Sunday, June 03, 2007

Got a Hammer? Want a Saw?

As the technology teacher at a middle school folks often assume I am eternally enthusiastic about all things technological.

True, I do have my iPod firmly plugged into my cranium, but I am not typing into my laptop. I’m sketching out my ideas in my Moleskine, a little blank book (but my pen does have a laser pointer!).

Hmmm... I suppose there is more to a pen than one might think. A ball point pen is a technological wonder. The flow of ink, carefully regulated by a precisely engineered ball bearing set in a precisely engineered reservoir is a boon to writers and artists the world over.

The “trick” in using technology is choosing the right tool for the task at hand.

That is a primary goal of my curriculum. I teach my students to think dispassionately about technology and choose the best tools to express themselves.

I tell them that if the only tool they have is a hammer, then every problem starts to look like a nail. They respond with blank stares. This sort of metaphor is a little beyond them.

“Pretend that all your life the only tool you have ever had is a hammer. You use it to pound nails. When the nails are bent you use it to pound them straight. When you need to move something a little bit you tap it with the hammer. When you want to move it a lot you hit it with the hammer, and when you get frustrated you smash it with the hammer.

“Now imagine you have a board you want to use, but it is way too long. You have the board, and you have your hammer. What are you probably going to do?”

Now they start to get it.


“Now pretend I show you a saw. I show you how to hold it, how to score the wood with it, how to make it cut efficiently. Which tool are you going to use to divide that board?”

“THE SAW!!!”

That is my job, showing them new tools, new skills, exhorting them to think of new ways to express themselves. Would a Keynote presentation be best, or a video? Would a web site be more interactive and informative, or a Macromedia Flash project?

Sometimes the best tool is the simpler one. Sometimes the best tool for a job is a pen or a pencil, not a computer.

A drawing can be done quickly, more efficiently with a pencil than a mouse and keyboard.

Technology can solve a lot of problems, help us, all of us, to escape the dangers which beset us. But it needs to be tempered with wisdom, with ethics. That is the catch. Nearly every advance in science has been accompanied with sorrows.

Technology cannot provide us with a moral compass. Without wisdom, without understanding, the technology we grasp hurts us.

It sounds noble to compare science to Prometheus snatching fire from the gods, but it is perhaps more accurate comparing it to early man setting his hair on fire from a lightning-struck tree.

For example, the internet has the power to democratize the world, but in the meantime it seduces, perverts, our children, our brothers and sisters.

This is true for every technological advantage we have grasped with our clumsy hands.

Humanity has, perhaps, the ethical maturity to handle the technology found within a bicycle, no more.

I think we are all born with a tiny moral compass, like the dime sized one I got in a Cracker Jack box when I was five.

It points north, telling us where we should be heading. But it is easy to make it point wherever we want. All we need do is wave the iron-filled objects of our desires closely to our hearts. The sliver of our personal moral compass will waver, and swing where we would have it, at the ferric baubles we crave.

How do we develop a better, stronger, moral compass?

Step one: Keep our shiny, steely, desires away from our hearts, put them out of reach, filter them away from our lives, lock them away.

Step two: Watch that compass closely. Let it grow large in our sight, lay it frequently on the maps within scripture and prayer that it may dominate our sight, fill our vision so we are not distracted by tchotckes and knick knacks.

We know where it points. Every compass on this spinning glob of dirt which is apart from metal distractions points at the fount of magnetic energy pumping out of the heart, the center, of this world.

The metaphorical, theological fount for our hearts, our souls, is the glorious, loving presence of the Lord God Almighty.

The titanic glory of Earth’s magnetic field is displayed most greatly when it reacts to the storms of space, lighting up the world with brilliant aurora.

So too does the truth of God’s power within our lives shine brilliantly when storms wash over us. Like everyone else in this world my heart aches at the buffeting of sorrows, from within and without.

We are pleased with our accomplishments, with the skills we develop, the tools we accumulate. It is good to have a hammer. It is good to have a saw. It is even better to have a guide for the use of the tools we have.

