My Top 10 Tools for Learning

Everyone’s eagerly awaiting for Jane Hart from the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies to publish her Top 100 Tools for Learning 2012 (see 2011’s list here) and voting will close soon.

I stumbled upon this list  and the heavens opened, the bright light shone down and illuminated my darkened mind for the first time. This was exactly what I needed. Why?  Because in our life, we can get comfortable with the technology and the tools we use and don’t venture to explore what other tools are out there that we can use for our work.

The list got me thinking about the tools I currently use (or have been using for years), why I use them or if there are better ones that will enable me to do my work without effort.   However, on the other hand, there are also so many tools out there that it is mind boggling to find that special one which you can use instantly, learn quickly and not bombard you with spam.

I submitted my Top 10 list a few months ago but I’m now wondering that there were a couple I hadn’t included as I have been using them more and more.  So it just goes to show that for me, my list will include certain tools that are the ‘stalwarts’ (a fickle term in this digital era) and others that will drop off never to see the light again. (I’m sure that there is a ‘cyberspace cemetery’ where all my unused profiles built over my Internet years are and never deleted are… Yahoo, MySpace….)

So here’s my Top 10:

The Stalwarts:

1.  Google: 

Dare I say anything more?

2.  YouTube: 

I use YouTube for searching clips on any subject under the sun.  YouTube this year has been instrumental in advancing my knitting and crochet skills; reminded me how to change my bike tyre; how to replace a door handle; sing along to all of Amy Burvall’s brilliant historical music clips (here’s one of my favourites that connects with my Greek and Cretan background on the Ancient Minoan Civilisation to the music Creep); also amuse myself with videos of cats.

I also keep up to date with a subscription the Lego and Scream short movies that my budding movie producer and director 12 year old nephew makes and uploads to his YouTube channel.  (He puts me to shame – in a secretly proud way –  although I feel for his parents who are constantly yelping as they step on Lego with bare feet found scattered all over the house).

Of course, I view learning stuff too.

3.  Twitter:

I have two Twitter accounts: one professional and one personal although I’m finding now that I’m using my professional one more often as this is where most of the conversations are occuring with my Personal Learning Network.  I’m thinking of deleting my personal account as it doesn’t add any value anymore when I simply can just text my friends.  However, there are times when I just want to tweet photos and comments about my knitting projects and seek responses or assistance from my knitting community and don’t feel I need to bombard my PLN with my personal interests – so for the time being, I will continue to keep the two accounts.

On average I would access Twitter about 5-6 times per day during ‘down times’.  I scroll through the tweets and favourite the ones that look interesting and that have a link that needs to be read.  Any tweets on new tools are instantly looked at and then either retweeted or modified with an attached @myen to have the tweet go to my Evernote account.

I don’t like to retweet too much and would prefer to read the article and if it resonates with me, I will write a modified tweet along with my own comment. In a weird way, I feel that if someone has taken the time to write the tweet, then the least I could do is to read it and make some comment on it.  If it REALLY resonates with me, I will actually leave a comment or reply in the post itself (on average I do this about once or twice per week).

I also love Twitter because of the Twitter Chats that are on at various times.  Thursday mornings while I breakfast, I lurk on the #swchat (because frankly, at 6:00am I’m not coherent) and on Fridays around 10:30am #lrnchat is on and I like to contribute to this community (when work is not busy).

4.  Google Reader

I use this to get feeds from my favourite blogs and love it.  I have all the subscriptions under certain headings and scroll through the feeds that look interesting. If I have hit upon a gem, I ‘star’ it to keep as a record, then go into the actual post on the webpage and tweet it (with the @myen).  I find Google Reader fine for just reading the updates of my blogs but nothing much more.  Maybe I haven’t really explored its full functionality but for the time being, it suits my needs (when it is linked with Evernote).

5.  Evernote

Thanks to Dave Ferguson for suggesting Evernote to me as it has been instrumental in organising all my favourited tweets, webpages and notes.  Every conference (or learning event)  I attend has it’s own notebook, all items are tagged and now there is a growing concern for me that my tag list is too long!  I still have a lot more to explore with Evernote but I believe this one is going to be on my ‘stalwart’ list for a while so there’s plenty of time.

