On 1 October I released the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2012 list, and in my introductory analysis I said
“Whilst there is a clear differentiation between the personal/professional tools and the enterprise tools being used by workplace learning professions, in education teachers are frequently making use of the same toolset for both their teaching and their own personal learning. In their jobs, workplace learning professionals continue to make heavy use of e-learning authoring tools as well as web conferencing tools (which are on the rise this year by the way), whereas their own personal/professional toolsets include a wider range of social and other tools.:
So in this post, I wanted to take a look at the Top 10 Tools on the 2012 list, and briefly suggest what corporates can learn from them in order to appreciate how workplace learning is a much wider concept than just creating content or running webinars.
1 – Twitter
The ability to connect with like minded people, converse with them in a quick and easy way, ask ad hoc questions, and exchange ideas, thoughts and experiences, is what draws people into Twitter – not as part of an online course or for formal training – but simply as a place to network with like-minded individuals, and to learn from them constantly, sometimes even without realising it.
If your organization doesn’t like the idea of using Twitter for company conversations, then the next best thing is to set up some sort of corporate company (Twitter-like) network. Yammer (on the 2010 list at #20) might be a possibility. Anyone can join up for free using their business email address and if a network for their company already exists, they will join it, if it doesn’t it will automatically be set up. To claim a network, user fees do apply. But many companies are already experiencing the power of enterprise networking, and now that it has been purchased by Microsoft is likely to be seen in many more workplaces in the near future.
2 – YouTube
People love the ability to find short videos to inspire them, help them understand ideas or to acquire new (or remind themselves of old) skills, e.g. how to carry out software tasks. Many are also very willing to share their own videos with others too.
A number of organizations have already explored the use of video sharing to support team working, by encouraging team members to create and share videos of company tasks and activities. This was the concept behind the successful BT Dare2Share project, and Dixon’s Retail. (Both projects written up courtesy of the UK TowardsMaturity website.)
People often need to work collaboratively. At its simplest level this might mean creating a common document, or a number of people revising a document that has already been written. So rather than passing around a number of Word documents and trying to collate the results manually, using a collaboration tool like Google Docs makes this an easy process. But there’s lots more you can do with Google Docs too.
Collaboration tools can therefore help to simplify work proceses and make what might otherwise have been an onerous experience more enjoyable. There is a whole range of collaboration tools and platforms that can be used to meet the needs of teams, for document collaboration and sharing as well as for collaborative project management.
4 – Google Search
Google is the most popular web search engine, and frequently described as the only e-learning tool you’ll ever need.
Good Google web search skills make finding things quicker and easier; and this should be a core skill for everyone. Test out your Google skills here, and if you need to brush up your skills, use the GoogleGuide (available in a number of different formats to suit you). Also as many people hold up the Google search experience as one to be emulated, consider using Google-powered search functionality on your own intranet.
5 – WordPress
This is the most popular blogging platform. Millions of blogs are hosted on WordPress.com, which allow any one to find their own voice.
The open source WordPress software is also available to download and install on company servers. This can provide a company blogging facility, and is another way for individuals to “learn out loud” and/or “narrate their work” (as my ITA colleague, Harold Jarche puts it). With the many 3rd part apps available, a simple WordPress site can also be customized and configured in many different ways, eg. It can become an enterprise social collaboration platform, using the Buddypress plugin (at #85 on the list) – as I’ve done at the Social Learning Centre.
6 – Dropbox
With all of us owning so many devices nowadays – company laptop, home PC, smartphone, tablet – synchronizing files across these devices has become a necessity, so that we always have access to the latest version, and Dropbox helps to do this. In addition it makes sharing files with other people very easy.
Dropbox recognizesthat this file synchronization and file haring is a key functionality for business, but also realises that security is a big issue for many, so offers “bank grade security” for corporate teams.
7 – Skype
The ability to have on-demand text and voice calls with family and friends from all over the world via your computer is now taken for granted. The always-on feature of Skype means that you can keep conversations open and ongoing with individuals as well as groups of people throughout the day – and yet at the same time, have the ability not to be disturbed when required.
Within businesses, Skype can be used to reduce telephony costs considerably, and ensure that you can stay in constant touch with clients and colleagues. It can also be the device to use when you need an immediate answer to a performance problem and you know just the right person who can help you!
8 – PowerPoint
This is the only traditional enterprise tool on the Top 10, and shows that sometimes the basic tools are all that you need. PowerPoint is a very versatile tool and be used for creating all kinds of materials, once you look past its use for delivering bullet point presentations. See Jane Bozarth’s Better than Bullet Points book on how to use it to create engaging e-learning, and Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points site which helps people “present their ideas far more effectively than they ever imagined and, as a result, better present themselves”.
9 – Facebook
The most popular social networking site, now with over 1 billion users – everyone knows Facebook!
Although organisations are happy to use Facebook for their external promotions and customer interactions, they are far less interested in its use as an internal collaboration platform. So, just as with Twitter above, the next best thing might be a corporate company Facebook-like network, eg Yammer (in the 2012 list) at #20.
10 – Wikipedia
Just as Google is the most popular search engine, Wikipedia is now the most popular research tool – a place where you can find out about any subject. Although many might still be concerned about its accuracy, a recent study by Epic with Oxford University that compared a sample of English Wikipedia articles to equivalent articles in Encyclopaedia Britannica and other encyclopaedias, found that “Wikipedia articles were generally seen as being more up to date than other articles and were generally considered to be better referenced”.
Its power, of course, comes from the collaboration of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, and it is possible to emulate this type of collaborative resource within an organizational setting. For example, Intelpedia was set up using the open source MediaWiki software that is used to power Wikipedia itself. But there are now many standalone wiki tools available as well wiki functionality within collaboration plaftorms. However, note that this kind of collaborative activity works best when projects arise from the grass roots, rather than are imposed on a team or across an organisation.
I’ll take a look at some of the other tools on the 2012 list in further postings.