Top Ten Learning Tools for 2017

It’s time for Jane Hart’s survey of Top Tools for Learning.  My list for 2017 are all tools I use for my personal learning (versus at work or at school – the other two categories Jane aggregates).  I’ve listed 6 new tools in my list.  Probably the biggest “a-ha” is that I’ve now truly joined the Twitterverse.  Twitter has always been near the top of Jane’s aggregated list, but it wasn’t until this year that I finally “got it.”

I’ve also added two “little” tools (Office Lens and Grammarly) that have both had a surprising impact on my learning and work this past year.

My Top Ten Tools for 2017 are (in no particular order):

Here’s Why They are My Top Ten

Twitter – in the past year, Twitter has become one of my most powerful tools. Of course, I share my thoughts and retweet posts by others that I find interesting and relevant to my work.  But this year I’ve been leveraging the lists functionality to create news feeds specific to topics core to my work. (thus far only one is public but I’ll make the others public in the next several weeks or so.)  I have also fallen in love with Tweet Chats. These dynamic forums are dynamite learning experiences. (see my blog post about Tweet Chats).

Diigo – This tool has become the centerpiece of my personal knowledge management process.  The Chrome extension, the live highlighting, and Outliner functionality make it a powerful tool for storing and organizing the content I consume on a daily basis.  I use the Outliners to create the content for the pages in my xAPI Resource Center that appears on There’s a nice tool that makes it very simple to post to an up-to-date list of the most recent items I’ve posted to Diigo.  Feel free to take a look at my library.

WordPress – Is my primary place to consolidate my knowledge and share it with others.  To date, it has been primarily my blogs (now, previously, but I’m about to launch a full website via WordPress.  They have recently made it easier to use 3rd party widgets and themes, which is on my to-do list to explore.

MindMeister – I’ve always liked mind maps for organizing my thoughts and projects and MindMeister has been my favorite tool for some time.  I don’t know how I would do my preparations for the CPLP exams without it.

LinkedIn –  Of course, LinkedIn is still the #1 tool for professional networking.  But the changes to its news feed UI has opened it up to become a great center for professional discussions.  The purchase of and its transformation to LinkedIn Learning has been powerful.  The integration of Slideshare is ok, but could use some work.

Google Drive – While I also use Microsoft OneDrive, I give Google Drive the advantage for a number of reasons.  I find it easier to share documents with others, it’s integration with Docs and Sheets is better (and they are better collaborative tools), and it’s easier to access from any computer.

Google Chrome – In my mind Google Chrome has surpassed Firefox as the best browser out there.  The extensions available to integrate an endless list of tools with your browsing experience makes Chrome a focal point of my online experience.

Microsoft OneNote – My OneNote account has become such a repository of content that I really can’t imagine changing away from it.  It searches tools are solid and it’s easy to move pages, tabs, and notebooks around to reconfigure the content to my liking.  Using IFTTT, I even sync everything I put into Diigo into OneNote automatically.

Microsoft Office Lens – A quirky tool to list, but I love it.  This mobile app enables you to take a picture of a presentation from anywhere in the room and then squares off the resulting image.  It has totally changed my experience of learning in presentations.  You can also “scan” documents without worrying about lining them up perfectly – Office Lens will do that for you.  You can directly save to OneNote, OneDrive, or your device storage.

Grammarly – Another quirky choice, but I have to say this in-the-line-of-work tool has improved my writing over the year that I have been using it.  It’s constant monitoring of everything I type, in just about any environment I’m working, helps assure that my writing is accurate. Because it’s not “autocorrect”,  I’ve found that errors that I had consistently made in the past are things of the past as Grammarly’s gentle coaching has changed my writing behavior.  Grammarly also sends you weekly email reports about your writing and the errors you have made.

Last Year’s Top Ten (repeats in 2017 highlighted)

  • Google Docs and Sheets
  • Google Drive
  • Gmail
  • Feedly
  • Blogs (now listed as WordPress)
  • Powerpoint
  • MindMeister
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • YouTube
  • Internet Search

Docs and Sheets have been subsumed under Google Drive this year.  Honestly, Gmail was victim to wanting to include Office Lens and Grammarly in this year’s list.  Feedly has been replaced by Diigo.  I just haven’t used YouTube as much this year.  In my mind, internet search is now covered under my listing of Google Chrome.

