Top Ten Web Tools of 2015

oldtools1

This is the eighth time I have compiled a list of the top ten web tools I have used during the year. I am finding it interesting looking back over 2008, 2009, 2010201120122013 and 2014 which tools I still use and which have fallen by the wayside.

Out of the top ten are Chrome, Safari and Google+. I still like the positive aspects of Chrome and Safari, I like the fact that I can move between devices and take up where I left off and having a common history regardless of device. Though using a Dell has meant Safari integration is less useful. Google+ probably would have made the top ten, but the community I am part of is using it less and less, so there is less engagement and less conversation.

Instagram is number ten for 2015, I have found that the community I engaged with has shrunk over the last twelve months. I still like it as a tool and as a community.

Dropbox was my number one technology in 2014 and I used it in a similar way for some of 2015. However when I started using a Dell as my main workhorse, the benefits of working on a single Pages document across multiple Macs disappeared and though I still like Dropbox, I now use it more for remote online storage than as a synced cloud solution for working on files across multiple machines. As a result it drops to ninth place in the top ten.

Evernote in a similar vein to Dropbox was well used in the earlier part of 2015, but less so in the latter half, so drops to number eight. I mainly use Evernote to make notes and planning. One feature I started using extensively in November and December was to use the Evernote app on the iPhone to capture post-its and flipcharts from meetings and workshops. The auto-capture feature was a chance discovery and I found it perfect for quickly capturing hand-written information and sharing it with others.

At number seven is Flickr. I use Flickr to both store and find photographs. I used it a lot to find images for presentations.

At number six is Google Docs (and Google Drive), from a collaboration perspective it is one of the best tools I have used. I like the fact that a team can work on a document all at the same time.

The fifth tool in the top ten is Tweetdeck. Using a consistent hashtag for projects means that Tweetdeck is a faster way to find out who is talking about the project and what they are talking about on the Twitter. I like how I can use it to schedule tweets in advance, this proved particularly useful for a Tweetchat I did for the ALT Winter Conference.

At number four is Yammer, this Enterprise “social network” has allowed me to internally update Jisc on the project work and keep people across the organisation informed on what we are doing and where we are at.

Third place is Skype and Skype for Business. I used Skype for many years for external online conversations, but when I moved jobs in 2013, I stopped using it. Now at Jisc I use it on a daily basis for online meetings, conferences and instant messaging.

Climbing up to number two for 2015 is WordPress. Having not used it much in 2014, it became much more integral to the way I worked. As well as my personal blogs such as this one, I also use it for my work blog and have also been using it to prototype an online delivery platform, as a kind of dynamic connectivist VLE.

Twitter is my number one technology for 2015, after limited use in the first part of 2015, it really became an indispensable tool for me for the rest of 2015. I use it much more for broadcasting, conversations and engagement.

So that’s my top ten web tools for 2015, what were yours?

Steering a supertanker…

Tanker

…it’s quite easy actually.

We often use analogies to explain why something is challenging or difficult.

One analogy that is often used is the iceberg, a good example of this is Schien model of organisational culture.

iceberg

The problem with icebergs is that the focus of any discussion about the topic often switches to the Titanic, an unsinkable ship that sank after hitting an iceberg. Then discussion moves onto what a terrible or excellent film it was, and it’s not long before someone shouts out “I’m king of the world” with outstretched arms. Before you know it, you have no idea what you were discussing and the important stuff is slowly sinking to the seabed!

Sometimes we make assumptions in our analogies which are just plain wrong. The supertanker in the title of this blog post is a prime example. We compare organisations to supertankers as these huge behemoths that are challenging to steer and keep going in one direction with no way of turning them.

Searching Google on how to turn or steer a supertanker, the only results you seem to get are articles and news items on how something else is like trying to turn a supertanker!

The reality is that steering a supertanker is quite easy and they are in fact highly manoeuvrable, they have to be to dock at refineries and ports across the world.

What is challenging with a supertanker is stopping to avoid hitting something, and most times supertanklers don’t stop they turn and move in a different direction.

