Tools Retrograde

For the 12th year in a row, Jane Hart is once again asking professionals to vote on their own top tools for learning. I always look forward to Jane’s call for votes…as it provides an opportunity for me to reflect on my own use.  Last year’s compilation can be found here.  My post last year for the voting can be found here.  And given the Facebook scandal this past year, I find this year that I have gone a bit retro.

Jane is compiling this list from the votes of contributors worldwide as well as 3 sub-lists:

  1. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning 2018 – 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 Training 2018 – 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 2018 – ie. the tools used by educators and students in schools, colleges, universities, adult education etc.

My top tools this year…compared with previous years:

Twitter (with Tweetdeck for organization) remains my personal top tool for learning, as my personal learning network (and my students) continues to keep me updated on changes in the learning environment.  What I feel has changed this year is my commitment towards unwavering use of social media as a learning platform.  As I noted in “My Cracked Rose Colored Glasses,” I felt strongly that it was morally wrong for me in my power position as professor to require my students to set up Facebook accounts.  I still use Twitter and Diigo…and if I was listing more tools, I would add that I still use a fair amount of YouTube in my classes.  So I have not given up totally on social media…but I have pulled the plug on using Facebook as a platform for class discussions.

The retro aspect is that I am listing the two LMS platforms that I use – Blackboard and Canvas – for the first time in a decade.  I listed LMS’s in the early days of Jane’s survey.  I noticed in a 2008 post that I was one of 108 participants in her survey…last year she had 2,174 participants!  So back in 2008, my view of “tools” was pretty limited, and as the chart above shows, I have not listed LMS’s for the past 6 years.

While not listing them explicitly, the fact remains that Blackboard and Canvas have been and are where I spend the majority of my time interacting with…and learning from…students.  There was a definite bias against LMS’s a decade ago.  In a presentation Bud Deihl and I gave at Blackboard World 2009, we – like many of our colleagues – called Blackboard a “Walled Garden.”  We railed against how students contributed their intellectual property within the LMS…and then lost access to that property after the semester closed.  And in the past decade, that remains the case.

Yet here we are a decade later still using the trusty LMS…and recognizing that with its warts, it also has safety features that social media just does not provide.  I continue to use Twitter, but I also recognize…as Lisa Lane put it so eloquently:

“Educators who persist in using social media for the classes are not just outliers in ed tech anymore – they are now collaborators in the dissemination and sale of student information and data. Stalwarts who object to online teaching and web-based learning can now say, “see? it isn’t safe!” Anything not in a protected, encrypted, controlled system is rightly suspect.”

True…but I also agree with Laura Gibbs point (in reply to Lisa):

“…it’s true that I’ve never found any of the traditional LMS tools to be useful for my own teaching goals. I’ve been teaching fully online for 15 years, so, like Lisa, I’ve experimented with a ton of different tools over the years. I still miss good old Delicious (yes, Diigo is cool… but Delicious was way more social; I loved it), and I also miss Ning. I used Ning as a group blogging platform for years; it was when Ning gave up on education (understandably; they couldn’t compete with the LMS behemoths) that I decided to switch from a group blog platform to each student having their own blogs, connected in a network using RSS…

…If you are frustrated with the traditional LMS tools, there really is a whole world of tools out there, and when it comes to blogging tools, I am a fan. 🙂

A mind stretched by new experiences
can never go back to its old dimensions.

… in other words: there’s no way I’m going back to just limiting myself to LMS tools. :-)”

So…while I have added my LMS’s in to my current top tools, I still have Twitter, Diigo, WordPress, and Feedly listed, because I too cannot go back to “just LMS.”  I get inspired by how other teachers think outside the box when it comes to tools, such as Richard Byrne’s creative use of tools in his high school social studies class.  I am not sure the “edtech dream” has died…as Lisa suggested.  But I have gone more old school this year.

And maybe as my good friend Bud Deihl likes to point out, it is less about the tool and more about who you engage with…

So it will be interesting (and potentially refreshing) to see how the Top 200 Tools evolve this year.

Looking forward to it, Jane!

{Graphics:, Bud Deihl}

3 thoughts on “Tools Retrograde

  1. Thanks, Britt! I went and voted, but was confused by the third area, used in education. If I use it and share what I’ve created with students (for, in my case, Diigo, GIMP, WordPress, Audacity), that seems different than using it WITH students (of these, just WordPress).

  2. Good point, Lisa. My top ten does mix “for” and “with” as well…and in the past, I sometimes felt compelled to add my second top ten…because 10 just seemed limiting. I think you just gave me an idea for a follow-on post…

    I have also wondered what my teaching online would be like if I dumped my top 10 and started fresh!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *