My Top Tools During Pandemic

Once a year, I reflect on the tools that I routinely use for teaching and learning, thanks to Jane Hart’s annual survey of top tools.  For 14 years, Jane has hosted this survey, and the results – filtered by top 200 tools, top personal learning tools, top workplace learning tools, and top education tools – help inform my work and my ability to stay current.  My list last year can be found here.

This year feels different.  My tools have not really changed much, though there are new nuances.  But with the pandemic and lockdowns since spring, my tool use feels as cluttered as the workshop shown above!

Looking at my top ten:

  1.  Twitter – I use Twitter in all my classes as a supplemental communication channel.  I also subscribe to a number of hashtags and use class-specific hashtags.  I follow a number of colleagues (as well as my students).  All of this provides a rich source of daily learning opportunities, and I try to share as much as I take in.  The tool that dropped off my list still is critical for effective use of Twitter, and that is Tweetdeck, though if Tweetdeck ever folds, Hootsuite is in my back pocket!  This is both a PPL and EDU tool for me, to use Jane’s abbreviations.
  2. Feedly – In an age where blogging seems to have declined, there are still enough of us blogging that aggregating blogs through RSS feeds works for me.  This is primarily a PPL tool for me.
  3. Zoom – It seems that everyone is Zooming now after the pandemic hit…with good reason.  One needs to pay attention to security settings, but Zoom works, and has been key in my doctoral classes.  My back pocket tool if Zoom folded is MS Teams.  Zoom is primarily a EDU tool for me, though it has also allowed for connections with college friends, colleagues, and family.
  4. Diigo – I use a private Diigo group in my Masters class to collectively gather material for students to use in writing papers on attention, memory and thinking aspects of edtech.  It also forms my electronic brain, holding years worth of tagging.  This is both an EDU tool and a PPL tool.
  5. Camtasia – I create my own videos for my courses, and have been using Camtasia for a decade.  I continue to upgrade and currently use Camtasia 2019 (though will probably move to Camtasia 2020 soon).  Since the pandemic struck, I have used tips I learned from Mike Wesch to record short personal messages using my iPhone and splice them in to my screencast recordings. and I still like using Prezi for the background of my screencast.  This is an EDU tool for me.
  6. iPhone – Mike’s use of a smartphone to shoot simple quick videos was brilliant in my estimation. Mike duct tapes his phone to his window, but I use a tripod so that I can shoot outdoors either on my deck or front lawn.  Since I added the videos this summer, my students continually comment about how they now “know” me!  Smartphones have made Jane’s lists in the past, but did not last year.  But I now consider my iPhone 11 both a PPL and EDU tool, so it will be interesting to see if it jumps back on!
  7. WordPress – I am not as prolific as I once was, but I still like the metacognitive exercise of blogging, and WordPress remains my go-to blogging platform.  For over a decade, my blog has been hosted by Edublogs, whose service with an Aussie twist I appreciate! WordPress is an EDU tool.
  8. Canvas – Both institutions for whom I teach have moved in the past few years to Canvas, and I continue to like this LMS over others I have used (Blackboard, Bb Ultra, Angel).  Tying in to my next tool, Canvas is pretty customizable, and students like my consistent format.  I use weekly modules and have module pages for Preparation, Interactions, and Assessments, a model I have used for years based on the P-I-E format at St. Leo. Canvas is an EDU tool.
  9. Inoreader – For the past year, I have used Inoreader as a blog aggregator for my doctoral class, where all students have their own personal blogs.  Inoreader can be embedded in the Canvas module so that students have a single place to visit to find fellow students’ posts.  Inoreader is an EDU tool for me.
  10. YouTube – I continue to host my own short videos and find useful relevant videos on YouTube to embed in my classes.  In an age of Tic Tok, Netflix and Disney +, video is an expectation in online classes, and YouTube continues to rock, and was the number one tool on Jane’s list last year! I consider YouTube to be both a PPL and EDU tool.

Tools that did not meet the top ten cut-off, but definitely factor in to my work as an educator include this baker’s dozen – Tweetdeck, Snagit, MS Teams, Kahoot, Wakelet, Padlet, Prezi, Google Apps, Word/Powerpoint/Excel, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and Dropbox.

Jane’s call for input to the 2020 list closes August 21, and a new 2020 list will be out in September.  I am looking forward to it, and really appreciate this service that Jane Hart has provided for 14 years!

{Graphics: Funky Junk, Michael Wesch, Alicia Orre)

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