My Top 10 Tools for Learning 2008


I keep going back to Jane’s to see the top 10/100 list of software that she maintains. I have often thought about adding my own list, but was always concerned about “who am I” to add my list in amongst all of those who have submitted. But this morning decided to submit my own top 10 software to her. So I sent out the below email.

“Hi Jane – I am a Special Education Teacher at a small private special purpose school in Hinckley, Maine. I co-teach high school U.S. History and English classes and teach 2 Fundamental English classes. I have used technology for many years (Vic 20), but have only recently really attempted to integrate it into the classroom. My top ten list is as follows:

1. Microsoft One Note 2007 – Simply an amazing program that I have only been using since January and wish that I had been using for the last 5 years. I am reducing my paper use tremendously thanks to this program.

2. Firefox – Simple to use, very customizable and free, but IE7 is improving but not enough to overtake Firefox for me yet.

3. Inspiration – Mind mapping software that I have used to write papers, class plans, plan out a syllabus, weekly lesson plans and notes for students in the history class. So it does a lot and even creates an outline in Word. Great for planning for me as a visual learner.

4. Microsoft Word 2007 – Still the standard and much improved (in my opinion) with the new ribbon interface.

5. Microsoft Outlook 2007 – Improved many of the bugs from 2003 and some form of Outlook is required at work.

6. Zoho Office – Lots of applications and I can access stuff I have there, from anywhere and any computer. Still doesn’t work integrating with Word 2007 using Vista, but I like it.

7. Windows Live Writer – Love how I can put my blog together in a WYSIWYG style, I use it to write all of my blogs. (Including this one)

8. Google Reader – Use it everyday to look at my feeds

9. Igoogle – My Internet start page, and what most of my students use as their start page

10. Adobe Reader – There might be others that leave a smaller footprint or are quicker, but it is still the standard.

Honorable Mention: Google Docs (easy to collaborate), Ning (social networking), Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 (still works for me)

As you can see I am still pretty Microsoft centric, I have tried many of the online versions I.e. Slideshare, Google: Docs, Notebook , Flickr, Open Office, Buzzword, Foxit etc. and have decided to use what works best for me, regardless of who produces it and right now the ones listed consistently meets my needs better than others out there.


I notice that I don’t have a lot of open source applications on my list, it isn’t like I haven’t tried them out, but I keep coming back to the standards: Word, Outlook, Adobe Reader etc., because they are reliable, do more than I will every be able to use them for and I am familiar with them. I have found if something has a long learning curve that I will not use it…I simply don’t have time to go out and “learn” a piece of software or new operating system.

I expect what I use to be intuitive (for me), straight forward, and typically uses the “KISS” principle. I have found that I am more of an “end user” than someone who will get in there muck around for hours.

So there you have it, my top ten list of software (pretty much in order) as of today…I hope that it will change over the course of the next year with some amazing new application(s)that I learn about.

Technorati Tags:Microsoft,OneNote,Word,PowerPoint,LiveWriter,firefox,Zoho,googledocs,adobe,ning,buzzword,shaw,blogs,education,top10

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.



I was listening to the WickedDecentLearning “Friday night Podcast” the other day and one of the guys used the term techno-realist.  At first it didn’t really mean much to me but as I continued reflect and just thinking things through, it occurred to me that this is the direction that I want to go in.  Become more realistic in what technology can actually do for me in my classroom.

I don’t believe that technology is the cure-all, end all that some might believe.  Technology to me is a tool that teachers should use to augment their teaching (one of the tools in the toolbelt), that has some extremely great points (great for differentiating instruction for all students – not just special education) and other benefits have been espoused liberally throughout the blogosphere and the web.

However, I do see some of the weaknesses:

Cost – Who pays…the taxpayer, the parent, corporations — who?  This is a huge obstacle no matter where you are located geographically.  Even though costs are coming down, in many cases it is still too expensive for all to have equitable/current equipment or access to the Internet.

Accessibility – To equipment or the Internet.  Schools, libraries and middle class homes (in most countries) have access to both, but as you look further down the economic scale, it becomes more difficult to have access to either.  Yeah people say the school has computers and access, but how old are the computers and what is the ratio of students/staff to computers. What time do most computer labs close down – how do the rural students get home? Lost of questions there.

