“…In 10 years, according to Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun, higher education will need to be much more nimble and personalized to meet students’ individual needs. But colleges and universities mustn’t only focus on the typical 18- to 22-year-old underclassman. Rather, they must embrace the notion of lifelong learning—that people of any age, and throughout their professional careers, will need new skills and competencies to evolve with the times…”

Aoun noted the disruption coming due to automation (a theme we have been exploring in ILD831), and noted that “…this reality represents a “wake-up call” for higher education, which must move rapidly to build what he called a robot-proof education that embraces lifelong learning and is nimble enough to equip people will the skills, experience, and knowledge needed to succeed in this changing landscape.”  I would suggest that this is true of most organizations, inside higher education and outside.  One cannot delegate responsibility to a training department – lifelong learning needs to be a personal responsibility.

Jane’s image captures the essence of ILD-831, but it also captures the essence of what a modern leader should be.

{Graphic: Jane Hart, Glanzman}

 

Other Tools to Consider

In my ILD831 class for Creighton University this week, my 12 students will be looking at digital tools.  Using Jane Hart’s C4LPT Top 200 list as a starting point, they self-selected the following tools to explore and analyze from a leadership perspective (number indicates rank on the Top 200 list):
digital tools

As part of their analyses, they will be factoring in insights as they start to read David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know, as well as thoughts on an interview with Clay Shirky on the disruptive power of collaboration.  Their analyses will appear later this week in our Netvibes class page.

It is always interesting to consider the tools not selected by students as those selected.  Jane this year has divided her Top Tools into three sub-lists – Personal Learning, Workplace Learning, and Education – and noted the following:

  • “Individuals continue to reap the benefits of the opportunities offered to them on the Web to learn in all kinds of ways – both planned and unplanned, formal and informal, through content and people, online or on smart devices.
  • Education is also making use of a wide range of multi-purpose web-based tools – probably because they are free and easy to use – alongside dedicated educational tools.
  • Workplace learning, however, is still largely dominated by the use of traditional commercial tools for creating, delivering and managing e-learning. However, there is increasing use of new-style content development tools and greater use is being made of tools for social collaboration (and social learning) within work teams and groups.”

My class has business and non-profit executives, teachers and education administrators, military, corporate trainers, and healthcare managers.  What I will find interesting is not what tools they chose or how they might use them, but “why?” they might make a choice.  As an interdisciplinary group, I know we will learn from each other.

I found Jane Hart’s observations in each sub-group insightful.  Professionals reported to her that they were using digital tools to search and research the web, learn from others, aggregate and curate resources, store and sync their various files, and increase their productivity, using a variety of smart devices.  They reported a lot of experimentation on their own before they might bring a tool into the workplace or education.

In workplace learning, it was interesting and somewhat comforting that the number one tool was still Powerpoint.  As my students know from watching my class videos, I lean towards Prezi myself, but Powerpoint has advantages, not the least being accessibility.  Workplace tools included authoring tools, asset development tools (like infographics that I have played with), course management tools, and webinar tools. There is increasing use of time-line authoring tools, audience response tools, social tools, and web conferencing tools. I found it interesting that Jane noted the decreased use of FREE tools.

The opposite trend appeared in education, where free tools continue to be widely used along with commercial products.  Tools that increased interactivity were particularly popular.

Right Tool

After 10 years of reporting the top tools, one thing that remains in my thinking is that tools come and go, but the processes seem to become more focused and defined.  The specific tool is always less important than how and why it is being used.  I look forward to hearing what my students have to say this week!

{Graphics: kelcyc, Bob Crumb}

Another Tools Post

Wow!  It has been almost 5 months since I last posted.  It is not for lack of content, but the past 5 months have been busy.  My wife and I moved to Virginia, I taught 4 courses online, and we traveled to New England to see the grandkids twice.  So blogging dropped in priority…who knew that retirement would be so tiring!

In July 2015, I posted on my top tools for learning in response to Jane Hart‘s annual call for top tools.  At the time, I noted the following tools (and how they had changed over the years):

2015tools3

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Jane Hart’s wonderful Top 100 Tools list.  As Jane noted in this year’s call for votes:

“Due to the fact that the same tools have dominated the list in recent years, for 2016 the list will be extended to contain 200 tools so that more tools can be mentioned to create the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2016

Additionally, in order to understand how these tools are being used in different contexts, three sub-lists will also be generated:

  1. Top 100 Tools for Education – for use in schools, colleges, universities, adult ed
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning – for use in training, for performance support, social collaboration, etc
  3. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning – for self-organised learning”

That is exciting!

This past year, I retired from faculty development, relocated to Virginia, and engaged more fully in online teaching.  So, my tools have shifted.  Here are my top ten tools for this year (in Category One):

2016tools.