What do you think of my 2017 list?  What would you add?  What tool(s) do you question my inclusion?  Feel free to sound off in the comments below!  (And submit your list at before September 22 to be included in Jane’s lists!)

Tweet Chats – My Favorite New Informal Learning Technology

Ironic that until about a year ago i was the first person to say, “I don’t get Twitter.  Why do people use it?”  I would dismissively spout.

Well not only have I been converted over to the Twittersphere, but I now consider several Tweet Chats (or Twitter Chats) to be major components in my Personal Learning System (PLN).

What’s a Tweet Chat?

A Tweet Chat happens when like minded people log into Twitter and conduct a discussion about a shared interest by logging onto Twitter at a designated time and make comments using a specific hashtag (ie, #lrnchat or #365social) to mark each of their Tweets related to the Tweet Chat.

Typically, Tweet Chats have a leader or leaders who decide on a topic for each chat.  Some will do this collaboratively with their Tweet Chat community.  Others will pick the topic on their own.  The leader posts a series of questions (Q1, Q2, Q3…) to spur the discussion amongst the participants who usually will mark their answers A1, A2, A3…).  At that point, participants can reply, retweet, and like the posts

Some Tweet chats try to follow thematic threads over multiple chats.  Many have a home web page where there will publish pre-reading on the next chat’s topic, post transcripts of their chats and archive other related ideas.

It is possible to use the standard to participate in a Tweet Chat, but most people opt for tools like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or TweetChat because of how they can organize a hashtag into a channel.  This eliminates all of the other tweets happening in your main Twitter feed.

So, that’s the technical explanation of Tweet Chats, but why do like them so much?

I currently try to follow four chats (recently my calendar has gotten in the way too many times:

  • #lrnchat – focused on social media and learning (THU 7:30pm CST)
  • #pkmchat – focused on personal learning management (PKM) (WED 1pm CST)
  • #bersinchat – focused on various topics in learning and development run by the staff of Bersin by Deloitte (3rd TUE of each month 3:00pm CST)
  • #guildchat – focused on various topics in Learning and Development.  Run by the staff of eLearning Guild. (FRI 1:00pm CST)

Real and Raw – In a Tweet Chat, you don’t have time to formulate your perfect answers to each question. You have 140 words to say what your opinion is.  The result tends to be raw, I think more honest reflection on what you tink of the topic.  You can’t use convoluted devices to hedge what you are saying.  Heck, half the time I’m not using punctuation to give a few more characters for my message!

What do I Really Think? – Over a series of thought-provoking questions, responding and then reading and responding to what others have to say, I have often realized that what I actually think about a topic is not what my first reaction is when I have more time.  An decision making tweetexample on #lrnchat recently we were discussing Decision Making.  As we worked through the questions I realized that there are a number of practices that are so ingrained in how I operate that I’m often on autopilot and don’t realize I’m doing them.  (could be good, could be bad)

Serendipitous Learning – The ultimate in informal learning, note to self tweet chainTweet Chats are rife with Serendipitous Learning.  A great example (shown on the right) comes from #pkmchat when Bruno Winck, Michelle Ockers and I (with a bit of kibitzing from Simon Fogg) concocted using the hashtag #NoteToSelf (or a variation of it) to note tweets that we want to remember.  Then we thought of using a tool like IFTTT (If This Then That) to watch for the hashtag in our individual tweet streams, grab the tweet and file it in a Google Sheets spreadsheet.  I LOVE this solution.  I believe both Michelle and Bruno are using it as well.

Great Networking – Globally – Tweet Chats no no bounds.  This same chat shows how International Tweet chats can be. Michelle in Australia, Bruno is most often in France, Simon is in the UK, and I’m in the US.  Conversations carry on after Tweet Chats.  I’ve bumped into Simon on other Tweet Chats and in a recent MOOC – making those experiences feel a bit more comfortable because I knew someone else.

Bigger isn’t Necessarily Better – Both on #pkmchat and #bersinchat, I’ve participated when there were only 3-4 of us in the chat and they were amazing.  For me at least, Tweet Chats can be very intimate as you share ideas and react to each other.   Sometimes that’s easier with fewer people.  On the other hand, large chats (say 20+ people can be dizzying as you try to keep up over the hour.

