Time to revisit Jane Hart’s Top Learning Tools list (7th edition) and her invaluable, newly updated Practical Guide—well worth purchasing, studying and using. I regularly consult it, especially the web-based version, when I am interested in trying to find a “right” tool for the particular type of learning experience I am seeking for me or for my students. In concert with Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s Best Practices for Teaching with Emergency Technologies, Susan Manning and Kevin E. Johnson’s The Technology Toolbelt for Teaching, Steve Johnson’s Digital Tools for Teaching, and Alec Couros’ Becoming a Networked Learner, these resources have demonstrably changed how I teach, how I learn, and how I “reach out” to others  via social media. Clearly, as Curtis J. Bonk has evangelized,  my world has been opened and expanded. The challenge is to find balance between tool use and the tools controlling me. For a horrific example of such a dystopia I recommend your reading Dave Eggers novel The Circle.

Though I have explored every year each of the 100 learning tools,  I have no “favorite” tool. Which tool I use most is very much a function of the learning/teaching task I am engaged in, the discretionary time I allow myself for being online, the audience I am working with, and the particular computer/operating system I am using. All these factors change very quickly.

This year I am using the #1 tool Twitter much less often than last year (when I was an active Carroll Technology Fellow) I could see my use of Twitter increasing suddenly if I decide upon  it as a tool of choice for communicating with my newly acquired and rapidly increasing global fellow-teachers. Since English for them is their strategic language of choice, limiting communication to 140 characters or less makes some sense.

Because of an increased need for collaborative work with on campus committees, cross-national collaborations, and with my student research group and because across the course of a day I move between a desktop PC, a desk top Mac, a laptop PC, a laptop Mac, and IPads, I am now using to a greater degree Tool # 2 Google Docs/Drive . Without Google Docs or a similar sharing capacity I would be plagued by not remembering upon which machine I  stored information needed to be shared.

Clearly my International colleagues (and my students) are more facile with the use of YouTube, Tool #3 and have much to teach me about its value (or lack of value) as a learning tool. Jane’s Practical Guide often includes YouTube links which I have found quite useful as an additional modality of learning how to use technology learning tools.

Tool # 4 Google search is my search engine of choice though I grossly under-use the sophisticated and nuanced search capabilities it provides.

I intentionally under use Tool # 5 PowerPoint (see the preceding link about the evils of PowerPoint!).  Tool # 6, Evernote, is one I keep intending to master and yet, the Kindle book version about it and Quick Guides about it remain neglected pixels on my screens. I even am using some Skype-recording apps which can export into Evernote—and I have found a number of occasions where I need to use Skitch to annotate a web page .  Maybe I need to read and heed this link.

I have the same usage problems with Tool # 7, Dropbox. I have it—it exists in the background of all my machines, but I have failed to devote the time to master it. So many tools; which ones deserve my time?

Tools # 8 (WordPress), # 9 Facebook, #12 (LinkedIn), and #13 (Skype) now  play an  integral role in my teaching, learning, promulgating, networking modus operandi. I’m still struggling with finding additional value from further investigating Tool # 10 Google+ and Hangouts (they just are too informal or duplicative in function with other tools) for my present perceived needs. I have ignored learning Tool # 11. Moodle since I find such LMS structures constraining

Help me out.  Help me learn. Which of these tools have you used? What am I missing in discovering their utility for teaching and learning?  Which would be most useful in advancing my interests in cross-national cross-generational teaching and learning?

Which develop skills that all global citizens should be familiar with?

Posted by Professor David Simpson

Professor of Psychology, Carroll University (USA), Lover of Dogs, Reading, Teaching and Learning. Looking for ways to enhance cross-global communication and to apply technology learning tools.


  1. As a student, I use most of the tools at the top of Jane Hart’s list of 100 tools. Some of the tools such as Google Search, I use close to everyday. When it comes to the list of top tools, I do not have a favorite tool or one that I use most often. The tool that I use at any given time is chosen by the function that it performs and the task that I need to complete. Often times I find myself using Google Docs because it functions as a collaborative workspace. Most if not all of my current classes put an emphasis on team work, Google Docs makes it simple for groups to work together without having to always coordinate schedules to meet in person. PowerPoint is another tool that I use often for group presentations. I am not particularly fond of PowerPoint myself, but for most of the teams that I have worked in, PowerPoint is usually go to tool that everyone knows how to use. I agree with Amy that often times when PowerPoint is used, it used incorrectly, by students and educators. That being said, I am trying to find another tool to aid in presentations.


  2. From my experience as a university student, twitter has a variety of strengths and weakness. Many of Twitter”s aspects can be applied for global communications or in a university. The limited character space allows for successful initial global conversations. I. The versatility of the short notes helps concisely deliver key information and opinions across multiple platforms. However, the lure of Twitter as a social tool is one of its weaknesses. If a user poorly represents their organization or company through their Twitter account, even if it is through another account, there could be serious consequences for that user.

