Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Top 100 tools for learning

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Useful. (Also see this list.)

Have you ever wanted to know what tools other learning professionals use and which are the most popular? Here at the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies we wanted to find out too. So in July and August 2007 I posed a simple question on our website and blog: “What are your 10 favorite tools for your personal learning/working, or for creating learning for others?” We received lists of Top 10 Tools from 109 learning professionals. I had personally invited 30 of these respondents and the other 79 replied to the open invitation. While many of the respondents are well known names in the e-learning field, including Jay Cross, Clive Shepherd, Clark Quinn, Brent Schlenker, Stephen Downes, Seb Schmoller, James Farmer, Jane Bozarth, Harold Jarche, Karl Kapp, Charles Jennings, and George Siemens. Other contributors are practitioners working in corporate training or education, so there was a wide range of contributions.

Over 400 different tools were named by the respondents, but 100 tools received three or more mentions and these became our Top 100 Tools for Learning 2007.

What can we learn from this list? Here are a few observations:

  • I consider the ranking to be relatively unimportant; it is the range of tools being used for learning that is the key take-away here. It demonstrates that e-learning is not just about online courses (which is still the view held by many people), but includes information-sharing, communication, and collaboration.
  • Many are using these tools for their own personal learning, which demonstrates to me that self-managed learning is becoming very important nowadays.
  • Most of the tools are not dedicated learning tools, but rather ones that are being commonly used by people in their daily lives, which suggests to me that learning, working, and living are actually becoming one and the same thing. I believe that therein lies the enormous power of these tools for learning.
  • Over 75 percent of the tools on the list are free; the availability of free and low-cost tools is becoming a significant factor.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the tools themselves. First, the Top 10:

  1. Firefox, the Web browser, tops the list with over 50 percent of contributors naming it as one of their favorite tools. It is frequently cited as people’s “window into the Web,” and its ease of use and the extra functionality of its add-ons make it a powerful tool. Some of the Firefox add-ons even get their own ranking in the list. Other browsers do appear on the list, but lower down the rankings.
  2. del.icio.us is clearly another important tool for managing personal learning with 40 percent of contributors mentioning it. In our survey, it is well ahead of other social bookmarking tools.
  3. Skype was named by nearly 35 percent of contributors and leads other text and voice messaging tools due to its VoIP features and its impressive list of add-ons to extend its functionality.
  4. Google Search follows closely behind Skype, and it is clear from the comments that this is another vital tool for many. It has long been said that Google is the ultimate e-learning tool and its high ranking here bears this out. When people need to find something out they simply “Google” it. In fact Google tools dominate the list, which shows how important and pervasive they have become.
  5. PowerPoint takes an impressive slot at 5th place. For all the complaints we hear about “death by PowerPoint,” it is clearly a much-used tool-and not just to build presentations. PowerPoint is pretty unique in that it doesn’t have any real competition on the list.
  6. WordPress, the blogging tool, narrowly beat out its main rival, Blogger (see below).
  7. Gmail is the most popular email application in our survey, and is tied for 7th place along with…
  8. Google Reader, the favourite tool for reading RSS feeds.
  9. Blogger is another blogging tool.
  10. Word makes a high ranking in the 10th position, although Google Docs is close on its heels (in the 14th position). It is interesting to note that Word and PowerPoint are the only commercial tools in the Top 10.

Here are some additional tools of interest from the top half of the list:

  • Audacity, the cross-platform sound editor and recorder, comes in at 11th place, which just goes to show you how pervasive podcasting has become.
  • Moodle makes its mark in a joint 12th place. The popularity of this open-source course management system is impressive, and it is miles ahead of its nearest academic competitors-and there’s not a commercial learning management system on the list.
  • Wikispaces(at 15th) demonstrates the increasing popularity of wiki tools; others also made the list.
  • flickr appears next (at 16) and is the first of a number of free tools that allow you to store, tag, and share your own resources as well as make use of others’ resources. Other tools of this type appearing on the list include YouTube (tied for 22nd) for videos, TeacherTube (57th) for instructional videos, and Scribd (50th) for documents. Slideshare (31) is a free hosting and sharing service for presentations and lets you synchronize slides with audio as “slidecasts.”

At this point we begin to see some of the major commercial content development tools making the list:

  • Captivate, the demo- and scenario-based tool from Adobe; Articulate, the rapid e-learning development tool; Dreamweaver, the Web-authoring tool also from Adobe; and SnagIt, the screen capture tool.
  • iGoogle is the highest ranked start-page tool—a place where you can aggregate all kinds of resources on your online desktop.
  • MindManager, the mind mapping tool, is a surprising success; mapping tools, in general, seem to have captured the hearts and minds of many as others also make the list.
  • Facebook, the social networking sitemakes also makes a surprise appearance here. It is in fact the first of a number of social networks cited. Ning, a tool to create social networks simply, easily and freely, also did well.

This is just a fraction of the tools that made the list. You can view the Top 100 List in full online, together with the list categorized by type of tool, and there’s also a downloadable PDF which contains summary information about the list.

The list has attracted attention worldwide since it was finalized in September 2007, and many people have wanted the opportunity to contribute their own lists of favorite tools. So when the new year starts, we will begin Top 100 Tools 2008 as an ongoing feature at the Centre. For more information visit www.top100tools.com..

About the author
Jane Hart is the head of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, and has been working in the education and training world for nearly 25 years. After teaching for 14 years in further and higher education, she opened her professional services practice in 1997, and since that time has worked with many businesses large and small as well as a number of educational establishments and government agencies. Jane blogs at Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day.

Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2008 at 10:23 am

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