Every year, Jane Hart compiles a list of the top tools for learning. People are invited to submit their top 10, and she compiles all of them into a big list of several hundred. I missed the deadline this year, but thought I’d write mine up anyway in case it’s helpful. You can see Hart’s 2018 list here after Sept. 24th. I’ve divided mine up into the categories Hart suggested. For another example, see Bonni Stachowiak’s 2017 list here.
I’ve had a look at the privacy policies on all of these and feel pretty good about them (although it looks like EdPuzzle is undergoing some changes, so I’ll need to review that one again). If you decide to adopt any of them, though, be sure to check them out for yourself and make the decision that’s best for your students/situation. If you want to try any of these and need help getting started, just let me know.
- PeerWise: This free gamified tool allows students in your courses to create and answer one another’s multiple-choice questions. They rate the questions, leave comments on how to improve them, and have a chance to revise their own questions. It’s very hard to describe succinctly, but if you want to learn more I recently wrote this post about it. Great tool for increasing engagement in large courses.
- EdPuzzle: EdPuzzle seems to be geared toward K-12 teachers, but I love using it in my online courses. When I find a YouTube video I’d like to use in class, I can add my own audio or written comments at any point in the video using EdPuzzle. I also add short retrieval questions embedded into the videos. I’ll often pop on at the beginning or the end of the video to explain why I’m including it or how it fits in to the rest of our course. It’s free!
- FlipGrid: FlipGrid is a video response platform that allows students to quickly and easily create a video response to a question posed by faculty. It doesn’t require special equipment (other than a device with a mic and camera), requires no sign-in and is intuitive to use. Responses are short – 1-2 minutes or so (you can adjust the time limits) and students can respond to one another as well. It does offer LTI, so you can put it right into your Canvas course (and use SpeedGrader if you like). I teach primarily graduate students, and like me, they generally have fun using the stickers/decorations after making a short video. I love watching and responding to the videos. It feels like a more authentic way to connect with online students and has a less formal feel than online discussion boards.
- Tricider: Tricider is like a combination of Doodle polls and SurveyMonkey. You create a poll and invite others to add options to your poll, upvote ideas that they like and add to a list of pros/cons for each option. It’s free, you don’t need an account to use it, and it takes only moments to set up. I’ve been using it to help with shared decision-making with students. For example, in one class we used it to decide on topics for three live sessions scheduled in an online course.
- Twitter: I’ve found that Twitter is the most efficient way to stay up-to-date on topics relating to nutrition, teaching, pedagogy, physiology and more. It’s a big part of my personal workflow, and I can scroll through when I have a few minutes here or there. People I follow are constantly tweeting out new papers of interest, ideas to explore and so forth. Here’s one fun thread about anemia and hypoxia and here’s another tweet with a link to a paper looking at sleep and cardiovascular disease.
- OneNote: I use OneNote to compile information that I might need later. It’s fully searchable and I don’t need to open 25 documents to access individual files. Here’s a quick video about how I organize things.
- OneTab: This is a free browser extension for Chrome or Firefox that allows you to pull all your open tabs into one page for later. It’s a little thing, but it’s made a huge difference in my workflow and they claim it can lead to a 95% reduction in the amount of memory you’re using. I made a quick video about it in this post.
- LastPass: I know I’ve gushed over LastPass before. It’s a password manager, and it’s saved me so much time and energy. I only need to remember one password, and LastPass remembers the others (and creates strong passwords that can easily be changed with a click or two). There are a bunch of password managers out there – I’d highly recommend getting one.
- Castbox/podcasts: I am constantly in awe at how many good podcasts are out there. I learn so much from listening to them in the car, on walks or while folding laundry/making dinner. I use the Castbox app to listen on my phone, but there are plenty of others to choose from (Stitcher, iTunes, Podbean,…) I’m going to write up a list of some of my favorites soon, but here are a handful that I find particularly educational:
- Outlook & Gmail scheduling feature: Like many people, I am constantly fending off email avalanche situations. Both Gmail and Outlook (the phone app) offer the ability to move emails out of your inbox and then bring them back at a time that you specify. I tend to keep things in my inbox until I get around to them, so I love being able to send them away until I need/want them. Both have a “Scheduled/Snoozed” folder so that you can access these emails before they are scheduled to come back if you really need them.
- In the Outlook phone app, the easiest way to go to settings and click “swipe options” to add “Schedule” as either swipe left or right. When you swipe, you’ll have the choice to schedule the message to come back into your inbox later today, this weekend, next week or at a time that you specify. Super handy. I don’t think the web app has this feature yet, sadly.
- Gmail offers basically the same thing (you used to have to pay for a separate integration to do this!). From the phone app, you can select “snooze” from the within an email (in Android app you click on the three vertical dots on the top corner) and get the option to have the message come back tomorrow, next week or at a time/date of your choosing. You can also change your swipe configurations to include the “snooze” option. You can do the same thing from the web app – it’s a little icon that looks like a clock.
Honorable mentions go to the open-source citation manager Zotero, which I didn’t include only because I am constantly pushing it on everyone I meet, and the annotation tool Hypothes.is because I’ve experimented with it in the past and would like to play around with it more this year. Here’s a little video I made about Zotero, in case I haven’t already proselytized to you about it :). Oh, and Screencast-o-matic, which is the best video recording/editing tool ever, especially since they now have voice-to-text captioning.