Then they say students can go to the library after school to use their computers – the last time I attempted to use a library computer, I had to wait  1 1/2 hours to get on the computer and then only had 1/2 hour to do what I needed to do and I didn’t feel very comfortable with some of the people sitting next to me.  Students have a hard time focusing (feeling comfortable) and won’t have much time to get work done there.  Most homes only have one computer and how many people competing for time on that computer?

How many schools out there are actually 1:1?  It is a great idea, but the reality is that most of us have to “attempt” to sign up the media center for class use and hope that you can get it and not be pre-empted by administration, hope enough computers are working so the class can do the project, etc.

Time – It takes time to learn and teach technology, time that in today’s environment is expected to worry about AYP (I am lucky where I work, it is not as much a concern – Special Purpose School – a different rant) .  Teachers has to make choices – content area vs technology and they are taught and hired to teach the content area.  So integrating technology into the content area is an added duty, that has been added to an already full plate.

Attitude – Teachers, Administration, Parental, Student, Government and Corporate attitudes towards technology is not focused!  Each seems to have it own idea of how technology should be used in the classroom and elsewhere.  This impacts teachers attitudes towards implementing technology in their classrooms.

Finally – teachers cannot abdicate to technology, it is not a magic bullet, teachers much still teach and make personal relationships with their students.

After all this negativity or is it realistic view of technology – it is still a great tool.   I still strongly advocate for taking the time to change the attitudes, to find funding, so that there will be more accessibility to technology in the classroom.  Because like it or not if our students are not technologically proficient (basic reading, writing and math are a given), their future ability to participate fully in society both socially and economically will be negatively impacted.

Technorati Tags: education,podcast,shaw,wickeddecentlearning

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.



After checking out my feeds this morning and checking out the Learning in Maine Blogsite Jim was continuing to say how good they are, I decided to listen to the first one (I like to go in order). I really enjoyed their first episode and spent a good part of my morning listening to Jeff ‘n Dan at wickeddecentlearning


I got through Episode 1, 2 & 3. They are very insightful and actually fun to listen to – I smiled a couple of times, learned a couple of new things and had a couple of things to think about. Therefore, I feel it was worth listening to (I can only hear about the Patriots vs Giants so many more times) . That being said — Go Pats.

It was my first experience with listening to a Podcast. I of course have heard and read about them, but just hadn’t ever taken the time try one. It to me in this case was very similar to listening to a talk radio show without the ability to call in.

Recent episodes from podcast – wickeddecentlearning:

  • Episode 5 Competition in the Classroom
  • Episode 4 Workin for Tha Man
  • Episode 3 Midyear Reboot
  • Episode 2 One and Done vs. Resubmitting
  • Episode 1

Based upon the first 3 episodes, I would recommend listening in on their podcasts — they have value. Their blogsite is

Podcasts themselves…they are time consuming, I can read an article or blog much quicker. I also find myself getting lost…going away from the “cast”. If I do that, I can imagine my students doing the same thing and not “getting” what is being talked about. I can see their uses but I don’t know how much I personally would use them and how they would fit in my curriculum. But I will keep an open mind and try one when the opportunity presents itself. — Harold

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Finding a Decent Blog Editor/Writer


Well – this has been an interesting night…I got very tired of attempting to add graphics (screen shots) to my previous post – Electronic Portfolios – I Need Some Help!  So I attempted Zoho Writer (which I really like), Google docs (its okay), OneNote (which I love) and M/S Word to try to get that blog to post correctly and look decent.  None of them created a document that I was happy with — the images/pictures were: missing, blurry, or simply unreadable.

I have always hated having to go back into the blog and add in images after I have posted them, it always seemed like a complete waste of time and it isn’t acceptable to me so I went searching on the web for basically a blog editor.

This image was almost unreadable in my previous post,while  it is not perfect here, as can be seen it is a tremendous improvement over what I was doing.

eportfolio personal info

Well guess what I ended up with:
Microsoft’s Live Writer.  So far tonight it was the application that worked the best for what I wanted to do.

So for all you Microsoft haters out there  — so far this month they are doing great for me…I do like Vista (it does what I want, I am not a power user, I am an end user), Office 2007 (so far – I like the ribbon and the functions seem more intuitive), OneNote (except for this instance, it is simple and easy to use, plus it does more than I can use it for right now) and now Live Writer.

If this keeps up I will give myself over to the “evil empire” smile_devilcompletely, well maybe not completely, because I really like Firefox.  Oh my gosh, what am I saying  — me a liberal, anti-establishment educator supporting “them”, but I am becoming much more interested in what works for me, than the name of the software company that I am using.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.