Thursday, April 7, 2011

Top Ten Tech Tools (Spring 2011)

It's been almost three years since I first blogged my Top Ten Tech Tools, and plenty has changed. Consistent with my earlier ramblings about 2011 being The Year of the Cloud, I'm finding that more and more of the tools I'm using, are accessible from any computer or smart phone. Here then, my 'revised' top ten tech tools for 2011:

I've had a Gmail account since June of 2004, and even though those in the younger generation tend to prefer short instant communication, this tool is the hub of my e-office. A few of the reasons I love the service: I can leverage customized filters for incoming mail; I can link documents to calendar events or to do lists; I can instantly convert attachments to Google Docs; I can search content I've sent or received using Google's highly efficient search tool. What's not to like?

Google Docs
Whether publishing surveys and forms, or collaboratively creating text-based documents, I love the fact that Google makes my work is available from any device. With a click of the sharing button, any folder or document can become the basis of a team project.

In the past three to four years, Twitter has proven itself to be the best way for me to keep in touch with distant members of my learning community. Among several aggregators of content, I still gravitate towards Tweetdeck. Leveraging groups, search tools, url-shortening, photo uploads and more, this app has proven to be the best way for me to sort 'nearly live' news, learning, and social communications.

I'm posting 'the good stuff' I stumble across in both places. Although Google is sometimes quicker at finding anything I archive, Clever App still grabs the feed to this content, so social bookmarking remains the best way to share my findings.

Sharing files with myself or with colleagues, this tool allows me to do it with ease, from any device. Now that tools like Drop-it-to-Me and JotForm allow web-based uploads to my folders, DropBox is also a sensible file collection solution.

As I continue to work on projects with colleagues who are in other provinces and countries, Skype has become our go-to tool for collaborative meetings. With participants opening relevant shared Google docs in their browser of choice, we can co-develop solutions, or use free A/V to deepen social connections. With the recent launch of Skype in the Classroom, at least 9000 educators from around the world agree this is a valuable networking tool.

I made the leap to a premium account to teach students how modern tools can replace paper notebooks. Accessing the work from any computer or smart phone, users can upload and tag audio, text, photo, video or document files; and can and share web-based files or folders with colleagues.

One of the cloud services I use that am happy to pay for, Flickr works in partnership with iPhoto, allowing me to share and back-up photos and videos. What's more, Flickr is home to a growing legion of photographers making their work available for use, remixing, and sharing via Creative Commons.

One of the few tools I use that only resides on my computer, Keynote remains my presentation tool of choice. Untethered, I control this tool with Keynote Remote on my iPhone. In order to share content I produce on Keynote, I host my presentations at Slideshare.

Creative Commons
This tool is as much a state-of-mind as it is a tech tool, and I'm including it on my list for the first time. If CC is new to you, it would be well worth your time to visit Creative Commons: What Every Educator Needs to Know.
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