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Top 10 tech tools for our work, redux

By Kate Walker

What online tools do you use for collecting data, collaborating, and creating presentations? Two years ago I shared a top ten list of tech resources. Some of you shared yours too.

Since then I've been introduced to more (mostly) free tools that are both useful and user-friendly. I use them for research, but can imagine lots of programmatic uses, as well.

  1. Online Survey. Use Google Forms -- part of the suite of apps in Google Drive -- to easily create an online survey embedded in your email message. A Google form is linked to a spreadsheet and sent out via email, and recipients' responses are automatically collected in that spreadsheet.

  2. Face-to-face survey. Use Quicktap Survey on your tablet (iPad or Android) to create and collect information quickly and easily. Just pass around your tablet to collect data, then export to Excel to analyze results. The free version allows for one survey at a time, but you can have 50 questions and up to 150 responses.

  3. Audience poll. Use Poll Everywhere to poll your audience by having them send their responses via text message on their mobile phones. Response graphs update in real time and may be embedded in a PowerPoint. Free for audiences up to 40 people.

  4. Recorder. The Voice Record Pro app allows you to record interviews, meetings or voice memos on you iPhone or iPad. You can even pause recordings, convert to MP3, and trim or append your recordings afterwards.

  5. File Share. I'm a big fan of Dropbox for sharing files online and across computers and phone. Another great online collaboration site is Box. I'm part of a research team with staff across multiple states and we use Box as a simple, secure way to share files.

  6. PDF reader. With GoodReader, you can download or convert documents to an editable PDF file on your iPad or iPhone that you can then highlight, underline, or make notes. You can then save your annotated version of the file. This app is not free, but $5 well spent.

  7. Conference Call. Conduct free conference calls anytime without scheduling in advance with There is no fee, callers just pay their standard long-distance rate (this is not a toll-free number). The free version limits call to six hours and 96 participants.

  8. Timeline. Create timelines with Office Timeline, a free add-in for PowerPoint. The easy-to-use wizard walks you through the process of creating a timeline to track project milestones and intervals. I've often imported these timelines into evaluation reports in Word, but if you keep them in PowerPoint they update automatically.

  9. Comic. Create your own comics with Pixton's easy-to-use customizable templates. For this comic, I just selected a template and characters, changed their poses, emotions and colors and added text to the speech bubbles. A creative and engaging way to present information!

  10. Word Cloud. If you like Wordle, you'll love Tagxedo for creating word clouds, those visual displays of text. You can create shapes out of your word clouds and even upload your own image and wrap text around that image

So, what tools would you add to this list? And how do you stay up-to-date or find out about the latest and greatest technology tools, apps or resources?

-- Kate Walker, Assistant Extension professor and Extension specialist, youth work practice

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  1. This is fabulous, Kate! I will carve out some time to try some of these tools that I haven't tried. My first one to try will be GoodReader. I live in DropBox and Conference Calls, and have tried Wordle. I would love suggestions from others how they stay up to date. My best resource is my college age kids for finding out new cool apps. Your new list makes me think it needs to be a higher priority for me to keep up with the professional tools that enhance our work .

  2. Thanks for your comment, Margo! I agree, it's hard to stay on top of all the possibilities or to know what’s worth trying, let alone which tools might be useful professionally. I was just at a meeting today where our team decided to use Mendeley (, a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research. I'm excited to try that one out!

  3. I have an addition that is super effective for me.
    This app is an interesting take on improving the email experience that typically clutters our minds, computers and time. I love it and use it as the primary tool to manage my emails when I am on the go.

  4. Whoa, I just looked this one up and see that it allows you to attach files from Dropbox to an email! This is awesome, thanks Mark!

  5. Great list - some of these I've heard of but haven't tried. Now that I know that they might be useful in our work I will definitely give them a closer look. I'm still in love with Dragon dictation from the first list you put together - so great for taking notes about meetings and things to do, etc., particularly when I don't have pen and paper handy or I don't want to type into my phone (fumbly fingers!).
    I like the work of Dave Gray ( on when and what to draw and make presentations that much better. Click on archives then the videos link for more. He also recently conducted the keynote for an eXtension conference where he did a webcast to explain connected organization concepts to Extension.
    Thanks, and I look forward to more information from others.

  6. Thanks for the tip, Heidi! This looks like a great resource and reminder of the importance of visual thinking and using maps, networks, diagrams and stories to present complex ideas and information.


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