Thursday, September 6, 2007

My top ten tools for learning

So over the last couple of months I've been watching a series of posts from different people in response to Jane's e-Learning Pick of the Day post on top ten tools for learning. It's been interesting, but mainly because they didn't seem like tools I'd use at all. For example: why is Firefox the top listed tool? It's a web browser? How does it help? Is it because of all the widgets and add ins? I don't know. So what I decided to do was write my list with explanations as to why. But let me explain this: I chose tools based on how they directly effected the LEARNING of my students (either directly or indirectly). With that said, here's my list (in order of usage and effect):

  1. Facebook

    • I've posted about my love of Facebook before. But look, we teach these technology integration classes and we tell our students to find out what their students have and work from there. Well, where are my college undergrads? Facebook. Since I've started requiring my undergrads to add me as a friend, I've had more communication with my undergrads. It's been crazy, actually. Students who NEVER would have gotten a hold of me before, are now writing on my wall just to say, "Hey Dr. Curry! What's up?" I love it.

  2. Google

    • I'm talking just the search engine itself here. They must have the greatest bots in their servers, because is there anything you can't find on Google? Seriously. When was the last time you heard someone say, "Yeah, well, I yahoo'ed it last night . . ." or "I'ed it last night . . .." But what about, "I Googled it last night . . .." Enough said.

  3. Google Reader

    • I don't know that my students are using this, but man, do I. I have also blogged about my use of Google Reader before (read Don't You Just Love the Smell of Books post), and my love for it and dependence on it have only increased. That's how I first learned of these lists of tools. As a matter of fact, today my reader is acting somewhat goofy, and I've been off my game all day. But my Google Reader is how I keep current, and that in turn, helps me help my students.

  4. Garage Band

    • Quite simply, I use Garage Band to record the podcasts I use for my classes. For my undergrads, I record podcasts to cover the basic chapter concepts and to give the online students the passwords to the quizzes. They have to listen to the podcasts to be able to take the reading quizzes. For the grads, I use them in somewhat the same way, but mainly to drive discussion on theory articles. I have found them extremely useful, and Garage Band is what gets me there. You can find them on our department website.

  5. iTunes

    • We set up an iTunes account for the students to be able to download the podcasts. Search for EdTech@OSU.

  6. Google Scholar

    • Ok, so in number two I said Google, but I'm listing Google Scholar as a separate one. All the same reasons, but just because it searches scholarly articles and you can search for other articles that cite that article, it gets it's own mention.


    • I've posted about my use of bookmarks as well, and I keep going. Now, I don't use them as much as my friends Trey Martindale (who, as of this post has 1200+ bookmarks) and Chris Duke (currently 1000+ bookmarks), but I do use them. I currently manage two accounts. One is for my personal use, and the other is a set of links for our EDTC 3123 (pre-service teacher technology) course.

  8. Wink

    • Screen capture software for Windows. I haven't used it a lot, but when I've made screen captures for my classes, I've gone to using Wink. It's easy, and it's FREE. I've also used SnagIt and Camtasia, but they all work basically the same, but neither one of those can beat Wink's price.

  9. Blogs (in general)

    • Look, I don't care if you use WordPress (which is what I use), Blogger, TypePad, or whatever, blogs are the thing. I've never used them with my undergrads, but with my grad students, I require them to maintain a blog for pretty much every class I teach. I like being able to read what's going on in their heads. It's hard to get them started, but once you do, it's like a Constructivist's dream--"LOOK! I CAN SEE WHAT'S GOING ON INSIDE THEIR HEADS!"

  10. Desire2Learn

    • So, yeah. Oklahoma State just migrated to D2L last Spring semester, and let's just say the transition hasn't been an easy one. However, the tool does have an impact on my students' learning so I'll list it. If anyone wants my take on D2L, you can ask me and maybe I'll post about it.

So that's it. As I said before, I just tried to come up with which tools have the biggest effect on my students' learning. It's not close to Jane's final list, but at least it's my list.


  1. I'd list Firefox+Plugins/Addons near first. Firefox alone shouldn't be; you're right - it's just a browser. The platform it provides though is more than that.

    Firefox + Zotero is a critical learning tool for me, personally. Zotero is a research manager that does everything I ever wished a research manager could or would do, and it's only getting better (in the future taking my research database online so I can access it anywhere/anytime?) is a plugin for Firefox only.

    Firefox + Twitbin + Zotero + CoComment + + Firebug + Better G-Mail/Reader/Calendar

    If you use a lot, there's a plugin that replaces the Firefox bookmark system with - hit "Ctl-D" and a tag window opens for you to bookmark. Hit "Ctl-B" and the sidebar opens with your delicious links listed including the ability to search your bookmarks.

    Firefox alone? No.
    Firefox + plugins? Brings most of the tools I use directly into the browser.


  2. (Trying to use my best wise man voice)

    And so, the student becomes the teacher . . .

  3. [...] once again, Jane Hart is running her Top Ten Tools for Learning list. Last year I posted my list, but I was too late to have it listed on her overall list. I’ve looked over my list, and it [...]