6. Blogger

I have had a personal blog site since 2005 (you can see it here) and it has served its purposes well.  As someone who loves to write (and who has kept diaries since childhood, the blog has been a natural extension from paper notebooks to online and I took to it like a duck to water).   I still continue to use and maintain the site but it’s only for posts related to my interests with knitting, photography and travel.

7.  WordPress

I started this WordPress site this year AFTER I had booked and paid for a website domain name for Activate Learning and then I thought, “why on earth did I do that – this blog is enough!”  I’m still working my way around the dashboard of WordPress as it’s rich in functionality and I’m barely scratching the surface.

As I’ve only got the free account, it’s limited in many ways but once again, over time, I will learn a lot more about it.  I must – no ifs or buts on this one.

8. LinkedIn

I got myself a LinkedIn account in the early days and saw this as a great potential to build my professional presence online.

On average, I spend about half hour every week to make sure this site is current.   I ask for testimonials (and write recommendations) for every client and team member I have closely worked with and keep my job details up-to-date.

This year I had many requests to ‘LinkIn’ with individuals I didn’t know (they may have sought me through Twitter) but I only accept those who I have met; who I have corresponded with; or who are within the same industry as I am (after I check out their profile and company profile).  I’ve had all sorts of requests from looking for work, setting up coffee meetings to network; work-related questions that needed answering; and many requests from recruiters asking me on my availability for work.

It’s safe to say, that LinkedIn is a critical tool for me.

I have used many of its various functions of the site and in the early years, contributed to posts in groups around my interests in Learning, Instructional Design, Rotary and the Defence Force.  However, over time, I’ve noticed a trend where people are just selling products and services and I don’t like to trawl through these messages to get to something that may be interesting.  Also, I wasn’t a fan of the ‘new look’ discussion board functionality so over time, my contribution to the groups has dropped off considerably.

Initially I used the updates in LinkedIn but found that posting updates or links to interesting websites was like a bride throwing a bouquet at a wedding but no-one there to catch it.  Certainly for my profile and the users I follow, hardly anyone actually responds or comments to any links of interest.  I leave that to Twitter (at least I’m with a community that understands the need to tweet and update).

The Mavericks

I call them the Mavericks because they came in recently, they’re still relatively ‘new’ ‘funky’ ‘hip and happening’ but over time, much like many mavericks, they tend to age, settle down, get pudgy in the middle and then move into the stalwart burbs.

I think these ones will go that way in 2013.

9.  ScoopIt

I was introduced to ScoopIt at a presentation by Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) at a PLE Conference this year and liked the sound of it.  It’s a site that allows you to curate content. If you find something interesting on the web, you ‘scoop it’ into your account against the relevant topic you set up. Others can view your scoops and then ‘rescoop’ that content.  You can post to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s quite a versatile site and I’m using this more and more – but need to once again, explore its functionality so that I can get the maximum use of it.  I also like its clean, visually appealing interface.  I believe ScoopIt will make my Stalwart list next year.

10.  Yammer

I put Yammer in the mavericks list because I use it because the organisation I work for currently has an account. I tend to post items that are directly related to the work I do in the organisation; or to ask a question or contribute to a conversation.

On average, I would enter the site once per day, more than often, lurk – maybe write a short post or reply to a post – then leave.  It serves its purposes purely as “finding out what’s going on in our organisation today”.

So there you have it, my Top 10 Stalwart and Maverick lists.  In the meantime, I am also madly learning about my upcoming maverick list of:

  1. Google+ (my new pet project);
  2. Learnist (yeah, umm….don’t know about that one);
  3. Storify (this has been fun but only use it on rare occasions to create a story of tweets and references from events I attend);
  4. Klout (serious questions and dubious site);
  5. Quora (finding I’m using this a lot more so it may be on my 2013 list).

And if you’re thinking if I have any in my ‘Banished Forever in the Great Cyberspace Sky in 2012’ List, it’s looking to be:

  1. Pininterest (I tried and tried, but alas…)
  2. Instagram (dare I say it)

So if you haven’t got your votes in yet to your Top 10 tools, get them in quick!

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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