It’s a line you’ve probably seen on ads for sports equipment:

Better Tools for Better Performance
A debate is swirling among many people in my PLN about what’s more important: the tools and technology, or the teaching and learning. Before I begin exploring examples of great technology tools to use with gifted students, I thought it would be worth exploring, since it is directly relevant. The crux of it can be summarized in this exchange I had recently with Tony Baldasaro (@baldy7) on Twitter:

The basic debate is which matters more: having good teachers or having good tools. I think many districts invest in new technology for the same reasons they often choose curriculum materials that are marketed as “teacher-proof”: they hope that the one-time cost of the equipment will be an investment that pays off in better learning regardless of what teacher is using it.

But as Tony points out, simply handing a fabulous piece of equipment to a mediocre teacher doesn’t instantly transform that teacher into a star player.

On the other hand, there is a real reason that outstanding performers, whether they are athletes or musicians or computer programmers, seek out and use the highest-quality equipment: it elevates their ability to perform. Sure, Ted Williams could have hit brilliantly with a $10 bat. But he hit better with his custom-made, Hillerich & Bradsby 35-inch, 33-ounce blonde ash Louisville Slugger model W166.

Is technology in schools any different? What affects learning more, the pedagogy or the technology? Or is it the synergy of the two that makes the most difference?

Can giving them new tools spark a desire to learn in teachers who have stalled? Does the necessity of learning how to use the tool translate into better instruction and better learning in students?

I don’t have answers to these, and I’m not even as certain of my opinion on them as I used to be–which is part of the power of these conversations and the reason I appreciate following a variety of people with different viewpoints. What do you think? What has been your experience? I’m interested in pursuing this more, even as I delve into my plans for talking about what tools and methods will be useful for gifted education.