Every year Jane Hart does a 100 Top Tools for Learning survey.  I have read the survey results every year since 2007 and have found some great tools that others are using that I have tried or used.  I have at the bottom of this post included my 2008 list, so that you can see the changes since I last participated in this survey.

This year some things have changed, but I am back to teaching as a Special Education and English Language Arts teacher in a resource room after a 15 month sojourn in State Government.  Below is my top ten list of the applications and software that I am using OR will be using.  In Maine the teachers are issued a MacBook and I have attempted to use things that are available on both or Operating System Independent when possible.

1.  Productivity Suite:  MICROSOFT OFFICE – Still the standard by which other productivity suites are judged.  It is what is used by industry and in government.  If you work outside of education you need to be proficient in its use.  Some don’t like the Ribbon, but I found after I got used to it that it was better than the menu bars.  I can’t wait to see the improvements in Office 2010 which will make it less O/S dependent with its cloud ability.

2.  Browser:  Firefox – Still a little too buggy for my tastes but between the choice of Safari or Firefox there was no choice.  I can’t download extra software onto my issued Mac, so I can’t use Opera on it, which would be my browser of choice.  In order to keep the laptops someone similar I chose to have Firefox.  I do really like the number of add-ons, but sometimes I think there is too much choice and it can affect Firefox’s performance and stability.  Not too bad for my second choice, but I really wish they would get the stability issues fixed.

3.  Blog:  Blogger – I have tried just about all of the other blog hosting software and I keep coming back to Blogger.  It does what I want most of the time and I don’t have to learn PHP or do the backend stuff like I did in my self-hosted WordPress blog.

4.  PDF:  Nitro PDF Professional – I actually paid for this one, I like its ability to edit PDF for a reasonable price and I do like the ribbon better than menu bars.

5.  Blogwriter:  Scribefire – Due to the limitations of Microsoft’s Live Writer only being available on my Windows laptop and how many problems I have had with it lately, I have begun migrating to Scribefire which has improved considerably over the past year, so that I can have continuity between operating systems.  The one thing that I would really to seee in Scribefire is for it to become useable on more than just Firefox, maybe an independent WebApp?  Now I just have to remember to click on that orange Scribefire button to use it.

6.  RSS Feed Reader:  Google Reader it does everything I ask of it and is simple to use.

7.  Start Page:  iGoogle – simple and easy to use and is cross browser and O/S.  I have tried many others, but keep coming back to iGoogle, it just works for me.

8.  Google Apps – Even though I used M/S Office almost exclusively for the past 15 months, when I was not in education, in its present form it is not education friendly.  Google apps has attempted to step in and be that cross O/S or browser application that can be used any where, at any time.  You don’t have to copy, email documents to yourself or put them on a pen drive, you just login to your account and there are your documents, that plus the ability to share documents and read PDFs are a huge benefit in education and elsewhere — less paper wasted.  I look forward to seeing what improvements they come out with now that M/S Office will have a cloud component.

9.  Skype – I used it a lot before I left education and since I have returned have used it to communicate with others a few times.  I can see it becoming more important as I get back into the swing of Web2.0 again.  Elluminate has honorable mention, it seems as though every online meeting is held in Elluminate for good reason – it is user friendly and they work with educators.

10  Google Search – Just “Google it” has become a verb in our vocabulary, I don’t think I need to say much else, except that it should have been much higher on the list.  I simply forgot about it, I guess I just take for granted that it is here to use and is one of the most used applications in my tool box.

Those are my top 10 – a bit less microcentric than last time, it seems as though I have moved toward becoming a Googler?  It will be interesting to see how the competition between Microsoft and Google plays out over the next year and how it affects us – the users.  I didn’t have a Notebook or Mind mapping application on there this year, I haven’t really had the need to utilize them like I did in the past.  Maybe they will reclaim their prominence as I get back into the swing of things again.

Below is my top 10 list from 2008, just for comparison purposes.
TOP 10 TOOLS 2008

  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 .
  2. Firefox – Simple to use, very customizable and free
  3. Inspiration – Mind mapping software
  4. Microsoft Word 2007 – Still the standard and much improved with the new ribbon interface
  5. Microsoft Outlook 2007 – Improved many of the bugs from 2003 and it is required at work
  6. Zoho Office – Lots of applications and I can access stuff from anywhere and any computer
  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.
  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 still the standard

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 Microsoft consistently meets my needs better than others out there.

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