Teaching Tools

I am taking a course at the local college on teaching adult learners. Today's session was on teaching tools. The course covered the traditional teaching tools, current and future educational technologies and finally selecting and utilizing the appropriate teaching tools. The main point of today's session was that training is really about the message. All the technology in the world can help you deliver the content but obviously it cannot replace the content itself. Our instructor mentioned a quote that unfortunately I didn't get the author of; "A good aid is like a window, it should not call attention to itself, it should just let in the light." This made a great deal of sense to me and put the topic into context.

So what is a teaching tool? Simply put, it's anything that is used to assist in the delivery of training. Sometimes we use teaching tools to add variety to an existing lesson plan, while other times it is used to clarify or enhance the lesson itself. The traditional tools are things such as; chalkboards, whiteboards, overhead projectors, textbooks, flip charts, audio, video, PowerPoint, etc.

Selecting a teaching tool can be a difficult task. It's easy to simply say that I will choose a teaching tool such as a SMART Board to delivery my lesson, however since a SMART Board can cost thousands of dollars, it may not be within your ability to provide such a tool. In addition to cost, some of the other factors that enter into selecting a teaching tool are considerations such as the domains of learning (cognitive / affective / psychomotor), learning styles (visual / auditory / kinesthetic), availability, time constraints, classroom size, facilities, your own ability to use the teaching tool.

Another consideration is in Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience which suggests that we learn...

10% of what we READ
20% of what we HEAR
30% of what we SEE
50% of what we SEE and HEAR
70% of what we SAY
90% of what we SAY and DO
You will notice that Dale's cone of experience starts at the top with fairly passive learning and ends at the bottom with much more active learning. Ideally you want to choose teaching tools that will bring you closer to the bottom of this cone to keep your students engaged and more participatory.

We spent most of the day discussing the various tools and how they could be utilized. I won't repeat all of these details but to summarize, you need to consider the strengths of each tool, consider any limitations and plan for contingencies.
For example, my group studied in detail the use of flip charts. We discovered that flip charts offer the following advantages as a teaching tool:

  • Easy to use

  • They are a great backup to PowerPoint

  • Excellent for group work

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Easy to see

We considered the following disadvantages as well:

  • Difficult to use if you have poor handwriting

  • No spell check

  • Perceived as not as professional as other methods (low tech)

  • Can be awkward to work with

We came up with some tips for use as well:

  • Prepare your pages in advance

  • Group participation

  • Use variety of colour

  • Make sure you have a method to display (easel or masking tape)

  • Make sure you have additional markers

These types of considerations should be made when you consider any type of teaching tools. Of course something simple like flip chart paper probably does not require a great deal of consideration, however use of a laptop and LCD projector for a PowerPoint presentation may be challenging when you need to consider where this equipment will be, What is the room you will be training in, and whether or not the room even has a surface you can project onto. Make sure you spend the time asking yourself what are the advantages, disadvantages, and other considerations you should be making when developing your lesson plans.