Tim (The Toolman) Taylor

Remember the show starring Tim Allen? It was called Home Improvement and if you have never seen it or heard of it be sure and check out this clip here first:


Tim the Toolman always has a better tool in mind for the job at hand. He either thinks the incorrect tool was chosen or he thinks the tool needs a power upgrade. His decision to add “more power” (followed by his well known manly grunt) usually ends up in disaster of some sort. It never goes as planned for poor Tim. He always wants to use the biggest, newest tool but it always fails. Are you picking up on any correlation yet in regards to this week’s 7PM EdChat?

This week’s evening edition of EdChat was about technology tools that are truly being used for learning. We shouldn’t use them just because they’re the newest, coolest Ed Tech tool out there. I think we all have been like Tim The Toolman at one point or another. I know I have. It was probably during some professional development session and the presenter showed this glitzy flashy tool and I thought, “Oooh I have to use that tomorrow!”. Maybe it didn’t go exactly like that but I think we all remember the moment of being enamored and wanting to use the tool immediately.

We all know the wide variety of tools available. Multiple tools that all do the same thing. Look at Etherpad. How many clones of Etherpad cropped up after Google bought them out? Lots. Whether it be document collaboration, multimedia publishing, or creating a blog or web page; there is no lack of tools available. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming.

So that was the focus of last night’s #EdChat. We have to move beyond it being a “tech tool” and move it to being a “learning tool”. I think in order to make this happen we need to make sure 3 things are happening:

1. Showing, not just telling – If a presenter is sharing a new and great tool, back it up with how it can be directly related to the content being taught. Concrete examples should be provided. Like I said during EdChat, “If the tool is only being seen for its glitz, then the person sharing the tool didn’t do their homework beforehand.” Teachers need to know how it’s going to enhance student learning. Students should be able to go home and easily explain this to their parents. Not just go home and say, “We used Google Docs today and it was cool.” Ok, so it was cool; we all know that, but how did it enhance your learning experience?

Kristen Winkler said during EdChat: “Tech is the spice, content is the dish. Tech accentuates learning but the content needs to be in center of the process.” I thought this was a great way of putting it. Teachers, you already have the “dish” down pat, but maybe it’s time to try a new “spice”?

Elana Leoni also reminded us that we should “Always have the students’ needs in mind. Just because it’s cool doesn’t mean it’s an effective learning tool.”

2. Careful planning – the planning component for using the tool is crucial. This also will help it become more of a learning tool rather than just a tech tool.

Mary Beth Hertz said during EdChat: “Write the lesson first, choose the tool last.”

3. The “F” word – Be ready for it. I’m talking about the word many of us fear. The word that brings feelings of dread and disappointment. Yes, I’m talking about failure. We have to come to the realization that it’s going to happen when trying to infuse a tech tool into our teaching. We either find out that the tool does not work at all how we planned it with the content, or maybe just a couple minor tweaks need to be made and we go for it again.

Deven Black said it very well: “Teachers, like students, need a safe place to fail using tech in teaching. Failure is the key to learning.” (see point #1 and my previous post).

So watch out because the “Tim The Toolman” bug can bite us very quickly and we get wrapped up in the “more power” mentality and jump right in without careful consideration of the tool’s true purpose.

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments.

5 thoughts on “Tim (The Toolman) Taylor”

  1. Great post Kyle!

    I totally agree with the points that you made here….There is nothing wrong with having a few great TOOLS in your box of tricks. We can not forget the purpose and focus of what we are having the students create by using these tools and resources. This is the most important reason to use them not because of the bells and whistles that they may have.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas. 🙂 Shannon

  2. Great post…so true. We have all tried something with incredible expectations only to have it fall flat…due to enthusiasm getting the better of us and not planning well enough. Great point! If you’re that excited about it…resist the temptation to jump into it without doing the planning and scaffolding necessary…student expectations, behaviours, etc. I had a backchanelling experience go south due to this…and it was so draining. But a good lesson for me…thanks for the insight!

  3. Oh, Tim the Toolman… love the comparison! 🙂

    I definitely agree that content is the most important ingredient. In my job as an ITS, I always keep that in mind when consulting with a teacher. Likewise, a crucial follow-up, reflection question I ask is: Did the project, lesson, tool, etc. help the students meet their core objective, and would the teacher do it again? Our tool or approach needs to be effective, or it’s just an exercise. Authentic learning is key.

    I really enjoyed your post! 🙂

  4. What fun to see Tim the Toolman Taylor in a post! It is okay to want “more power” and the latest and the greatest tools as long as we are starting from the right place. Our start can’t be the tool. It has to start with the learning outcome, and an understanding of the students we are teaching. If we have those two covered, we can find just the right tech tool to add the spice to the learning experience. Excellent summary of #edchat!

  5. I love ‘Tim the Toolman’ and a great connection to tools for tools sake !. An example – We are currently trialling the use of iPod touch in our primary school and I am aware of lots of research that shows benefits etc. However, I am very aware of not employing them as a gimmick, we need to have a purpose and use them for a specific need – not just because the kids will enjoy it .

    I also like Kristens comment “Tech is the spice, content is the dish. Tech accentuates learning but the content needs to be in center of the process.”

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