I'm not an early adopter. I still have a land line telephone, buy CDs from a shop, and don't have cable TV. But professionally, I want to stay up to date on tools for doing my work as a researcher and evaluator. I imagine they could help program staff be more productive and progressive too.
Here are my top 10 tools, based on personal experience, recommended by people I respect or that just look interesting, organized from finding and organizing information at the start of a project, to collecting data and presenting it to others.
- Google Scholar. This academic search engine is my go-to place to search for scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources; peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations.
- CiteULike. The web is full of interesting articles, but how on earth do keep track of and cite them?! This citation management tool is a fusion of social bookmarking tools like Delicious and bibliographic management tools like EndNote where you can store, organize, share and discover links to academic papers.
- Basecamp. I was recently invited to join Basecamp for an upcoming project to take a class from in-person to online. Basecamp is where we will communicate and collaborate - upload files, send messages, or create events in the calendar. Keep track of to-dos, when they're due and who's doing them!
- Doodle. Sometimes, the simpler the better. This tool finds the best time for a group of people to meet. Propose several dates and times and participants indicate their availability.
- Evernote.The ultimate virtual Trapper Keeper! You can easily capture information (text, handwritten notes, pictures, webpage excerpts) from your real or digital life and makes it accessible, sortable and searchable at any time, from anywhere.
- Bubbl.us or Freemind. Mind maps are diagrams of words, ideas, or tasks, arranged around a central idea. They are used to generate and organize ideas, make decisions or solve problems. We use them in Deliberate Practice Matters to map out dilemma scenarios in youth work practice.
- Dragon Dictation. Just speak into your smartphone or computer and it types out your words instantly. I dictated my debriefing notes while driving home from a research interview to quickly capture my notes while my memory was still fresh.
- One solution to information overload is data visualization -- displaying data to show patterns and connections that matter. On ManyEyes, you can upload and visualize data sets. For more inspiration, see the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods, an interactive collection of possibilities.
- Prezi.A web-based presentation application that uses a zooming, non-linear single canvas instead of traditional slides. A great alternative to Powerpoint.
- Storyrobe. A digital story-telling app that allows you to piece together photos, videos, and then overlay sound bites to create a narrative. You can then share the final video via YouTube or e-mail. It's a fabulous way for evaluators or program participants to document youth programs or projects.
Have you used any of these in your work? What are your favorite tech tools, apps or resources that make your work life easier, more productive or maybe just a little more fun?
-- Kate Walker, research associate