A woman was helping a friend with some home repairs when she asked a nearby six year old for a screwdriver. The child asked, "Do you want a daddy screwdriver or a mommy screwdriver?" "Well, I guess I would need the mommy screwdriver", and the child returned with a kitchen knife. Every time my wife or I use a particular piece of, what was, nice cutlery, we are reminded of her own "right idea-wrong tool" moment.
How often have you been part of online meetings where meeting leaders meant well but maybe used the wrong tools? Maybe it was a lengthy conference call with no online visual to keep attendees engaged. How often do we plug up email in-boxes with requests for information that might be gathered other ways? We often limit our tools to those we know best, but a good handyman or handywoman has a well-rounded set of tools. You should too when it comes to online communication, project management, teaching and leading. Here are some tools to consider for different purposes.
Communication: Basic email works well for basic communication. While I do not actually use the telephone much anymore, people tell me it still works well for basic communication.
Meetings sometimes require a mix and match approach. Google Hangout is our go-to tool right now and has audio, visual and screen sharing capabilities. Skype is also good. If the plan is to hold a meeting via telephone, think about how to add a visual dimension perhaps by adding a Google Doc or a UM Connect meeting room. Did you have a great discussion last night at your Leader's Council meeting? Why not continue that discussion online via VoiceThread. Post those hot-topic questions and keep people thinking together between meetings.
Teaching: The U of MN uses Moodle as its online classroom management system. If you've ever taken a class online you may be familiar with it. Any and all the other tools mentioned in this article can be built into a Moodle environment including UM Connect which can also be used as a stand-alone teaching environment.
Project management and group organizing: Wiggio is my favorite these days. It allows groups to post files, schedule events, and create documents. It is a big improvement on organizing via email!
The problem is not with a lack of tools but with how to choose which ones to use together to the best effect. Need to help a group explore a problem in depth? Try mind mapping (I've been using Mind Meister). Need online post-it notes? Try GroupZap. Want to offer a surprise in your presentations? Try Prezi or a video scribe. And yes, people can be overcome by new online tools. Know your audience and be prepared to help them in case they become overwhelmed.
It is true that sometimes we need to use tools that may not be the best for the situation. (For instance it is possible to use a wrench to pound a nail though I don't recommend it.) Keep exploring. Over time, you will find what you need to create, teach, organize, and lead online.