    My favorite tool right now is GoogleDocs. It has become a staple for most people I work with in collaborative projects in classes or organizations. I think that more professors should incorporate GoogleDocs in their classes. The ability to collaborate, share information, and work on a project from multiple platforms. Also, because a Google Drive is integrated with any Google account, any user can use the tool.

    As Angela stated, YouTube successfully utilizes its simple design to provide videos and information efficiently. One of YouTube’s greatest features is its ability to raise awareness for global issues or concepts that are hard to describe without a visual representation. A downside with using YouTube for global communications would be monitoring the comments section of a video because a lot of people are trollers in the comment section and this can be annoying.

    Google + and Hangouts are underused but offer many of the same features as Facebook. One key advantage of Google + over Facebook is the use of “Circles” to manage your groups of friends. Another advantage is that it allows “the rich and famous” to stay more connected to their fans with more versatility than Twitter. However, most people use Facebook or other social networking tools more often and are resistant to change.

    PowerPoint is my least favorite tool. I find the structure limiting and it is often misused by educators and students alike. As previously stated, when power points are misused they can become blocks of text or students solely focus on taking notes rather than taking in the presentation.

    I personally prefer Haiku Deck because it limits the amount of text that a presenter can put on screen so only the most important information is presented. it also encourages the presenter to improve their public speaking skills so they don’t lean on the power point and condense the information. Haiku Deck has its limits, it primarily works through an app rather than a computer but is presentable on a computer. Overall, while it is similar to power point, it is a step in the right direction.

    Overall, with any technology tool, as the Circle warns us, don’t get lost in the lure of the tools!


    1. Amy said this.


  3. Twitter sits in the #1 spot, and rightfully I can see why that is so. I have a Twitter account but I cannot find myself being an active user on it. I will have a stretch where I am very active and a stretch where I am not in the tweeting action. But, what I do do is scroll my news feed and what catches my eye is not usually what my friends are tweeting, although those can be interesting. What catches my attention are the news updates from CNN, ESPN, and the sorts. They provide quick news blurbs about what is going on as well as a corresponding link if you wish to see the full article. This provides a great news source for the people on the go!

    I believe that Google Drive is probably one of the most useful tools for the college student. Our work requires so much group work and collaboration, this tool makes that much more efficient and convenient. You can work on a general document, presentation, spreadsheet, and can even make a form for people to fill out and sync it to throw that information into a spreadsheet automatically! I have seen so many pluses in using this tool, other than the occasional internet not working. But, if your internet isn’t working, it is not like you could e-mail you group anyways right?

    Facebook and Skype will continue to be prominent in the time being. They are the crux to our social networking world and provide connections all over the world. 2 platforms have the capabilities to serve so many purposes.

    LinkedIn is a tool which I really want to work on. I have had an account and just not have been very active. I have a lot to learn about it and am interested is using it to its full potential. I plan on really sitting down and going through it in the near future to clean it up and look at everything I can do on it. Now that I am getting close to graduation, this will probably be a useful tool to reach out to others as well as use as a way to market yourself. It is a matter of making the time to make it look nice and learning the ins and outs.

    I also agree with you that Google + and Google Hangouts I have a difficult time finding utility in merely because I am active on other tools that essentially serve the same purpose. I do see Google+ and Hangouts becoming big in the future but it must provide a need that other tools do not.


  4. Although I am familiar with its features, I do not have a Twitter account. I can see how the brevity of each “tweet” could potentially be attractive, but I feel as though my attention would skip from place to place. The main benefit of Twitter seem to be the accessibility of millions of people to follow, however, the more people you follow, the more information in bite-size chunks you must take in. Nonetheless, I think there is something very important about being able to concisely articulate your thoughts, and Twitter does force their users to do that.

    YouTube as a learning tool is very simple and can be very effective if used correctly. I tend to use it as Wikipedia- not as the ultimate leading authority, but as a great place to brainstorm or gain new perspective on a topic.

    More and more I see professors backing away from PowerPoint. None of my professors this semester solely use PowerPoint as their teaching tool. Most of my fellow students tend to complain if lecture is accommodated by a PowerPoint, as they do not find it engaging or interesting. As Maxine wrote, students tend to simply copy down whatever the PowerPoint says, especially when it is wordy.

