A pedagogical tool is anything that a person uses to learn or teach. Some pedagogical tools such as textbooks are considered "traditional," but as the needs of students and teachers change, less-traditional items are becoming pedagogical aids. Exactly what a person considers a pedagogical tool varies by age and education level, but virtually anything can be a pedagogical tool in the right circumstances. It is normal for the amount of training required to use different tools to vary, but manufacturers put professional research into the designs they develop.
Traditionally, pedagogical tools include items such as worksheets, textbooks, handouts and hands-on models. As people have learned more about the way individuals learn, however, educators and students have branched out to other types of pedagogical tools. Technology has played a major role in this advancement, with students and teachers now using tools such as websites or mobile device applications.
No limits exist on what might be a pedagogical tool; it is up to the educator or student to make connections between the tool and concepts or facts to be learned. For instance, a person might consider something as large as a pedagogical tool if a teacher could use the structure to demonstrate architectural principles of physics, material selection in building, math and similar topics. Although traditional pedagogical tools are found in just about every subject area, some tools are used with greater frequency or make more sense in particular fields, such as a microscope in biology or medicine.
In the same way pedagogical tools vary by subject, they also vary by educational level. Age appropriateness of a pedagogical tool is important not only for letting the student learn, but also for safety in some instances. A preschooler, for example, would not use a scalpel the way a medical student would, but might use crayons.
Pedagogical tools also are not consistent in the amount of training it takes for use. Most teachers easily can figure out how to use a pre-printed lesson planner, for example. Some computer programs, by comparison, are so complex that an individual cannot make full use of the software until he is shown specific features or controls. In general, pedagogical tools that lean toward the health, engineering or technology industries need more training than those in other areas. This is because the health, engineering and technology industries require such a high degree of precision in order to get proper results.
Individuals gain little use from a pedagogical tool that does not aid learning. Subsequently, researchers focus a great deal of attention on tool development. They conduct professional research as to how the tool should be designed to meet the teacher or student's needs, taking different learning styles into account. Manufacturers often get extremely specific about what they want the tool to do. This limits where or how the teacher or student may use the tool, which may be preferable given the degree of focus the individual wants.
A major concern with pedagogical tools is that not all individuals have access to the same items. This usually is due to economic restrictions. As a result of this access inconsistency, gaps in learning occur, creating an uneven playing field once a person tries to enter the workforce and start a career. In recognition of these problems, many governments or nonprofit organizations try to provide funding for the tools teachers or students need.