I teach for both Northeastern University and Creighton University.  That means two different LMSs (Blackboard and Canvas), but the LMS does not make my top ten…and I would be comfortable teaching in any (or none).  I introduce my students to blogging and social media, so Twitter, Tweetdeck, Diigo, WordPress, and Facebook are all actively used in my instruction (and in work submitted by my students).  I use Feedly and Netvibes to organize student tweets and blogs.  Camtasia and Snagit are used weekly to create multimedia for my classes.  I also instruct my students on curating their own content, and a favorite of my students this past year has been Pinterest.

If I was doing my top 20, some other tools that I use with my students would  be (in no particular order):

  • Storify
  • Piktochart
  • Hootsuite
  • VoiceThread
  • Blogger
  • Learnist
  • Pearltree
  • ScoopIt
  • YouTube
  • iPad

I list these because they surface as students curate and share content.

Thanks, Jane, for a remarkable 10 year journey.  Looking forward to the next decade!

{…and I plan to start blogging again…I have things to share and thoughts on which to reflect…}

 

 

My Evolving Top Tools

Jane Hart has issued her call for voting for the top tools we as professionals use for learning. I have voted in the past, as I noted in 2014 (here) and 2o12 (here), and I have always enjoyed the resulting Top One Hundred Tools list that Jane curates from the votes.  Her list from last year is embedded below:

My list for this year is similar to previous years…but I found my order was different:

2015tools3

As some may have noticed, I have been blogging less as I concentrated on settling into my new job.  However, I feel the urge to reconnect, so hope to do more blogging in the future.  I continue to use the distributed network of Twitter, LinkedIn, Feedly feeds, and to a lesser degree, Facebook, as my go to sources for my personal learning network.

A related post from LinkedIn announced that they have passed one million “publishers”.  They note:

Our over 1 million unique publishers publish more than 130,000 posts a week on LinkedIn. About 45% of readers are in the upper ranks of their industries: managers, VPs, CEOs, etc. The top content-demanding industries are tech, financial services and higher education. The average post now reaches professionals in 21 industries and 9 countries.

What was not mentioned … but is no small leap to assume … is that many of these posts were made on mobile devices.  I had lunch today with colleagues from Creighton University, and they described their use of smartphones in Europe to plan on the fly and connect with colleagues worldwide.  Then one thought back 30 years ago and wondered how we got along.

A great question!  Thirty years ago, none of the tools listed above (or indeed any of the Top 100) even existed.  As the web evolved, and our tools evolved, so too did our practices.

Over the past five years, I have taught a doctoral course on technology and leadership for Creighton University in their Ed.D program.  Originally, the “textbook” was Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat.  That evolved two years later to Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, and then in the last year to David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know.  It is not that Friedman or Shirky (or now Weinberger) had lost relevance, but the web was evolving at an increasingly rapid rate.

It makes you wonder what is coming in the next thirty years…in terms of tools and in terms of practice!

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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Call Me Hammerhand

I am still buzzing from all the ideas percolating from SLOAN International Conference on Online Learning, but today my buzz was from two totally unrelated (and yet totally related) blog posts from my PLN.

At the conference, there were many of us who cautioned people to not fixate on the latest digital tools, because the tools come and go, and what is important is teaching and learning.  After all, Jane Hart noted in her 2013 Top 100 Tools for Learning that the Number One tool of 2007 (Firefox) is now #97, and the Number One tool of 2008 (Delicious) has slid to #60 (and one I have abandoned for Diigo).  Things like WordPress or Pinterest or Poll Everywhere are “just a tool.”

How many of YOU have said similar words!?!

So, this morning I am reading a post from Gardner Campbell entitled “Doug Engelbart, transcontextualist.”  Gardner writes:

hammerhand

“There is no such thing as “just a tool.” McLuhan wisely notes that tools are not inert things to be used by human beings, but extensions of human capabilities that redefine both the tool and the user. A “tooler” results … The way I used to explain this is my new media classes was to ask students to imagine a hammer lying on the ground and a person standing above the hammer. The person picks up the hammer. What results? The usual answers are something like “a person with a hammer in his or her hand.” I don’t hold much with the elicit-a-wrong-answer-then-spring-the-right-one-on-them school of “Socratic” instruction, but in this case it was irresistible and I tried to make a game of it so folks would feel excited, not tricked. “No!” I would cry. “The result is a HammerHand!” …

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings…”

Let me repeat, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

Which brings me to the second post I read this morning, from Jane Hart entitled “The Social Learning Revolution and What It Means for Higher Education.”  Jane provides the Slideshare below which she used for her closing keynote at the WCET Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado last week.