Maybe the supertanker analogy isn’t so bad after all…

Tanker

Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

Sand Bay

Over the last 12 months I have written 24 blog posts which is two a month. In 2014 I wrote 11 and in 2013 I wrote 64 blog posts and over a hundred in 2012. In 2011 I thought 150 was a quiet year!

The tenth most popular post on the blog in 2015, dropping one place from 2014, was written back in 2009 when Twitter was (at the time) looked like the height of the Twitter’s popularity. In the post Ten reasons why Twitter will eventually wither and die… I talked about how Twitter would, like so many other earlier social networks such as Friendster, Bebo, MySpace, would eventually wither and die… well I got that one right didn’t I? Still there are aspects in the post that may, at some point in the future ring true!

My opinion piece on Area Based Reviews for FE was a new entry and the ninth most popular post, I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean? This was written in 2015 and looked at what we mean when we ask FE Colleges to “embrace technology” and how they could in fact do that. Embracing technology is easy to say, easy to write down. Ensuring that you actually holistically embrace technology across the whole organisation, as part of a wider review is challenging and difficult. We haven’t really done this before, so I don’t think we can assume it will just happen now.

Area Based Review

One of my many posts on Moodle was a re-entry at number eight Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable? This post was the ninth most popular post in 2013. One of the common themes that comes out when people discuss how to use Moodle, is the inevitable scroll of death. My response was that due to a lack of planning (even forward planning) that the end result more often than not would be a long scroll of death in a Moodle course.

Another new entry at number seven in 2015 was written and posted in December 2015 and was about time and why I don’t have a dog. I don’t have a dog #altc was a discussion piece was written for the ALT Winter Conference and looks at the over used excuse for not doing something, which is not having the time to do it. The real reason though, more often then not, is that the person concerned does not see it as a priority.

On The Streets of Vilnius
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS https://flic.kr/p/a7RLz7
The sixth post was from the App of the Week series and was called VideoScribe HD – iPad App of the Week I talked about this app in July 2013 and was impressed with the power and versatility of the app for creating animated presentations. This has dropped four places, but one problem, is that the app isn’t available any more for the iPad.

The fifth post, dropping two places, of 2015 was another one from that series. Comic Life – iPad App of the Week. Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

Climbing one place, the fourth most popular post was from my other series on 100 ways to use a VLE. This one was #89 Embedding a Comic Strip. This was a post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE. It included information on the many free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet out there. It is quite a long post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

Climbing four places, at number three was a copyright post entitled, Can I legally download a movie trailer? One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back, this one was in 2008, I am a little behind in much of what is happening within copyright and education, one of things I do need to update myself on, as things have changed.

The second most popular post in 2015 was Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week. This has risen two places and even I am not sure why this one is so popular!

Once again, for the third year running, the number one post for 2015 was the The iPad Pedagogy Wheel. I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”.

It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

So there we have it, the top ten posts of 2015, of which two were from 2015!

Here’s to 2016.

I don’t have a dog #altc

CC BY 2.0  JD Hancock https://flic.kr/p/732b7n
CC BY 2.0 JD Hancock https://flic.kr/p/732b7n

Dogs can be wonderful pets, or so I have been told.

So ask me do I have a dog?

The answer is no.

Now ask me why I don’t have a dog?

I don’t have the time!

wandelen langs de vloedlijn
CC BY-NC 2.0 Gerard Stolk

Over the last twenty years or so when learning technologists and others interested in embedding the use of digital technology to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and assessment, the one “problem” that arises again and again is that people don’t have the time.

I have been supporting staff for many years in the use of learning technologies, all the time when I run training sessions though I hear the following comments:

“I don’t have the time.”
“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”
“I am going to need more time.”

Time appears to be a critical issue.

Even more recently running a workshop I asked people to identify the main barriers to embedding learning technologies and the answer everyone came back was, time!

I have written and spoken about this issue time and time again.

A long time ago, back in 2004 I presented at the Becta Post-16 e-Learning Practitioners Conference on the Myths of Time.

