Every year, Jane Hart compiles her Top 100 Tools for Learning. In the spirit of helping her build an extensive list informed by new ideas and approaches to existing technologies, I’ve compiled a list of online learning tools I use as a student and marketing intern with OpenSesame.
- JSTOR - As a student, sources that aren’t Wikipedia (darn it!) are critical to my academic success. With a free student account and a general idea of what I’m interested in learning about, JSTOR gives me access to peer-reviewed articles in the best academic journals in just seconds. With the added feature of emailing and exporting saved citations, JSTOR makes frantically creating a bibliography faster than you can say, “It’s 11:58 and this paper needs to be submitted to Dropbox by midnight! Let’s get this show on the road!”
- Twitter - Twitter ends up in most people’s lists, so I’m not going to go into much detail here. Smart people use Twitter. You transform Twitter into a learning tool by following smart people to see what they say and read what they think is important.
- Reddit - It’s the social news site that everyone loves to hate. However, if you’re willing to dig a little for subreddits on topics that interest you and don’t mind disregarding snide comments from the occasional troll, there is a lot you can learn from the Reddit community. I recommend getting started with /r/FoodForThought, /r/TrueReddit, /r/DepthHub, or /r/ExplainLikeI’mFive.
- Quora - I had only kind of been sold on Quora before I started working at OpenSesame. Kelly Meeker is a Quora superfan, and watching her use the site helped me develop a better understanding of how Quora functions as a learning tool. The questions asked on Quora are very rarely answerable with a simple yes or no. Instead, each inquiry is an invitation to the community to discuss and debate.
- Lang-8 - I’m a Chinese language major, and this site has been a godsend when it’s term paper time. On Lang-8 you can submit a piece of writing in the language you’re learning and have it critiqued by native speakers. Not only is this tool extremely handy for those of us who need to create a polished piece of writing in our second language, it’s also a good impetus for finishing essays early so you can sit back and let the helpful folks on Lang-8 edit your work.
- Google Docs - My friends are much better writers than I am. When I have a blog post, job application, or any piece of writing I want to be perfect, I use Google Docs to submit it to my friends for them to peer review. I can watch, humbled, as they descend on my first draft in real time, or review and resolve their comments if we can’t look at it together.
- Facebook - It seems like everyone is begrudgingly sticking Facebook on their top 10 learning tools list. While I do find myself sifting through a lot of unnecessary updates from friends and former classmates, I do respect Facebook as a medium for quickly disseminating information. Remember Kony 2012?
- Tumblr - Wait! Before you write Tumblr off as a vapid image aggregator rife with technicolor hair and animated gifs, know that the site is beginning to see increasing numbers of informational Tumblrs like It’s Okay to be Smart and Money Is Not Important. And by adding media heavyweights like NPR and The Atlantic to my feed, I’m slowly, slowly beginning to skew the ratio of cute kittens to hard-hitting political commentary in my brain’s favor.
- Blogs, blogs, blogs - When I open up Google Chrome with the intention of surfing the web, I immediately open 4 - 5 tabs: email, Facebook, Tumblr, and whichever blogs I’ve been thinking the most about lately. Some of my personal favorites include I Will Teach You to Be Rich, ProBlogger and Seth Godin’s blog.
- YouTube - Learning by observing is more interesting and engaging to me than learning by reading. Watching informational videos on YouTube allows me to absorb new information in an entertaining, bite-sized format.
What online tools do you use to foster learning? What websites or blogs are making you a smarter person? What innovative educational uses have you found for the tools I listed above? Let us know in the comments, or write your own list and share the link with us.
(Image Source: L. Marie)