She’s done it again! My revered “across the pond” virtual mentor and friend Jane Hart has recently shared her compilation of Top Learning Tools. I still struggle with how best to use these tools in the classroom, in my own personal learning development, and in my consulting business.

This year the Top 10 Tools on Jane’s list are:

  1. Twitter
  2. YouTube
  3. Google Search
  4. Google Docs/Drive
  5. PowerPoint
  6. Dropbox
  7. Facebook
  8. WordPress
  9. Skype
  10. Evernote

I have asked two of my talented student research assistants, Alison and Lizzy, to take a look at this list and let me know a) whether they are familiar with them, b) whether they thought these particular tools be useful to them as students or in the future in the workplace, and c) how best they could be taught (e.g. in the classroom, as a special course, or on their own). Here are their thoughtful responses.

From a student’s perspective, we focused our thinking on  which tools we have personal experience and which tools work best in the classroom environment.

Neither of us has used Twitter before, but we know something about it from our peers and from Dr. Simpson. For students between the ages of 15 to 22, we see Twitter as a personal filter of their thoughts and ideas not related to academics. We see older individuals with more experience using Twitter to share and connect ideas about the news, business, and educational works.

YouTube proves to be useful and frequently used in the classroom setting. Students are able to bring video examples into the classroom to share with students. Our teachers also assign students additional out of classroom work to watch videos that pertain to class to aid in understanding or classroom discussions.

Personally, we use Google search on a day to day basis as a starting tool to begin any kind of investigation. Google is useful for any student or teacher wanting more information on any topic imaginable.

When doing a presentation or group collaboration, one of the best tools to use is Google Docs/Drive. This software allows individuals to be working from multiple computers and locations and share automatically the material they are working on together. It is also very useful that Google Docs/Drive will automatically save your information and allows one to pull it up on any computer connected to the internet. We believe that Google Docs/Drive should be more cascaded into the classroom due to its usefulness in group collaborations and projects.

PowerPoint is a useful tool that aids in following along when teachers are giving class presentations or lectures. Teachers often assign students presentations using that software. However, students do not take full advantage of all the features of PowerPoint or do not understand how to properly present using PowerPoint. From our personal experience, most students in the classroom tend to just read off the slides or put together slides loaded with complete sentences that are hard to read and follow along with. PowerPoint workshops would be useful to have students reach their full potential while presenting with PowerPoint. Here is a workshop recommended by Dr. Simpson click me: LOL.

While neither of us have experience with Dropbox, we both agree that Dropbox seems to be a useful tool that could aid the classroom setting. Dropbox would be a good tool because files can be easily saved and accessed on any device. Both of us in the future want to further explore the features of Dropbox.

Facebook is a great tool to stay connected in the lives of classmates or individuals that live far away. The group chat option provides to be useful when scheduling meetings between groups, sharing information, or making plans in general. Personally, we don’t see it as a top tool for learning because of how much it is advertised and used as to express everyday thoughts, not related to academic purposes.

Prior to working with Dr. Simpson, neither of us had experience working on WordPress. From using WordPress with Dr. Simpson both of us have grown in our knowledge of WordPress but also our appreciation of the software. WordPress would be useful in the classroom environment to aid in easy access to multiple features. Students would be allowed to add videos, add links to outside sources, compose their own works, and comment and interact between one another.

When wanting to interact face to face with individuals across the globe or even a short distance away, Skype helps solve this barrier. By using Skype, employers can conduct interviews with applicants across the country for possible positions. Also, Skype can be used in the classroom to have guest speakers present their ideas to the class without having to be physically present. Skype also has the unique feature that allows for Skype conversations between more than one individual at a time, kind of like a group video chat.

Neither of us has experience using Evernote. Once again, this is a software that we would like to explore more in our futures and see how we can incorporate it into our academic and personal lives.

In conclusion, these Top 10 Tools for Learning are all good resources each in their own unique way. Although we have more experience with some tools than others, these are our thoughts and applications to how we see these tools working in our learning environment.



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.

5 Comments

  1. Angela,

    I am in complete agreement with what you wrote about Twitter. It is interesting to see how initially the point of twitter was for entertainment and communicating with friends and has evolved into aspects of educational usage.

    One of the tools that I believe should give the number one spot a run for its money is the 35th spot. This spot was taken by TED talks. The use of TED talks has increased in the educational system especially here at Carroll University. I do not know of a single class that has not referenced TED talks to help supplement learning. I have found it useful for a studying tool as well as a tool to learn about different computer software Dr. Simpson is having all of his research team members’ use. The topics of different subjects are limitless which makes it a great tool for all classes to use.

    I feel that if we did not have the supplemental videos, we would only get one perspective on a topic given by our professor. Today, we are able to think and interpret information in so many different ways, and by taking a different perspectives, it opens up our minds and gives us the ability to grow even further as learners. Also, everyone learns differently, so for all the visual learners out there, TED talks are a great way to supplement their learning. Each day is a new opportunity to learn something new, and I believe TED talks gives initiative to that push for the thirst of knowledge.

    Tia

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  2. Alison and Lizzy,

    As a 20 year old college student I find myself using Twitter daily. I see news and informational tweets all the time, I see fellow Carroll students tweeting and hashtagging a course name in order to communicate with the other students in their class, hashtags allow you to see what is trending and happening around the world, and you are able to communicate with just about anyone. It is a very quick and fun way to stay up to date on current events and I can see how it would be an educational tool for students.

    I agree wholeheartedly with all of the comments you two made about the learning tools you are familiar with. I find YouTube, Google Search, Google Docs/Drives, PowerPoint, Skype, and especially WordPress to be useful in not only a classroom setting but everyday life.
    I say especially WordPress because I had to use it for my English 170 class. We had to create our own account, post blogs and bits of our papers, and comment and help other students in the class with the pieces they were working on. It ended up being a very useful tool for me in that class, as many eyes were able to read and edit my work and I was able to see what other students had done and was able to improve my writing in that way as well.

    I, too, am unfamiliar with Dropbox and Evernote but, unsurprisingly, I Googled each to get some basic background knowledge on the subjects and I could not agree more with Jane, and you two, about them being very beneficial learning tools. Dropbox seems especially useful to us college students as it allows us to access work from just about anywhere at anytime.

    Like Angela, I am interested to see what you two think is the most beneficial tool, as neither of you are familiar with Twitter.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful contribution, Arianna. I am blessed by having such talented student research assistants as you “guys.”

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  3. Great thoughts, Alison and Lizzy!

    I am a former unbeliever of Twitter. I remember going over Jane Hart’s list from two years ago, and thinking the same things as you did. After only a month of proper use, I definitely understand why Twitter is so deserving of the number one spot every year. Not only is it a wonderful tool for engagement, but it provides a platform to interact with people you might never get a chance to communicate with otherwise.

    The power of all of these tools lies in the hands of the student. Any of these tools could be used for entertainment, education, or both.

    Just curious- which of the tools do you believe deserves the number one spot on the list?

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, A. Stay in touch.
      DS

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