25 Tools – and all for free!

e.learning age magazine, April 2008

Whether you are a corporate trainer, a Learning & Development manager, a learning designer or developer, or an educator in a school, college or university, these are the 25 must-have tools.  What is more they are all free, which makes them very useful for those on a low (or non-existent) budget or simply for experimentation and exploration of the widening e-learning space.

These tools have been taken from the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008 list compiled from the Top 10 Tools lists of nearly 200 learning professionals worldwideand are a mix of personal productivity tools (for managing personal learning) as well as authoring tools (for creating learning solutions). Many of them are Web 2.0 tools that promote a social, collaborative, sharing approach to learning.

  1. Firefox plus extensionsa web browser
    This is clearly an essential tool; it is your “window on the web” and the basis of everything you do.  But Firefox is more than a browser; the hundreds of extensions available provide an enormous range of extra functionality not found with other browsers.
  2. deliciousa social bookmarking tool.
    Don’t store your bookmarks in your browser any longer, but online, where you can tag (i.e. categorise) them and share them with others, e.g. project resources with colleagues, teaching/training resources with students.
  3. Google Readeran RSS reader
    Keeping up to date with your subject can mean scanning many websites and blogs on a regular basis.  But with an RSS reader you simply subscribe to the sites’ news feed and the news is delivered automatically to you.  Effortless!
  4. gMail (or Google Mail in the UK)Webmail
    No more worrying about an email client on your desktop and dealing with spam and viruses, gMail provides you with a more efficient emailing service with tons of free storage space.
  5. Skypean instant messenger 
    In today’s fast moving world, we all want instant answers.  Skype provides an easy way of not only text messaging your online contacts but also free computer-to-computer voice calls – with low charges out to landlines.
  6. Google Calendaran online calendar<
    Don’t keep your calendar to yourself, share it and make scheduling events an easier process.
  7. Google Docs – an online office suite
    Do you need to work on documents with your team, colleagues or others? Google Docs provides a suite of online tools to create and edit textual documents, spreadsheets and presentations.  And if you don’t want to give up using Microsoft Office completely, these can all be uploaded into Google Docs when you want to share them
  8. Slidesharea presentation sharing tool
    If you create presentations in PowerPoint or Keynote, then you can host them, tag them and share them online with Slideshare.  You can make them privately available if you don’t want the whole world to see them, and you can even synchronise them with an audio file to create a narrated presentation.
  9. flickran image hosting and sharing tool
    An image is worth a thousand words!  If you are looking for a place to host your personal or professional picture collection, to tag them and share them with friends, colleagues and others, then this is the place to do it.
  10. Voicethreada collaborative slideshow tool
    Using PowerPoint presentations or flickr images you can create an audio slideshow and audio comments can also be left by others.
  11. WordPressa blogging tool
    Blogging can be both a personal or professional activity.  Many people say that they have learnt more by blogging (and hence reflecting upon things) than by any other means.  WordPress makes creating a blog very easy, and there are many plugins available to embed resources like flickr images, Slideshare presentations, and so on into it.
  12. Audacityan audio/podcasting tool
    This downloadable tool makes recording and editing audio very simple, and with the extra encoder you can convert your audio files into MP3 podcasts.
  13. YouTubea video hosting and sharing tool 
    Videos can now be easily created using webcams, camcorders and even mobile phones.  You can then upload them into YouTube and share them with others.  Simply point your users to the pages where they are to be found or else embed them in your blog or website.
  14. Jing a screencasting tool
    This is an “always-ready” program that instantly captures and shares images and video.
  15. PBwikia wiki tool
    Another collaborative tool; this one for setting up editable websites.  Wikipedia is, of course, the best example of how to use a wiki and develop content collaboratively with your users.  But a wiki tool can be used for many different collaborative purposes.
  16. PollDaddya polling tool
    Want to get some quick feedback from your people?  Set up a poll, embed the poll widget in your blog or website and then track responses on the PollDaddy site.
  17. Nvu – a web authoring tool
    Although blogging tools are the quickest way to get a web presence, you may want to create a website that is not structured chronologically.  Nvu is a versatile new tool to let you do that.
  18. Yugmaa web meeting tool>
    For small meetings of up to 10 meetings, Yugma is free.  You can whiteboard, annotate and share files.  You can even use Skype to connect.
  19. Ustreama live broadcasting tool
    Probably The Next Big Thing – live interactive video broadcasting to a global audience.  All it takes is a camera and an internet connection.
  20. Ninga (private) social networking tool
    You may already belong to a public social network like Facebook, but Ning lets you create and customise a private network for a group of like-minded people, large or small.
  21. Freeminda mind mapping tool
    For organising your thoughts or just brainstorming.
  22. Moodlea course management system
    Run it on your PC to try it out and see its potential!  You might then consider using it to host a complete course or program or simply to provide the user authentication mechanism to access training materials.  If you can’t install it in-house then there are low-cost hosting solutions available.
  23. eXea course authoring tool tool to create SCORM-compliant training material  that doesn’t require you to be proficient in HTML or XML markup.  It works within Moodle too, of course.
  24. iGooglea personal start page tool 
    Aggregate all your resources, mail, RSS feeds, videos, in one place.
  25. And finally, twittera microblogging tool
    Probably not for everyone, but if you want to stay in touch with people no matter where you are or what you’re doing, then Twitter’s for you!