We opened this series by introducing six technology toolbox compartments that are used in blended learning to provide content, develop interaction, and perform assessment. Knowing which tools to use in each piece of your modern learning design improves the learning experience. This week, we’ll start our deeper dive into these compartments by looking at knowledge and content technology tools and apps.
EdTech Tools and Apps for Creating Documents
I use the standard tools and apps including Microsoft Office Suite, Google Docs, Open Office, Adobe Acrobat, InDesign, and Framemaker. A few mobile apps I have explored are CloudOn and iWork. Both of these are much easier to work with than Mobile office, and cost less than $10 each.
- Features to Look For: Ease of use. These are the tools we use most often, and you don’t want to find yourself struggling with a learning curve when you need to develop content. The most important feature for me? The ability to UNDO.
- Considerations: Recently, I have been collaborating while creating documents, so tracking changes and version control are key. Also, it’s good to know who else is in a document when you are working together. If you’re collaborating using Google Docs, be sure you’re logged in. Otherwise your avatar might display as the Anonymous Anteater!
- You Might Want to Learn More About: Adobe Acrobat. If you’re not familiar with all of the features available, take some time to explore them. There’s a lot of power in a .pdf!
EdTech Tools and Apps for Creating Presentations
PowerPoint, Keynote, and Prezi are my standards. I have just started using Google Slides, and I do like the results. Cloud based applications like Clear Slide and Slide Bean enable us to work and present online, but can be costly. Slides.com and Haiku Deck are my favorites, but they cost about $10 a month.
- Features to Look For: Check for features like templates, transitions, animations, and collaboration options. Different layout options are important to me – I don’t want every slide to look the same in my presentations. Be sure you can add notes to your slides, and test out any presenter view in advance of your presentation so you know what to expect.
- Considerations: If you’re using an online presentation app be sure that you can import your company logo and font if you need to. Many presentations can double as marketing pieces, so be sure that your colleagues can access your materials.
- You Might Want to Learn More About: If you’re on a Mac, try out DeskSet. It’s my favorite these days. I write out my notes in Markdown language and then DeskSet turns the notes in to amazing slides. If you’re up for some fun, have a look at Swipe – it is a cloud-based presentation app that enables you to add interactive elements to your presentations in real time.
EdTech Tools and Apps for Creating Graphics
I love working with graphics, and have accounts on iStock, 123RF, and Deposit Photos. I use Photoshop and Fireworks to create and edit images, and Canva and Piktochart to create infographics. I also use Tableau (high learning curve and $$$) to explore data for my any visualizations that I work with.
- Features to Look For: Ease of use is a big one here. Photoshop is fantastic, but not very intuitive. I find Fireworks much easier to use for creating graphics to use online. You should look for the ability to save in different formats (png, jpg, gif, tiff), and to set different resolutions for print as well as screen.
- Considerations: Give credit where credit is due, and read the fine print. Some graphics that you purchase may seem to be royalty free, but have associated costs if you are using them commercially – if you are gaining monetarily from their use.
- You Might Want to Learn More About: On the low (free) end, I HIGHLY recommend exploring the Noun Project for free icons (give credit), and UnSplash for fantastic photos to use as backgrounds in your materials.
EdTech Tools and Apps for Creating Interactive eLearning
- Features to Look For: The ability to create branching scenarios and collect learner data are the most important features to look for. Many of these tools and apps feature rich image banks, and the ability to add your own images to templates. That’s always a good thing!
- Considerations: Many of these tools are expensive and time intensive. Check out online tool comparison charts to see which would work best for you. Also note that older versions don’t always work with newer materials. Be sure that everyone on your team has the same version here!
- You Might Want to Learn More About: PlayPosit. It lets you layer interactive elements on top of existing videos. You can add questions, discussions, polls, and the like right on top of the video in the Playposit player, then embed that code right into your work. It perks up your learners when they have to do something other than just WATCH the video!
EdTech Tools and Apps for Creating Audio
- Features to Look For: The key to audio apps is the formats that you can save in, so look for .wav and .mp3 options. Editing applications should allow you to use multiple tracks so that you can add music or additional audio (footsteps?) to your recordings.
- Considerations: If I’m recording from my computer, I use a high-end external mic, not a headset. And I’m very careful about edits and changes that I make to a recording. Be careful about changing volume and pitch, and remember that getting good audio in the first place is more important than being able to edit it!
- You Might Want to Learn More About: Google Voice to Text. It’s built into Google Docs, and you can speak instead of typing. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a very interesting way to explore voice to text. Keep an eye on this app – I think it’s going to get better.
EdTech Tools and Apps for Creating Video
I have used PowToon, Office Mix, and Camtasia, to create videos. And, I use my iPhone and iPad to capture a lot of the video I work with. You can use online tools like VideoScribe to create some fun presentation materials, but be sure that whatever you can create, you can edit. My one go-to for Microlearning videos is Adobe Spark. It is SO easy to use, and I have created professional looking videos in minutes!
- Features to Look for: Be sure that you have a tool that will allow you to edit video. You want to check for input and output options on any editing tools and apps, and the ability to import and export .wav, .mov, .avi, and .mp4 files.
- Considerations: Be sure you have good audio input in your video capture utility. And plenty of space to store these files. Audio and video files can be large, and some online services charge by file size for storage space.
- You Might Want to Learn More About: Investing in a chrome key screen (green screen) is a good idea if you’re going to do a lot of video of people or products. Replacing the background with a corporate logo or image will increase the professionalism of your videos. I use an iPad app called VeeScope Live that lets me shoot video with a green screen and replace the background as I shoot. No post-production required!
EdTech Tools and Apps for Creating Screencasting
We use screencasting tools to share demonstrations, and screen walkthroughs. I use Captivate, Camtasia, and Office Mix for my screencasting, and if I have something simple and quick to do, I use Jing. These tools all work the same, but there are more editing features in the higher end products.
- Features to Look For: You want to be able to set the screen capture area, so that your learners don’t catch sight of your entire workspace! Also, the ability to highlight and zoom and pan are useful editing tools. Again, check the file types that you can export – these files are video files after all!
- Considerations: Before you start screencasting, determine the needs of your audience. You may be able to use lower end tools for some of your productions that don’t need highlighting or zooming.
- You May Want to Learn More About: Mobile screencasting tools and apps are fantastic. I use Vittle on my iPad for screencasting demos and can talk and draw on the screen with a stylus (or my fingertip) while recording. I have to say this is one of the best apps out there!
Always Keep in Mind
Many of these technology tools and apps come with associated fees. Explore pricing and keep an eye on monthly charges (and when they renew). With larger companies buying smaller companies, pricing can change overnight. I know this from experience.
The most important feature related to ANY knowledge or content technology tool or app is the ability to make changes and edits. We all have experience working on a project with last minute changes. So, as you’re exploring some of these tools, or just reviewing what you have in your toolbox, take some time to think about how easy (or hard) it is to make changes in your knowledge or content materials.
Towards the Future
The internet has lowered the cost of contributing content across the board. In the future, I see prices coming down on many of these applications, alongside more ease of use.
And, in my crystal ball, I see that many of the standard knowledge and content technology tools and apps that you use today will integrate and work better with your mobile devices, and offer more (and better) voice-to-text functionality.
Come back next week for a deep dive into Communication and Interaction Technology Tools and Apps!
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