My Top Ten Learning Tools For 2012

Do you participate in Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools for Learning survey? Every year Jane asks learning professionals to vote for the applications they find most valuable. The results give us all an opportunity to explore and discover new tools for personal learning, for designing learning experiences and for sharing and collaborating.

As a way to vote, Jane allows people to write about their choices. Ten of my favorites are below. Rather than include authoring tools, this list consists of applications you can use for personal learning or to build multidimensional learning experiences.

Not surprisingly, I find that my list consists of tried and true applications and services that are reasonably mature, stable and reliable. They can be learned quickly and are easy to use. (A good lesson in user experience design.) Don’t forget to vote in Jane’s 2012 survey through the end of September.


Diigo, the social bookmarking tool, has many dimensions for learning. You can bookmark articles, tools and images for future reference, share them, or save them to a “Read Later” folder. You can annotate the web with sticky note comments and highlighting and then share your notes with others. The wonderful part of social bookmarking is that you can also search for a topic of interest and see what other’s have bookmarked. You can share in Diigo Groups and follow other users. Diigo has web capture and other capabilities in their premium version.


HootSuite is an efficient way to use Twitter for learning purposes. It organizes your Twitter streams into columns so you can easily see the tweets that are coming and going. It also allows you to manage multiple social profiles from one dashboard. For example, in addition to @elearningcoach, where I tweet for learning professionals, I also use @cmalamed to follow people and share resources related to visual, user interface and information design. Equally valuable, HootSuite allows you to schedule your tweets.


iGoogle started out as a custom homepage that allowed you to add gadgets for weather and such, but quickly became known as an RSS aggregator. iGoogle organizes your RSS subscriptions (from blogs and news sites) into user-created categories. This enables you to make your own “magazine” or dashboard tailored to your interests. Newer changes have made this tool less user-friendly, but it’s a moot point. Google will be discontinuing iGoogle in November 2013. Thanks to @tmiket for suggesting new ones to try.


For learning purposes, iTunes provides the ultimate selection of podcasts that work on any device. If you’re a lifelong learner, it’s easy to become obsessed with podcasts. Not only are there entries for most topics, but there are also great selections from iTunes university. See my list of favorite podcasts for learning professionals. Of course, there are many learning apps in iTunes too, but these are device-specific so not applicable to everyone.


Mind maps should be easy to create because they’re all about getting into the flow and thinking by doing. Mindmeister is one of many mind mapping tools available for this purpose. I find it intuitive to use and like the fact that it’s in the cloud. Your maps can follow you everywhere. In addition, mindmeister has templates and a public collection of maps to view. See more on how people are using mind maps to design, collaborate and manage.


Quora’s tag line is that it “connects you to everything you want to know about.” How’s that for a learning goal? Quora resides in that fine line between a service and a tool, but it made my list anyway. That’s because lots of knowledgeable people hang around Quora so it’s a good place to get questions answered and to share knowledge. You can create a personalized homepage in Quora around your topics of interest.

Scoopit is a web application for curating content. Although I’m not a curator, I’m a reader of Scoopit sites. Articles are clearly laid out and they are easy to access with one click. From a reader’s perspective, I find Scoopit to be one of the cleaner curation tools.


When I need to learn something quickly or when I see a link to an inspiring idea, I’m more likely to check it out when I know the recording was done with screenr. I can almost guarantee that the video will be to the point, because screenr recordings have a five-minute time limit. I can also be pretty certain the recording was created by someone in the learning industry. For some reason, that’s comforting.


Slideshare allows anyone to share their presentation slides. The concept is simple and it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from experts and to view presentations from conferences you’ve missed.

The biggest issue is that many speakers don’t realize that visual slides without commentary are nearly useless. Slides often need to be reworked for Slideshare. For example, here are slides I uploaded from a presentation on designing interactions given at the Society of News Design conference. I added more text to make them comprehensible.


Used as a content management system on one’s own domain, I think WordPress is a revolutionary learning tool. (FYI: Hosted WordPress at has fewer capabilities.) WordPress has enabled millions of people to share their ideas and content. It’s ease of use has encouraged learning professionals to share and discuss issues, pushing the learning industry in many new directions. There are thousands of plugins for WordPress that expand its functionality and scores of theme templates for creating the look and feel you want.

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  1. Rudy says

    Nice post. You got me thinking: Gonna give Diigo another chance. Really bummed about iGoogle! Mindmeister looks cool, just installed it. I use bubbl but i like that mm is mobile. I Gotta work on my wordpress skills….

  2. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Joe,
    I don’t really know of low-cost or free ID programs. You could check your local university for in-state rates if you are in the US. I do have a list of graduate and certification programs here: Also, you can find short professional courses, usually classroom training through the ASTD and commercial organizations.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by template programs, so you may want to explain that to me in case I’m misunderstanding something.

  3. Connie Malamed says

    Storyline, Captivate and Lectora, Articulate Presenter and iSpring Presetner, WizIQ, MyBrainShark, MindFlash, CourseLab and a few hundred others. But this is a good start.


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