Wednesday 14 September 2016

2016 Top Tools for Learning

top100The Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies’ 10th Anniversary ‘Top Tools for Learning’ Survey closes midday UK time on Friday 23 September 2016.

Jane Hart’s work in establishing this survey and encouraging people to reflect on the tools that they use to support learning of others, and also the tools that support their own personal and professional learning, is laudable.  Each year’s survey output is both extremely interesting and useful.

The submissions are published as an overall listing, and Jane also sub-divides the data into categories for different contexts:

  • Top 100 Tools for Education – tools for use in schools, colleges, universities, adult education
  • Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning – tools for use in training, for performance support, social collaboration, and other workplace learning contexts
  • Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning – tools for self-organised learning

If you haven’t already voted in this survey, please take a visit here and do so if you’re reading this before the close date for this year’s list (23rd September 2016).  If it’s too late, make sure you’ve marked up the action to contribute to next year’s survey.

Last year’s ‘Top 10 Tools Survey results are here

I’ve listed my 2016 votes (in the ‘Personal & Professional Learning category) below.



  1. Twitter: My first port-of-call every morning to get daily insights into what my wider network is reporting. Twitter works as a window to my professional world. I use Facebook for family and personal friends, and Twitter for my professional social network. Maybe I’m not ‘with it’ to share everything across all platforms, but I prefer to keep things compartmentalised to a degree.
  2. Google Search: ‘Professor’ Google is still the person I call on whenever I need a quick answer to a question or problem. He almost invariably comes up with the answer (except to the question ‘where have I left my glasses’).  Sometimes I need to wade around a bit to find what I need, but the world’s largest searchable index usually does the job. Google Search and the new generation of successors to Google Glass will herald the end to pub quizzes and memory tests and the dawn of personal external intelligence ecosystems. Access to knowledge has already replaced retained knowledge as power. Google search will no doubt play a role in raising that to a new level.
  3. YouTube: probably the best visual performance support tool around. It’s a good conduit to publish and share video material, and a great resource for ‘quick tips’ when I need to know how a piece of software or a broken shower works. YouTube has saved me from needing to attend any number of ‘Excel pivot tables 101’ and ‘household plumbing for beginners’ courses. It also contains enough guitar and banjo instruction lessons to last several lifetimes.
  4. Google Scholar: Scholar opens a rich world of academic work at the click of a button. I can recall spending weeks in university library stacks searching abstracts and then agonising to decide whether to pay the money to photocopy the papers and possibly also have them translated. Scholar has opened Pandora's box – not a box of the evils that were contained in the original, but one that fosters a desire to spend days following breadcrumbs of fascinating references and leave everything else undone.
  5. Flipboard: allows me to bring news, blog posts and sites of interest together in an extremely simple way. Flipboard is the second resource I turn to each morning after Twitter. This social magazine has replaced a number of different interfaces for me. Its easy and seamless interface makes jumping between news, blogs, journals, magazines and applications/sites such as Flickr simple and straightforward. Flipboard is a pleasure to use on an iPad or any mobile device.
  6. Evernote: I’d drown or die trying to find that useful article or piece of information without Evernote. Having Evernote shared across all my devices makes life a lot easier on a daily basis. Evernote makes it simple to clip an article or post. The tagging and search functionality is good. too. I find it useful to throw all my meeting notes in there as well. It can even find scanned handwritten words and, like Dropbox, spans and syncs across all my devices.
  7. Dropbox: a utility I simply couldn’t do without. Offerings of the likes of Microsoft’s OneDrive, Apple’s iCloud, Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Google’s Drive haven’t been able to lure me away from Dropbox. It works seamlessly across PCs, MacBook, and all my ‘i’ devices. Dropbox should be given an award for reducing the cost on global health services. If local devices fail or a hard disk goes AWOL then Dropbox keeps blood pressure and levels of agitation to a reasonable level. It’s a great way to share resources and project documents and to make materials that others often ask for easily accessible to them.
  8. Skype: I don’t like the way Microsoft has taken this great application and is trying to manipulate its users, but in its ‘raw’ form Skype is still a great communication tool and easy to use on virtually any device. Microsoft has built Skype into its Office suite (I’m yet to find a good use for that, but I don’t work in a corporate with a global deployment anymore, so I might have found a purpose if I were in that situation). But Skype feels a little like it’s creaking at the edges – status flags are often wrong, message sync is flaky, it often drops after a while even when there’s plenty of bandwidth on both ends. This may be the last year it appears on my Top Tools list.
  9. PowerPoint: despite its many restrictions, PowerPoint continues to be my tool of choice for most of my presentations. The Office 2016 version has some nice features (even the Help function has improved) and its new ‘zoom’ feature is an attempt to break out of the linear straightjacket we’ve known and despised for years. I also use PowerPoint to create simple diagrams and graphics which can easily be exported as .JPGs and ‘PNGs.
  10. Wikipedia: is an amazing free source of information. Jimmy Wales has received a lot of well-deserved awards for his work and should be lauded for not selling out at the first whiff of money. Reports of his net worth are around $1 million (I thought that might surprise some people). Not in the same league with the billions of Zuckerberg, Bezos, Koum and their ilk, but Wikipedia provides an equally if not more useful service than many of the tools those have built. Wikipedia Invariably has the answers to the questions I’m asking and acts as a springboard for deeper learning.

There are other tools I use in the course of my day and which contribute to my continuous learning. These include Blogger WordPress, WhatsApp and Google Translate and some more. But the 10 above have been my principal daily workhorses for the past year.