In 2007 I managed to find the time to spend some time talking about time on the blog and wrote a post about time.

Now ask me again why I don’t have a dog?

I don’t have the time!

On The Streets of Vilnius
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS https://flic.kr/p/a7RLz7

I am aware that there are quite a few people out there who have a dog, and they seem to find the time to have a dog.

It certainly takes time to have a dog, time to walk it, time to stroke it, time to bath it, time to walk it again. When I am out and about see people walking their dogs and I believe that you have to walk a dog everyday. Where do people find the time for that?

Correct me if I am wrong, but dog owners have the the same amount of time as everyone else. They don’t live in some kind of timey-wimey temporal reality that gives them more time than anyone else.

So if they don’t have more time than anyone else, how do they find the time to have a dog? I don’t have the time to have a dog, why do they have the time?

And don’t get me started on the resources and costs of having a dog….

We know people who have dogs don’t have more time, but they like to spend time to have a dog. Therefore they must prioritise having a dog over other things they could spend time on. For them having a dog is a priority.

Now ask me again why I don’t have a dog?

It’s not a priority for me, I have other priorities that take up my time.

Gent beweegt!
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS https://flic.kr/p/9G1Ttf

So when you talk to teaching staff about learning technologies, and they say they don’t have the time, or they need time; what they are actually saying and meaning is…

It’s not a priority for me, I have other priorities that take up my time.

This also explains why some other staff find the time to engage with learning technologies, they find the time, as they see it as a priority.

So how do you make the teaching staff prioritise or raise the importance of something that they see as a low priority or unimportant so that they feel they can’t spend time on it.

One thing that does get forgotten, is that everyday we use technology to make our lives easier and to save time. Often learning technologies can be used to make our lives easier and importantly save time.

Often we are so busy being busy that we don’t take the time to think about those tools and processes which could save us time.

So another question ask me why having a dog is not a priority for me?

Well that depends on who sets the priorities in my home, looks at his wife and children…. Even if I was the person setting the priorities, what I would be doing would be looking at everything else I was doing, prioritise them and spend time on those things. I may do that in a planned manner, the reality is that this is probably a more sub-conscious activity.

However if the household decided that we should get a dog and my objections about the lack of time were ignored, then we would get a dog and I would need to find the time, prioritising the dog over other things I considered to be a priority. Now I am sure a few dog owners out there would tell me how wonderful having a dog is, and maybe this would be something I would discover by having a dog. This can be an issue, I may hate having a dog!

You can take analogies only so far…

If people are concerned about the issue of time when it comes to using and embedding learning technologies then they are probably more likely concerned about how this will fit into their other priorities. So ask the question, who is responsible for setting the priorities of the teaching staff in your institution? Is it the teaching staff? Is it the executive team? Is it the teaching managers? Unlikely I would have thought to be the learning technologists

So if you are facing the real issue when talking to teaching staff of them responding that they don’t have the time, maybe you are talking to the wrong people! Or the wrong people are talking to the teaching staff.

Priorities in theory are set by the line manager, who is operationalising the strategic direction and vision of the institution. If digital is not a strategic priority can we be surprised that staff within that institution don’t consider it a personal priority.

How do you make digital a strategic priority? Well that;s another blog post, which I don’t have the time for at the moment, I have to walk the dog.

Playful Learning #playlearn16

A pile of lego bricks. I experimented with different apertures for different DoFs, and I think this one was my favourite. Focus is on the highest yellow brick.

Now this looks like an interesting conference.

Playful Learning is pitched at the intersection of learning and play for adults. Playful in approach and outlook, yet underpinned by robust research and working practices, we’ll be providing a space where teachers, researchers and students can play, learn and think together. A space to meet other playful people and be inspired by talks, workshops, activities and events. Based in the heart of Manchester, we’ll also be exploring some of the city’s playful spaces with evening activities to continue the fun and conversations after the formal programme ends.

Playful learning will run over three days, from lunchtime on Wed 13 July 2016 to lunchtime on Friday 15 July 2016.

More details here.

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