Finally,  Dive in, The Water is Fine! – Tweet Chats aren’t complex.  They take a bit to get used to them, but they really do become fun. I haven’t run into a chat yet were newbies aren’t welcomed with open arms. I’m going to explore a few new chats as well.  Considering #ldnights, #ldinsights, #socialnow, and #wol.

Loopy v1.0 Games the Systems

I stumbled across this fun open source simulation this afternoon.  Despite its lack of nearly any documentation, Loopy 1.0 is an impressive serious game. In Loopy you can play with out of the box challenges or create your own.

The player interacts with the system model by adding “nodes” and “arrows”.  Arrows can have a positive or negative effect upon the relationship between the two nodes.  Consider foxes and rabbits.

LOOPY_ a tool for thinking in systems

In this example, the bottom arrow is positive- indicating that an increase in rabbits will likely result in an increase of foxes.  The top arrow is negative indicating that an increase in foxes will likely result in a decrease in the number of rabbits.  The system runs adding or subtracting from a node based upon the +/- of the arrow(s) that lead to it.

You can add more than one arrow between the same nodes to indicate a strength difference.  For instance, if you double the top arrow above it would basically represent the idea that every fox would lead to a reduction of two rabbits in the system.

You can add whatever nodes you’d like to the system (hunters, a new housing developent, etc) that represent the complexity of the system.

When ready, you click “Start” and then chose one node to either add (up arrow) or reduce (down arrow) and the system starts to run.  You can see where the system stresses.  My one criticism of Loopy is that there is no point where the system “breaks”.  The rabbits are never all killed off by the foxes and hunters.  The banks never go bankrupt.

The creator of Loopy provides three challenges to play with.  So I did, choosing the automation and job loss challenge.

The challenge is at this link You can start the challenge and observe how it works.  This one, as presented puts amazing stress on the “frustration” and “political unrest” nodes because of unemployment caused by jobs being automated.

loopy v1.0 challenge

Keying off of the big clue – “??? what goes here ???” – in the middle of the  challenge system, I began with asking what, if positively affected could reduce job loss.  But it didn’t seem like the answer would come from that route.  Lo and behold, I came to the conclusion that what government needed to do was use some of that tax revenue that goes no where in the original system to reinvest in public education and other programs that help humans who are loosing their jobs to robots and AI to find new purpose in the new world.

My solution can be found at this link

loopy v1.0 dave answer

Education will create a more educated workforce that will be trained in unique human competencies.  I couldn’t figure out a simple way to slow the impact of automation on jobs, but realized that the key node was the frustration that led to political unrest.  With a re-education program for the unemployed and new community outreach programs to empower non-workers to improve their self-image and to find worth in volunteerism.  Ah, a bit utopian in concept, but when I hit the Start button and the up button on tax revenue, the system kept working and working.  Sure frustration would build and there would be substantial political unrest occasionally, the systems would

Ah, a bit utopian in concept, but when I hit the Start button and the up button on tax revenue, the system kept working and working.  Sure frustration would build and there would be substantial political unrest occasionally, the systems would relieve the tensions and keep on going.

I found Loopy easy to use and it did make me think about how the system would accept change and interaction between nodes.  As you can see from this post, it enables the sharing of the model I create.  It can the be manipulated by others.  Construction of systems can be collaborative.  All in all, a nice little tool.

Your turn: What do you think?  Do you see a way that a tool like Loopy could fit into a learning experience? What type of learning would you try to implement it with?  Please leave a comment below in the reply area.

Feature photo by NASA via for Google Docs

NOTE: There various random elements in this post. They are testing the add-in’s ability to transfer formatting from Google Docs to WordPress. For instance, this note is double spaced to test if the add-in will carry over the spacing to my blog.


Last week WordPress announced the release of the for Google Docs Chrome add-in. Simply, this add-in enables Google Docs to function as a post editor for your or self-hosted blogs.

