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Top 10 tech tools for our work

12 Comments

Kate-Walker.jpgDo you feel overwhelmed by all the technology options? Do you find it hard to choose from, or even keep up with, the flurry of possibilities?

I'm not an early adopter. I still have a land line telephone, buy CDs from a shop, and don't have cable TV. But professionally, I want to stay up to date on tools for doing my work as a researcher and evaluator. I imagine they could help program staff be more productive and progressive too.

Here are my top 10 tools, based on personal experience, recommended by people I respect or that just look interesting, organized from finding and organizing information at the start of a project, to collecting data and presenting it to others.

  1. Google Scholar. This academic technology.jpgsearch engine is my go-to place to search for scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources; peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations.
  2. CiteULike. The web is full of interesting articles, but how on earth do keep track of and cite them?! This citation management tool is a fusion of social bookmarking tools like Delicious and bibliographic management tools like EndNote where you can store, organize, share and discover links to academic papers.
  3. Basecamp. I was recently invited to join Basecamp for an upcoming project to take a class from in-person to online. Basecamp is where we will communicate and collaborate - upload files, send messages, or create events in the calendar. Keep track of to-dos, when they're due and who's doing them!
  4. Doodle. Sometimes, the simpler the better. This tool finds the best time for a group of people to meet. Propose several dates and times and participants indicate their availability.
  5. Evernote.The ultimate virtual Trapper Keeper! You can easily capture information (text, handwritten notes, pictures, webpage excerpts) from your real or digital life and makes it accessible, sortable and searchable at any time, from anywhere.
  6. Bubbl.us or Freemind. Mind maps are diagrams of words, ideas, or tasks, arranged around a central idea. They are used to generate and organize ideas, make decisions or solve problems. We use them in Deliberate Practice Matters to map out dilemma scenarios in youth work practice.
  7. Dragon Dictation. Just speak into your smartphone or computer and it types out your words instantly. I dictated my debriefing notes while driving home from a research interview to quickly capture my notes while my memory was still fresh.
  8. Manyeyes. One solution to information overload is data visualization -- displaying data to show patterns and connections that matter. On ManyEyes, you can upload and visualize data sets. For more inspiration, see the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods, an interactive collection of possibilities.
  9. Prezi.A web-based presentation application that uses a zooming, non-linear single canvas instead of traditional slides. A great alternative to Powerpoint.
  10. Storyrobe. A digital story-telling app that allows you to piece together photos, videos, and then overlay sound bites to create a narrative. You can then share the final video via YouTube or e-mail. It's a fabulous way for evaluators or program participants to document youth programs or projects.
Have you used any of these in your work? What are your favorite tech tools, apps or resources that make your work life easier, more productive or maybe just a little more fun?
-- Kate Walker, research associate

12 Comments

Nicole Pokorney said:

Thank you, Kate! These resources and tools will be wonderful to use! I am still a pencil and paper, marker and poster board type of person and know that using technology will be a bit more effective. I've used a few of these when others have intiated the use within a group. It takes longer for me to learn how to use new tech gadgets and tools than it should to be able to use them!

I look forward to using some of these soon!

Kate Walker said:

Thanks for your note, Nicole. You know, for some things, I think pencil and paper is still the most efficient! I recently made the leap to an iPhone and that inspired me to step out of my comfort zone. But I do struggle with which tools are just another step versus those that really make things easier. I agree, there’s a learning curve, but hopefully it’s one that pays off.

Sam Grant said:

Hey Kate,

What a great list! I agree with a bunch of your choices and some of these I've never checked out. Here's a good reason to do so. My two favorite tools are Bloglines and Cool Preview. Bloglines allows me to store all my professional and personal blogs that I follow in one place, which means I only need to check one location. (I'd recommend adding the Youth Development Insight blog!) Cool Preview is an add on for Mozilla Firefox. It allows you to preview any hyperlinks without having to click on the link. It has saved me time because I can quickly see if the link is something that I think is worthwhile to follow.

Looking forward to other ideas!

Kate Walker said:

Great suggestions, Sam! I haven’t tried either one, but I love Google’s Instant Previews where you hover over search results to see a preview of the web page (must be similar to Cool Preview). Thanks for sharing!

Kate-

Thanks for the very helpful tools! I just checked out a couple I haven't used before - like Prezi and CiteULike. I'm glad to know about these and hope to use them. Thank you!


Ann Saylor said:

Great tools! Thanks for sharing!
I also like to collect info through the Zite app on my IPAD and google reader.

Kate Walker said:

Thanks Cari and Ann for adding your perspectives and favorite tools to the conversation!

Kendra Wells said:

Hello Kate! I enjoyed your blog and look forward to exploring these tools - thank you for sharing.

Eric Vogel said:

Kate,
What a great list! One of the things I miss about taking Ed. Tech. classes is being with people who exchange ideas of cool new sites and, more importantly, how those sites are being used educationally. You've got some listed here that I need to add to my "tool kit" for potential use in some of the 4-H volunteer training and YWI programs we're prepping for distance delivery.
Thanks!
Eric

Kate Walker said:

Thanks, Eric. I agree, that sharing of tried and tested resources is invaluable (especially for newbies like me!). What are some of your favorite resources you've picked up along the way?

Dal;e Blyth said:

Kate,
Great tools and great conversation and additional tools. I now have even more tools to try! Thanks!!
Dale

Heidi Haugen said:

Thanks for some great tools, Kate. I have used some of these but not all.

One that I am using a lot these days is Doodle. In particular, I like the feature that allows me to create time/day slots for which only one person can sign up. This is helping me to schedule 4-H Volunteer training events for 13 counties this fall. It is also helping me to schedule focused conversations with colleagues this month and next. Very nice!

Can't wait to try out the tools that are new to me--thanks again.

Heidi

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