This discussion begins by placing the human use of tools in an evolutionary context. This helps in understanding the many ways educationists need to think about the meaning of ‘tools’ and of ‘technology’, especially in relation to a drift towards globalised delivery of training and knowledge. For, while it is a straightforward step to think of the material form of tools — from the Olduvai Gorge technology of 2 million years ago to the robotic tools of contemporary medicine — the essence of a tool is the goal-directed thought behind the material form. Tools imply goals, and staging or planning. And planning implies group-based semiotic behaviour. This is to say, to be mindful of tools (so as to be able to make them), humans have needed a social network and the meaningful behaviour of that group. In fact, human language is itself the primary human tool in that it enables other forms of tool use; and it is language that provides the medium within which innovation (whether fortuitous or by human design) can be retained and refined, thereby overcoming the need for continuous reinvention. In many registers of technology, language is commonly recruited to create heuristic tools — abstract ideas that take on a role as placeholders in elaborate webs of calculation and concept. Such abstract tools may never really ‘materialise’. Think here of ideas like irrational numbers, infinitesimals in calculus, the quark in physics (a word originally lifted from James Joyce by the physicist Murray Gell-Mann) and ‘black holes’ (which were predicted by theory decades before any possible instances were isolated).