The power of this add-in comes from benefits that are innate to Google Docs:

  1. Collaboration – Co-creation of content is what Google Docs excels at. You and your collaborators create document in Google Docs and then post to the desired blog. Having lead a multi-author blog in the past, I know what a huge effort to create a post collaboratively and then cut-and-paste it to the blog. Only to then have to reformat the formatting that didn’t survive the cut-and-paste.
  2. Richer Editing Environment – WordPress’s editor has a limited set of functionality for formatting a post – in one off situations. (I can change the CSS if I want to change these things universally.) I particularly have wanted to have more control over font, font size, and emphasis. Like strikethrough. I’ve also wanted better control of padding around images and spacing between paragraphs and lines The add-in’s page in the Google webstore says “Your images and most formatting will carry over too. No more copy-and-paste headaches!” I’m using this post as a test of various formatting states, we’ll see how well it ports over to WordPress.

I’ve found that control of images and where they are within the text of a post a bit problematics in the editor in WordPress. Docs does this better so I’m hoping that inserting images that I want in a particular location will work better with this add-in.

And how about my question regarding font size.

This is normal. I assume this will correspond to “paragraph” in WordPress.

This is a bit larger.

This is even larger.

This is a test to see how the inserted thumbs up/thumbs down rating deals with this add-in

I haven’t tried to arrange a group of photos on my blog yet, but noticed in the comments on the add-in page that several people do this, so i thought I’d play with it here. Just for fun.



After I use the add-in I’ll revise the post to at least add comments as to what came across and what didn’t. I’ve included two images below of the document in Google Docs, so You’ll be able to see for yourselves.

But before that, there are a few issues that have been raised on the add-in’s page in the Google webstore. Some users of sites are having issues authenticating their blogs to the add-in. However, if they turn off all other add-ins, authenticate their sites to the add-in and the turn all other add-ins back on; everything seems to be running correctly.

The other issue that has been raised is that some people who are adding images via URLs. It seems here that most have used URLs they believed to be public but they weren’t.

Finally, one functionality that others have brought up that I agree would be awesome if it were available is that updating the Google document does not update the blog post. A revised version of a post would effectively be a new post. Since most blogs don’t allow backdating, you’d be publishing the revision today and then the question would be, do you delete the original post – which is problematic if there are comments and or trackbacks to it.

This add-on is definitely a 1,0 and the plan from Automattic, WordPress’s parent company, is that new features should be expected as the add-in usage builds.

OK, time to upload my page and see how it comes out. Here is what it looks like in Google Docs



So the results.  This is actually the second time I tried importing from Google Docs.  The first time only the text came through.  I reported it to WordPress and they said they were fixing a few things and to try again.

The second time through, it seems to be working as expected.   Here is a marked up image of what it was supposed to look like, had everything I put in the document come through:

wordpress google editor test

The X’s represent formatting that didn’t come through.  The Double spacing of the “Note” at the beginning.  The horizontal line, the image of the WordPress editor (because it was make using the drawing tool in Google Docs), the stair step font sizes and then the collage of pictures (again created with the drawing tool).  My direct images (the two icons one right and one left) came through, but a little out of place.  The strikethrough text and the polldaddy thumbs up thumbs down poll.  So 4 of 8 came through.  According to WordPress, the formatting that didn’t come through can’t be supported in the import.

So all and all, kudos to WordPress and Google.  This is a nice add-in to Chrome.

cmi5 in SCORM Cloud

Last week, Rustici Software launched cmi5 in their SCORM Cloud utility. While this isn’t the most scintillating news, it is a major step.  The SCORM Cloud implementation and support provides vendors and content developers with a place to test cmi5 launchable activities.  The ability to test in an environment like this is vital to assure that cmi5 and xAPI have been applied correctly in new tools and new functionality in existing tools.  For commercial vendors, this testing is vital.

Setting up a SCORM Cloud account is easy.  Check out details on xAPI on SCORM Cloud.  Initial use of SCORM Cloud is free.  The free version is great for individual testing and small implementations.

What is cmi5?

cmi5 is a profile that sits on top of the xAPI specification and helps control content in the xAPI ecosystem.  It allows content to be loaded to LMSs, but doesn’t require an LMS.  Many people short cut the explanation by saying it’s the SCORM replacement.  But that really limits the understanding of what it is.

Yes, cmi5 has all the capabilities that SCORM has to launch content in an LMS. But it goes well beyond what SCORM has been capable of delivering

ADL developed cmi5 with the following goals:
  • Interoperability – not only can cmi5 conformant content be launched in an LMS,  but it can be launched by various tools as long as they have been programmed to accept cmi5 data.
  • Extensibility – because it sits on top of xAPI, cmi5 extends the capability to collect data on learning experiences outside of the LMS and through the xAPI extensions, provide extensive detail on results and context of the activities within the course,
  • Mobile Support – cmi5 content can be accessed via mobile devices

The ADL cmi5 work group is developing a document which goes into detail regarding what cmi5 can do versus SCORM.  You can view their working document here.

