My Learning Tool Top 10

Every year, Jane Hart asks for your Top 100 Tools for Learning. I’ve sent her my answers, but I thought that people would be interested in an explanation of what I use, how, and why (as part of my attempts at sharing my PKM). These are my Top 10, although I find it hard to rank them against each other:

1. Google  

A researcher’s first place to look.  While Google may not be your search engine of choice, for me a Google is the first place I go to for any answer.  Ask anyone who believes that learning occurs only in classroom how many times they use Google a day.  Then point them to any of the excellent resources on informal learning.

Best use so far: converting inches and feet into cm

2. Gmail

Again, it may not be your email of choice, but I’d be lost without Gmail.  I prioritise my inbox to have my daily news digests in a separate area to mail from my important contacts and any other general mail.  Now, if only there was a decent mail app for Gmail on my iPhone. The best has now been discontinued since Google bought the creators.

Best use so far: sorting my inbox with Priority Inbox.

3. Tweetbot

While I also use the good, but confusing Hootsuite to look through my feeds, Tweetbot on my iPhone is the first place I check Twitter every morning.  Simple, clearly designed...there’s not much I would ask for except a shortcut to check a list feed.

Best use for far: instant responding to tweets and DMs.

4. Instapaper   

Instapaper is my go-to app for saving web pages, email and other things I want to read later. There are so many good apps for this: Diigo, Delicious, Evernote and many more.  For academics, Mendeley is great too.

I keep using Instapaper because (a) I love the browser plug-ins, iPhone/iPad/
Android/Kindle Fire/Nook apps
, and third party apps it works with (b) the stripped-down Text only view of saved webpages (c) the pack of articles it sends to my Kindle every evening and

(d) I’ve used it for so long, I’m not sure how to transfer everything to another system. Instapaper is not meant to be used as a permanent storage app for web pages.  But, it works brilliantly for me.

Best use so far: my daily Kindle digest

5. Google Drive/Docs

There’s not much I need to write about Google Drive/Docs. If you haven’t used it, try it.  I use it everyday to draft documents and presentations for both work and personal life. The ability to start work on a home computer, continue on a mobile device, and then finish on a my work laptop is invaluable.  As is the ability to share any document with multiple people at once, with different levels of control.

Best use so far: Teaching a university class, I had my laptop hooked up to a projector with a shared, blank Google Doc displayed.  My class self-selected into groups with at least one laptop each. Then I asked each group to make creative notes on a reading - linking and cutting-and-
pasting videos, pictures, audio and, of course, typing some text.  On the main screen, it looked like many coloured ants crawling over the page dumping content! They then presented on their findings.  

Interestingly, they continued adding notes after the class.  And they understood these articles far more than others they read on their own.

6. Dropbox

It’s convenient, free (up to a certain size) and allows me access to all my learning PDFs and materials on any computer I install the app...and any portable device.  If I need quick refresher from my copy of the Working Smarter Fieldbook, I know I can access it anytime, anywhere.  It also means I use different technologies to store different information.  I don’t want all my data in one place.

Best use so far: a repository for all my non-Amazon purchased Kindle compatible ebooks.

7. Mindmeister

I’ve never tried mindmapping before some colleagues asked to collaborate on Mindmeister.  It only took me a few hours of use before I bought myself a subscription.

Best use so far: collaborative real-time and offline brainstorming.

8. Kindle

I bought a Kindle because my eyes were tired from reading a computer screen all day.  The Real Book vs. Kindle Book argument seems a pointless argument to me.  You should use what you prefer.  I like the fact I can send webpages and my Instapaper to my Kindle.  But any book that relies on graphics and images is not going to have the same impact.

Best use so far: have credit cards from more than one country?  Sign up for more than one Amazon account and shop around for the best price for your book.


Send data from many sources to many repositories.  I used it to send the transcripts from #lrnchat and #elguild webinar backchannels and other Twitter feeds to my Evernote account.

But I think Twitter have just stopped this.

Best use: keeping track of a Twitter backchannel


I included not because I’ve used it lots, but I think it has potential to allow students or  employees a way to create their own ‘learnlets’ from the web and other sources.  Audrey Watters does a good job explaining the principles in her blog.

I’m going to test it out in the coming month - both for myself as part of my Personal Knowledge Management sharing.  And I’m going to offer it to employees where I work as an alternative way to share their knowledge after attending a conference.

I have two concerns: (1) needing a Facebook login to access it and (2) that it doesn’t really seem that different to Pinterest (except it has less wedding planning photos).