Jane discusses her latest findings for the Top 100 Tools for Learning, where free online social tools dominate the top of the list.  She also notes that  learning, working and personal tools are merging, and that personal and professional learning is under the control of the individual.  She suggests that in the workplace learning revolution, individuals now have the tools to solve their own learning and performance problems.  The connected workplace with its wired workers – what Harold Jarche and Jon Husband call a “wirearchy” – increasingly demands new skills and practices.

Jane then suggests that what this means for higher education is that it is not enough to just add social tools to instructional practices.  Our students need to build social competence within a Personal Knowledge Management framework to prepare them for the new world of work.  They need to learn how to leverage social tools to solve their own learning and performance problems, as they will be expected to do when they enter the world of work.  Their “school work” should not be done in isolation, but integrated with a professional external network.  Working with this external network, our role as faculty is to help students make sense of what they find in the confusing world of the web – learning how to filter, synthesize and analyze, then encouraging them to share their learning back with their network.  In other words, our role as educators is to help students develop their digital identity.

She asks “How are you preparing your students for this new world of work and learning?”  Which begs the question, how are we in Centers preparing faculty to help them prepare these students?

Gardner’s post has me considering that whether working with faculty or students, when we begin to use a digital tool in our instruction, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

How does our use of a digital tool change us, our students, and the teaching moments?

As I said, my brain is buzzing.  Would love to hear your thoughts….

Graphics: {Recon Construction}

 

 

 

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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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Communities and Tools

A week from tomorrow, I am scheduled to lead a Brown Bag lunch session on “Building Community and Connections Through the Web.”

Bud Deihl and I were brainstorming this session (and he earlier also blogged about it).  As we talked, we realized that “community” is very nuanced.  The following slide emerged from our white board doodling:

So that got me wondering.  I belong to many communities.  Some of those communities overlap and others do not.  I use different tools with different communities.  In discussing the tools and their use to build connections, I thought I would tap into my blogging community to see how you would list tools matrixed with communities?  Does one tool suffice?  Do conversations in one tool spill over into other tools?  Are certain tools optimized for certain communities?

Some obvious tools that could be discussed as part of building community and connections include:

  • Twitter
  • Yammer
  • Blogs
  • Delicious / Diigo
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Apps (Reader / Docs / Sites)
  • Ning
  • Wikis
  • Netvibes
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Slideshare
  • Jott

What am I overlooking?  Be interested in your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Dietmar Offenhuber, Judith Donath, MIT Sociable Media Group

Living In the Real World

Stephen Downes is one of my heroes – a pioneer in online learning.  However, I think he missed the mark with his post yesterday entitled “My Take on the Top 25“. Stephen took Jane Hart’s Slideshow of the Day list of the top 25 technologies – and commented on where they fit (or did not fit) in his own world.

A quick disclaimer, I may have took notice because I was one of 192 professionals that submitted our top ten tools to Jane, who compiled them into her Top 100 Tools for Learning. Given the number of submissions and the depth of expertise of the submitters, this list strikes me as pretty balanced and interesting.  But I may be biased.

However, in reading Stephen’s post, I was struck by a feeling that I have not had since my Pentagon days – one of “NIH” – or “not invented here.”  NIH was a condition that sometimes struck officers of one branch of the military if an officer from another branch suggested a solution.  Stephen seemed to be unimpressed with many of the tools because he had already written a script or code that did similar functions and saw little utility in the tools listed.  He basically downplayed or outright stated that he had no use for 15 of the 25 tools.

I would suggest a different take.  Most faculty (and I include myself) are not as inherently gifted at coding or programming as Stephen is, and instead are simply looking for tools that solve problems in their very real world.  Many of the tools in Jane’s list meet these needs.  They have for me.

What I find interesting in Jane’s list are the possibilities it has suggested.  Rather than saying “I do not use this tool”, I looked at the list for suggestions on tools I might use to solve problems I have with my online teaching (and my students’ online learning).  I now routinely use 21 of the top 25 tools (though that was not true two years ago).  The four tools that make up my PLE (delicious, Google Reader, blogging with WordPress, and Twitter) are all in the top fifteen.  I am using Camtasia and Wikispaces in my online Blackboard class.  Firefox is my default browser.  Pictures in my blog come from Flickr or SnagIt, and I routinely network with others through Ning and Slideshare.  In fact, I continue to be blown away by the fact that one of my powerpoints I uploaded on a whim to SlideShare, Teaching In A Flat World, now has over 7,000 views in just the last 5 months – not to mention nearly 600 downloads and 16 embeds in others’ websites.  Long winded way of saying that I find tremedous value in these tools.

What is your take?  Do you find Jane’s list unhelpful (does it not fit your world)…or is it helpful – does it open up new possibilities for teaching and learning?  Be interested in your thoughts!

{Photo Credit: LexnGer}