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Steve Wheeler :: Blog :: 2008 Tools and Technologies Retro

December 13, 2008


There are so many new tools and technologies I have stumbled upon (no that isn't one of them) over the last year, it's almost as if I have just stepped out of a time machine and into the future. There is so much to learn about, and so many new tools to use, there simply isn't enough time for everything. But the tools and technologies I have been introduced to this year have made the year for me. Some have crept up on me slowly and have gradually invaded my time and my thinking. Others have been sudden surprises which have grown quickly in front of me and have impacted on my professional practice. In reverse order, here are my top ten tools and technologies of 2008:

10 - Plurk is a fun tool for microblogging, and is multi-functional. I like the informal nature of the conversations one can enjoy, usually late into the evening. The moving timeline can be useful at times and I appreciate the utility of the chat box that opens for each individual plurk. The animated emoticons are great fun too. I'm not so sure about the 'Karma' status though as it tends to draw users into sending messages for the sake of sending, just so they can get more responses, and therefore raise their Karma points. Well ... whatever it takes....

9 - Crowdvine is a very impressive tool. It is a social space for people to meet and share their resources, but it also acts as a conference/event schedule manager so you can connect face-to-face with others you are interested in meeting, or have similar interests with. It is one of the best aggregators I have seen yet, and will probably prove to be better than No 8. below eventually...

8 - I was first introduced to Twemes at EduMedia in Salzburg in June this year. It is a very useful little aggregator, working on hash tagging, to bring together Twitter tweets, Flickr images and other tags such as Delicious on blogs. Although it is at times a little flakey, Twemes has worked reasonably well at several recent events to draw together all the artefacts, thoughts and memories in one place. Try it. You'll like it.

7 - Slideshare is a very simple, but most effective web service which enables you to load up your complete PowerPoint slide shows (or other files such as pdf files) direct to a webspace and then make them available to others. A hit counter tells you how many times each slideshow has been viewed, and there are also comments boxes and friends tools to create the social connections.

6 - Several times in the last few months I have had a Flip video camera waved in my face, and have given interviews which are subsequently uploaded to the web. It is a simple little camera with a flipout USB drive to interface with your laptop. I am being given one by my wife (steady on) as a Christmas gift this year, so I will start using it in anger soon. I will let you know how I get on with it via this blog.

5 - Blip.fm - I only became a web DJ this week, but I have already discovered that the number of new friends you can make through this service is phenomenal. It has to be the social networking tool of 2008. Blip.fm is a little like Flickr in concept - but instead of making connections through pictures, you do it through playing your favourite music tracks on the web. 'Props' (award points) are given and received when people like the track you are playing. Blip.fm is a superb tool in many ways.

4 - Nintendo DS (Dual Screen) Lite. All three of my kids had one already, so I knew what they were capable of, but there is no substitute for hands on experience. I finally managed to get my hands on one when I was given it as a part of the deal when registering early for Handheld Learning 2008. It arrived in a package and I was soon using it for brain training, gaming and of course, testing out the Pictochat capabilities. This is an extremely versatile tool which is only at the very edge of its pedagogical uses. We need to find out a lot more about how we can use the DS in real, creative learning contexts.

3- Wetpaint is quite simply the most versatile wiki I have ever used. I used one for the first time when we set up F-ALT this year. I particularly like the picture clouds it generates as this enables me to track student contributions visually to ensure that all my group stay on board. I will continue to use the ad-free versions as quasi-virtual learning environments for my groups next year. Just you watch me.

2- Here's my No. 2 tool for 2008. I was given an Apple iPhone for Christmas 2007 by my darling wife, and it has travelled with me everywhere (of course) ever since. It is not perfect, but one thing it has over all the other smart phones is its multi-gesture touch screen which has simply got to be the future of handheld technologies. I have not yet upgraded to 3G but it is only a matter of time...

1- My number one new tool for 2008 has to be the magnificent Twitter. This microblogging tool has grown exponentially over the last 12 months, and as I write I have a following of around 600 people, many of whom I respect greatly for their contributions to our understanding of learning technology. Some of my conversations on Twitter over the last few months have been rich and meaningful, and have given me much food for thought. There are so many new Twitter related tools appearing very week it is hard to keep up with them all, so I won't try. But the very fact they are all appearing attest to the rapid rise in popularity of Twitter. I believe that as 2007 was the year of Facebook, so 2008 has been the year of Twitter.

So those are my top ten tools and technologies of 2008. We can of course look forward to many more exciting new tools and technologies in the coming year, because as we all know, the pace of change never slows, and innovation is its child.

Posted by Steve Wheeler

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