    I am not as familiar with Google+ and Hangouts, mostly because majority of my contacts prefer Facebook and Skype respectively. I am assuming that because most people use the latter, the former get forgotten. Some quick benefits of Google Hangout are as follows: the ability to video-chat with up to ten participants for free (Skype charges), being able to broadcast any conversation to an unlimited amount of viewers, the integration of games that users can play together while video chatting, and no installation onto your device is needed- just a web-plugin. Here is a comparative look at the two: http://searchunifiedcommunications.techtarget.com/feature/Google-Hangouts-vs-Skype-A-comparative-look

    GoogleDocs is by far my favorite learning tool. Being able to collaborate on a group project is extremely important- and accessibility for students is key. I love having a record of all of my previous work in one place, and being able to share it with others. It takes away the annoyance of emailing yourself a document in order to print it. As it is now common for students to have a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone, the accessibility GoogleDrive offers is incredible and vital. Google has done a wonderful making GoogleDrive and its components. The only downside is the Internet requirement. This can be tricky in some of the older buildings on campus, where the WiFi can cut in and out. There have been a few times while, in the midst of taking notes, WiFi fails, and my GoogleDoc freezes until the internet can reconnect. There is an offline component for GoogleDrive, but as of now, the GoogleDoc portion requires a connection.

    Google as a whole is greatly under-used. As part of GoogleDrive, Google offers several free applications such as GoogleForms, Spreadsheets, Presentations, and more. Google Chrome, my favorite browser, offers many plugins, majority of which are also free. As students look for cheaper and more efficient ways to learn, Google will be the way to go, rather than buying expensive software such as Microsoft Suite Products.


  5. I believe twitter can be very useful, however i fail to use it as a learning tool. I use it as more of a way to keep in touch with ideas, and people I find interesting and look up too. This would not be possible with any other tool. The ability for “famous” people to interact with “normal” people is very humbling. I find google docs to be the next big thing, even though it really already is. Youtube is the key tool for video sharing and will be for the forseeable future.

    Something not mentioned is the use of applets/apps as new tools. People are big on Snapchat and Vine for staying in touch with friends and making fun videos. I find Evernote second place to the app Notability. Notability is the BEST resource for a student and teacher alike. It is something around $2-3 in the app store but allows pdf to be downloaded and written on, able to take notes much like a Microsoft Word, and allows recordings to be synced with your notes. Not only this but is also synced with your google drive( in case your Ipad crashes, your notes wont disappear). It saves me from carrying around notebooks since it has folders to store notes within it. If you’re a student, this is the #1 tool to have.


    1. I agree, Notability is the number one notetaking app in my opinion. Not only do the notes sync with Google Drive, but they also sync “in the cloud.” I have this app on my iPad and my iPhone, so no matter where I am, I have my notes with me! You can also send notes as email attachments to yourself to store on your computer or share with a friend if need be.

      Like Ryan said, you can import other documents, like PDFs, Word docs, and even PowerPoints. You can add your own notes, write on them, or make any markings that aid with studying on them. I organize my notes in folders by class, and this saves me so much paper and notebooks! By doing this, I am able to easily access any notes from my past semesters without scrambling to find the right notebook.

      This app alone was one of the main reasons I decided to purchase an iPad for school.


  6. Starting with Twitter, I believe that it will be a useful source to keep up to date on various information. It provides a quick way to check what is going on with, for example educational reform and other topics of interest. Being a university student, Google Docs/Drive is extremely useful for collaboration with group members. Since students have different schedules, this tool makes it easy to participate on a project at a time that is convenient for you. Plus, it allows all group members to be able to view the content that is added to the shared document. This tool is great at gathering all information on one platform that is accessible to multiple people. YouTube is great for looking up tutorials about various information or sharing videos. YouTube EDU is a great options for school who want to limit the videos strictly to educational means. As for Google Search, this is a go-to tool for finding out information on a plethora of topics. I believe that students need to be educated on how to properly search items. I admit that I didn’t realize some of the helpful hints that I could use while searching. PowerPoint I believe has been overused or misused in education. Too often teaches pack words onto a slide and while teaching, read off the slide while students frantically try to take notes. If used, PowerPoint should serve as a guide to what is being taught with a limited amount of words on each slide. As for presenting projects, students should be encouraged to be creative and explore other means of sharing information. I personally have not used Evernote, besides for briefly testing it out. It can be a valuable resource for documentating children’s work and progress. Another tool, Dropbox is useful, but again I haven’t had too much experience with it. It shows to be valuable though in storing documents where they can be accessed by multiple devices and platforms. I would like to explore WordPress to a greater extent and possibly try my hand out on documenting my journey of becoming a teacher. I have used Facebook. I can see Facebook being used in schools or classes to build community. A school or teacher can create a page or group where students, parents, faculty, etc. can check in to see what is new. As for Google + and Google Hangouts, I have not had much experience. For the most part I use Skype in regards to video chatting and other social media sites to connect with others. Personally, I am not a fan of Moodle. My high school used this tool and I remember running into some problems as a student and hearing complaints from teachers. I have not had much, if any experience with LinkedIn, so I think I will try to explore it more to see if it is a valuable tool. Each of these tools serves different uses and each person chooses which tool works best to fit their needs. As for me, as a junior attending a university, Google Docs/Drive and Google Search are used quite often, but I can see how I can apply tools such as YouTube, Evernote, and possibly Facebook and WordPress as a future educator.


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