SALT’s Top Ten Tools

Every year Jane Hart (http://janehart.com ), founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, compiles the Top 100 Tools for Learning. The 2014 Annual Learning Tools Survey comprised votes from 1038 learning professionals across 61 countries. (2015 survey closes on 18th September 2015 http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/voting/). So to kick off our technology for teaching month each member of SALT was asked to look at the 2014 list and indicated the tools that they use and would recommend to others for use both in learning and teaching capacity and within their daily working life. After tallying the scores these tools came out on top (they are in no particular order):

Audacity logoAudacity: A free, open source cross platform software for recording and editing sounds

Audacity is a very easy to use tool that can be used by teachers in many ways such as podcasting, module introductions, recording of speeches, development of language learning, record comments/opinions/discussions; its use is limited only by your imagination. The links below provide further information and ideas:

PowerPoint logoMicrosoft Office PowerPoint: Microsoft’s presentation software package

PowerPoint was launched 25 years ago and it is estimated to have been installed on over 1 billion computers. Most people have been subjected to death by PowerPoint at some point in their lives, but it is the go-to software package that most of us use to deliver a presentation of some degree.  Everyone can improve some areas of their presentation here are some links that will help:

Creative uses of PowerPoint:

Some good hints, tips and further reading:

Google drive/docs logoGoogle Docs/Drive: A free web based application which allows documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms to be created, edited, stored and shared online. Google Drive is a cloud based file storage service

In SALT we use Google docs for our weekly team meeting agenda which allows all of the team to add/amend the agenda and action points. During the meeting the main action points are added in real time and thus no requirement for editing and circulating them after the meeting. Google docs also facilitate synchronous and asynchronous collaboration across the team when working with documents/spread sheets etc. Existing in the cloud allows for anytime anywhere access across all devices, with inbuilt revision history it is easy to view and revert to earlier versions of the file and see who made specific changes. The links below provide more information:

If you want to hear more about the way Google Docs and Google Drive has been used at Swansea Chris Jobling will sharing his experience of using Google applications to support group work. Click here for more info: https://salt.swan.ac.uk/event/google-drive/

Wikipedia logoWikipedia: A collaboratively written encyclopaedia freely available online

Even though Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales once warned readers not to use Wikipedia for academic purposes an American study shows that the majority of students use Wikipedia when researching essays. For me the key word in the last sentence is ‘researching’.

Many academics and universities distrust the service with warnings of ‘never cite wikipedia’. The beauty of Wikipedia lies within the references which can lead the reader to some excellent (and some not so excellent) further readings. The fundamental point to student use of Wikipedia is that they should use it as an information source and be aware that their academic work needs to be supported with references to acceptable scholarly sources.

Many UK Universities are working wiki Wikipedia through the Wikipedia Education Program to contribute to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in an academic setting.

Skype logoSkype: A software application that enables video and audio calls over the internet

Skype has evolved into much more than just internet video calls. The latest incarnation supports video calls, instant messaging, group video calls, voice calls, screen sharing and file sharing. The range of tools enable some powerful uses in an Education setting such as distance learner support, bringing experts into the classroom from anywhere in the world, online tutorials, remote student interviews. The link below suggests 50 ways to using Skype: http://www.teachingdegree.org/2009/06/30/50-awesome-ways-to-use-skype-in-the-classroom/

Hywel Thomas presented at this year’s SALT Conference on his experience of using Skype to support nursing students the video can be viewed here: https://mrclabsestream.swan.ac.uk/View.aspx?ID=5630~4o~osjYKqy2

Chrome LogoGoogle Chrome: A free software web browser developed by Google

Google Chrome is the most popular internet browser with 52.82% of internet traffic as of Aug 2015 (http://gs.statcounter.com). I’ve not been able to find any definitive article explaining for the meteoric rise in recent years but it could be a combination of the ubiquitous Google usage (Google Docs, Drive, Google Search, Chrome on Android devices). As a team we use Google docs to collaborate on documents, plus members of the team have Android devices and thus familiarity of Chrome and integration with Google docs and drive is one of the drivers why we use Chrome as our browser of choice. It is also easy to customise Chrome to make it our own using extensions, themes and apps.

Dropbox logoDropbox: A place to store any files in the cloud which can be accessed anywhere and shared with anyone

Everybody has been in the situation where your USB stick is not in your pocket with your lecture notes and presentation just as you enter the lecture theatre. This is where Dropbox comes in; store all your files in the cloud and access them via tablet, mobile device, PC or laptop easily without the need to remember carrying those USB sticks etc. Files in your Dropbox account can be shared with others easily (including non-Dropbox users). You can set Dropbox to sync files between computers, which is really handy if you work on multiple PC’s (Home and Office).

Wordle imageWordle: A word cloud generator, where words that appear more frequently in the source text appear more prominently

I have used Wordle when analysing surveys and questionnaires to create data visualisations so that I can pick out key themes that are being mentioned within the freetext comments before deeper analysis of the results. Below are further links that provide hints, tips and uses for Wordle:

YouTube logoYouTube: A video-sharing website

YouTube’s USP is the amount of content it holds; 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute! There is a huge breadth of knowledge (and rubbish) on YouTube, if I ever get stuck using a software package I first use Google to find some help this inevitable ends up in viewing a YouTube video which shows me the error of my ways (or the error in the GUI design). There are a lot of thought provoking videos as well as Educational based videos. Many universities have YouTube channels used for marketing the university and the courses it offers. These videos along with a whole host of the “good stuff” can be used in learning and teaching, many can be embedded into Blackboard modules which further opens up the use of different learning scenarios and methods such as discussion thread baseds around the content of a video, flipped learning, demonstrate experiments or laboratory techniques prior to lab work.

Kath Ficken presented at the SALT conference on how she has used video to support laboratory teaching and field trips, view the video here: https://mrclabsestream.swan.ac.uk/View.aspx?ID=5625~4s~tetezyqk

Google LogoGoogle Search:  A web search engine owned by Google Inc

We’ve all done it, need to know something…. Google it. Want some tips on how to improve your Google searching take a look at the links below:

(Thanks to Philippa Price and Sam Oakley for the Google Search links)

We will be circulating our own Swansea University Top 10 tools for learning survey at the end of the month, keep your eyes peeled and inbox ready for the link. Also if you have any comments about any of the tools listed or wish to share ways that you may have used them effectively please leave them in the comments box below, or tweet us @susalt #susaltit

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