A major benefit of cmi5 is that most of the attributes are content-specific.  The xAPI statements carry all of the information about the content with the content.  SCORM content depended on the LMS to keep it organized.  (cmi5 content is self-aware).  What this means is that the content doesn’t have to sit in the same place as the LMS.  In our cloud-based. distributed content world, this is huge.

With Rustici’s adding cmi5 to SCORM Cloud, we should see more and accelerated development of authoring tools that support the creation of rich xAPI/cmi5 content.

To learn more aboutcmi5, go to the xAPI Resource Center.

What do you think?  Have you explored cmi5 and/or xAPI?  What are your thoughts on cmi5?  Please share your thoughts by replying below in the comments below.

First Video

At the Training Learning and Development Conference (TLDC16) we’re being encouraged to be “less perfect” and to get comfortable with video.  It is projected that 80% of all internet content will be video in 2020.

So in the spirit of being fearless and giving it a go, here is my first ever video on social media.  (sorry about the nostril shots.  I’ll work on camera angles.)

We are the Innovators, Not Them

 It is your thinking that creates solutions, not any technology.  – George Couros


Top Ten Learning Tools for 2016

As a part of the Modern Workplace Learning Challenge, Jane Hart tasked us with listing what we believe to be the top ten tool for learning for 2016.  I thought I’d share mine with you.  Every year, Jane compiles a list of the Top 100 Learning Tools by surveying learning professionals world wide.  This year’s list will be released October 12.

Take a look at my list and please comment about changes you’d make to my list. Continue reading “Top Ten Learning Tools for 2016”

Here Today. Gone Tomorrow?

Will today’s tech trends prove to be long lasting?

Earlier this week Henry Cloke posted an interesting question to the Learning Education and Training Professionals Group on LinkedIn.  I thought I’d repost his question here, provide my answer and then hopefully my silent readers might comment with their answers.

Henry asked, What’s the biggest trend in the learning technologies space (and is it here to stay)?  He put forward six candidates:

  • mLearning – do we really learn on our mobile devices?
  • Bite-sized learning – linked to the rise of mLearning, isn’t this just good practise… didn’t we know this years ago?
  • Gamification – surely it’s time to go beyond badges, points and leaderboards?
  • Game-based learning – expensive and difficult to implement
  • Virtual Reality – expensive and difficult to implement
  • Personalisation – again, this is just good practise – is the industry really just realising this?
  • xAPI – the group added this tool to the list by concensus

My answer to his question was: Continue reading “Here Today. Gone Tomorrow?”

joining the twitter world

so as i get back into the swing of things, i was advised that one of the things i needed to do was get on twitter.  oh boy! another killer app to integrate into my online presence.


so i’ve done it.  you can twitter me at dcleesfo.  (for those who don’t know, that means my twitter homepage can be found at  i have to say that twitter is very easy to use.  You type in anything you want – twitter suggests you answer the question “what am i doing?”  but you’ll quickly see that many people stray from this initial advice.

if you want to keep track of what someone is posting, you go to their home page and indicate you wish to “follow” them (or i guess follow their tweets is more a propos).  people can choose to follow your tweets as well.  you can block them from following you if you want – but i’m not sure why.  perhaps twitter suffers from spam as well.

there are all kinds of applications and extensions that people have built to let you use twitter from your iphone, your regular cellphone, and other applications (i’ve linked my toodledo account to twitter so i can call up my to-do’s via text message on my cellphone.  why? i’m not sure yet, but i have!!!!)

it seems the big initial challenge is to learn about @direct tweets versus public tweets so that you don’t accidentally share what you intend as a somewhat private message with the entire twitter world.

Valerie Bock (15:40:23)  on 12/1/09

Uh, Dave? Directed tweets are not private. The only way to tweet privately, per the good folks at twitter is to set up a private account and approve those you want in the inner circle to follow that account.

Seems like a much bigger hassle than just sending email when you need to keep things a bit more private…