The Top 10 Most Versatile Learning Tools in the "Free" Market

"My view is that people are creative animals and will figure out clever new ways to use tools that the inventor never imagined."  - Steve Jobs

As an Instructional Technology Coach, I often try to find the best learning tools that are my "go to's"my "frequent flyers" if you will.  These are the tools that I will almost always choose over other tools that are similar, simply because of their versatility and dependability.

What I love about these learning tools, is that they are all web-based.  You can access these tools from any computer, on any internet browser.  Most of them, even have apps that will allow you to use them on mobile devices.  So you don't have to worry about their availability on different machines.

Even when new tools come out every day by the dozens, I will still choose these tools over any others.  In addition, even though I still enjoy reading about new tools and learning about their features, I always compare and contrast them to my essential and fundamental set of tools.  What's more, is I try to come up with new ways to use these core learning tools to expand their versatility.  I find it fun and challenging to engage in the type of divergent thinking needed to come up with creative new uses for these tools.

So, without further adieu, here are my top 10 most versatile learning tools in the free market (that are in no particular order), along with multiple different ways in which you can creatively use each tool.

Google Search
  • As a search engine for text, images, videos, etc. (try using Advanced Search and Google Scholar
  • As a calculator (simply type in a calculation) 
  • As a dictionary, thesaurus, etc. (try typing "define:" then the word you want to look up) 
  • As a spell check (simply type the word and it will give you suggested spellings/words)

Google Sketchup

  • As an architecture tool (create 3D digital houses, buildings, and structures)
  • As a Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) tool (create 3D, digital versions of prototypes, inventions, innovations, items, and objects)
  • As a math tool (use the measuring tools for length, distance, area, volume, surface area, etc. and covert measurements using ratios, fractions, decimals, percents, etc.)
  • As an exploration and investigation tool (download other projects from the 3D Warehouse to explore and investigate famous structures such as the Eiffel Tower and the San Francisco Bridge)
  • As a publishing and sharing tool (upload your own projects to the 3D Warehouse to share with others)

Google Earth
  • As a geographic learning tool (try typing in a specific location) 
  • As a math tool (try using the measurement tools for distance. Visit:
  • As a literature tool (visit:
  • As a science tool (use the "sunlight" tool, "Google Sky" tool, "Mars" tool and "Moon" tool) 
  • As a history tool (use the "Historical Imagery" tool) 
  • As a presentation tool (use the "Record a Tour" feature displayed here:
  • As a vacation planner (use the "Add Path" tool) 
  • As a virtual field trip (use the Google "Street View" tool get a 360 view of any location) 

Google Docs
  • As an official document (turn in assignments, write papers, etc.)
  • As a journal (keep a series of notes, or use as a diary)
  • As a chat tool (use the chat feature)
  • As a collaboration tool (have multiple people edit the same document in real time)
  • As a book, or magazine (create books and magazines with formatting)

Google Presentations (Slides)
  • As a presentation tool (very similar to PowerPoint) 
  • As a photo editor (edit, add, modify changes to images) 
  • As a children's book (use the slide transition to act as pages turning in a book) 
  • As a collaboration tool (have multiple people each responsible for a specific slide or more) 
  • As a drawing tool (draw and create images with the drawing and shapes tool) 
  • As a marketing tool (create signs, ads, posters, etc.) 

Google Forms
  • As a survey (collect, organize, and display data and information) 
  • As a poll (quickly get a response to make a decision quickly) 
  • As a likert scale (on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the least and 10 is the most, how likely are you to ...) 
  • As a formative assessment (use yes/no, true/false, multiple choice, and short answer quizzes) 
  • As a summative assessment (use the paragraph response to allow for essays and responses to writing prompts) 
  • As a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYA) story (create choices that take users to specific pages based on their choices)

  • As a notebook (save notes, images, videos, voice recordings, etc.) 
  • As an audio recorder (save voice recordings from yourself, from lectures, or interviews) 
  • As an official document (turn in assignments, write papers, etc.) 
  • As a journal (keep a series of notes, or use as a diary) 
  • As a book, or magazine (create books and magazines with formatting) 
  • As a social bookmarking tool (use the "webclipper" extension for your browser to quickly save, organize, and share a web clipping via social networking sites such as Twitter) 
  • As an ePortfolio (a place to collect and organize projects, notes, images, and more to showcase your best work)

  • As a video browser (browse videos that interest you) 
  • As a learning tool (use YouTube EDU to learn about various subject matter) 
  • As a video file cabinet (upload your own videos and archive them in your account) 
  • As publishing tool (upload and share your videos with family, friends, or the rest of the world) 
  • As a video editing tool (merge videos together, trim video clips, add effects and more)

Google+ (Hangouts)
  • As a social media tool (connect with friends and family) 
  • As a photo and video gallery (upload and store videos and photos instantaneously from your smart phone) 
  • As a video communication tool (use Google+ Hangouts to have a video chat with friends and family) 
  • As a collaboration tool (use Google+ Hangouts to hold a Conference Call or a virtual group meeting) 
  • As a live streaming tool (use Google+ Hangouts to show live footage of an event to a friend or family member) 
  • As an absence tool (use Google+ Hangouts when you are absent from a meeting, class, or event. Simply have a computer with a webcam set up at the class, meeting, or event and participate virtually as if you were actually there) 
  • As a theater tool (use Google+ Hangouts "effects and toolbox" to add props, sounds, and other cool effects.

  • As a consuming tool (read Tweets from people you are following)
  • As a research tool (find out what's trending in the world, or your location with the Trends feature)
  • As a promoting tool (Tweet your promotions in 140 characters or less)
  • As a sharing tool (Tweet resources, images, videos, tools and more)
  • As a connecting tool (discover other users that have similar interests and occupations as you)
  • As a backchannel tool (look back at your old Tweets to reflect on how your opinions or thoughts have changed over time)
  • As a reference tool (mark your favorite Tweets for you to refer back to later)

If you have any other ideas on how to use any one of these tools, please add a comment to contribute to the versatility of these tools!

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