Last year, I contributed to a grass-roots online effort to identify the top tools educators and others used online for learning. This was spearheaded by Jane Hart of the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies in the UK. In all, I and 108 other professionals worldwide sent Jane their Top Ten list of tools, which she collapsed into a Top 100 List in rank order. To me, this is one of the best lists of tools out there showing what today’s professionals are using.
Jane noted that this survey was not narrowly defined. She simply asked, “What are your 10 favorite tools for your personal learning/working or for creating learning for others?” Over 400 different tools were named, but the Top 100 List shows the 100 tools that received 3 or more (positive) mentions. Another 50 tools were mentioned twice. Over 75% of the tools in the list are free; whether a tool is free or not appears to be a very important factor in a user’s choice. The ranking in the Top 100 Tools list appears to be relatively unimportant – what is amazing is the range of tools that are being used for learning. Jane saw this as the key take-away in her list. It demonstrated that (e-)learning is not just about online courses (which is still the view held by many people) – but includes education, training, information sharing, communication and collaboration.
Jane goes on to note that many of the tools featured at the top of the Top 100 Tools list are tools that people are using for their own personal learning; this demonstrated to her that self-managed learning is becoming a very important aspect of learning – i.e. identifying yourself what you need to know/learn and how you are going to learn it; and suggested that the traditional “gatekeepers” to learning may be becoming redundant (for some) or at least less important (for others). Many people have dismissed many of the tools listed as “not being learning tools”, and while many are certainly not dedicated learning tools, Jane thinks they have missed the whole point. The fact that these tools were being commonly used by people in their daily lives meant they were more powerful as learning tools than less so. When learning tools are distinct from those used in daily life then learning itself becomes compartmentalized, and is considered as a separate activity, and possibly an onerous activity. The tools in her list demonstrated that learning/working/living is actually becoming one and the same thing, and therein lies the enormous power of these tools for learning.
This list of tools becomes even more interesting when one bounces it against this year’s Horizon Report, issued by the New Media Consortium. The report notes that short-term grassroots video and collaboration webs are already in use, with mobile broadband tools, data mash-ups, collective intelligence and social operating systems emerging. The challenge for higher education will be to adapt and adopt these emerging tools in learning-centered ways rather than ignoring or banning them (as some school systems are currently doing).
Jane called for another round this year, and so far I and 35 others have contributed. Mine for both 2007 and 2008 are located here (and you will notice that they changed!). I am looking forward to seeing the Top 100 for 2008, and it is interesting to note that 2/3rd’s of those contributing so far are new professionals. I find it interesting to review each person’s contribution…as this is a rich source of information on the practice of our craft globally.