Mankind tends to glory in new tools, like a man with a $5,000 gift certificate to Home Depot. Unfortunately mankind does not have the wisdom to handle such shiny metallic toys close to its collective heart (I grew up in the age of duck and cover drills).

There is something beautiful within my heart, something that is lovely and serene and glorious which lifts my spirit and sustains me. Within my heart is a lodestone imprinted with the proof of an eternal God. It’s the most precious thing I own.


jel said...

Blessings Friend!

Jada's Gigi said...

Amen! beautiful analogy..nice to have you back...must be summer there...:)

Judas Hate said...

Most excellent post!!

curious servant said...

No... We are teaching through the 20th, and I have various school obligations through the 26th.

I'm pretty busy. I have my teaching to wrap up, I'm in charge of planning the last day of school (an assembly and video show), I have a report to write for the dept. of Education, a new grant to write by the 22nd, another report for a technology program ("Digital Storytelling"), and a school board presentation to put together...

Oh yes... being a dad and husband.

But I've squeezed in time for some writing and working in my garden.

Things keep getting busier and busier untiul the year ends... and then... a hammock awaits!

curious servant said...

Oh... here is an amusing sidenote to the above post...

I have a friend who loves to read my stuff, but he has a touch of technophobia so he won't go online. Therefore, for him, I print my stuff out and give it to him (he carefully notes the dates, 3 hole punches, and then stores them in a binder).

On this post I gave him a draft that was a little rough. He came to see me, laughing his head off. He said he loved the typo in the 3rd paragraph (just under the first picture).

He said it worked on so many levels in the context of the paragraph.

I had neglected to put a space after the word "pen" and it made a huge difference when linked to the following word.

You might find it amusing to read it that way.

curious servant said...

Clarification... the line that has the external link. (It's the 2nd time the word "pen" is used in that paragraph.)

forget me not said...

Great post, and when I saw you have a moleskine!!! Wow! The original copyright was bought by an Italian company and now they have expanded to north america, great!
I have a very worn one that I bought in Venice about 4 years ago. It's almost filled with things like shopping lists, phone numbers, names, etc. And starting from the back to the front is where I write some reflections or prayers on the spur of the moment.

I bought a bigger one recently, as a sort of journal but I don't write too often, as I seem to always be on the NET, blogging or visiting blogs. Internet can be like a black hole, absorbing so much time. I try to keep it to a minimum, but today I was bad! I even took time to post something I had promised months ago. Now it's bedtime and I'm off to rest my poor eyes a bit.
Thanks for the great post CS.

Terry said...

Oh I like that Curious Servant!
I looked up the word, "Lodestone" in Google because I had no idea what it meant!
Do you think that God put that into our hearts when He saved us or were we born with it?
It is good to know that we can use this compass in our heart for guidance to find our way out of a forest of trouble!!
And sometimes it is so easy to get lost, eh?

I like the picture that you drew of the man's face.
You were truly given this gift from God!!
And you use it for His glory..
Take care now and blessings on your week...Love Terry

Bad Alice said...

You developed the analogy beautifully. And then you took it even farther. Really cool.

Jim said...

I heard once that "the pen is mightier than the sword."
It is mightier than a saw or hammer too and can even break some hearts.

beth said...

Wonderful post and a great insight into the kind of teacher you must be. What a blessing to the community in which you live.

I loved seeing the sketches, as well...

Kim said...

Nice post. I love the analogy. It works. But most of all I love the reminder to stay focused on our Lord. Thanks.

Kim said...

And I love the drawing too. You are truly talented.

Looney Mom said...

Excellent post - as always. I learn so much when I come here. It's great that you teach the younger generation; I know you will make a difference in their lives. I'm going to check out some links since I'm not sure what any of it is. ;)

Felisol said...

Dear CS,
I very much like your intricate way of thinking and the concrete results coming out.
I've had to use my prayer room daily lately, and it works. He gives me what I need day by day.
I hope the same for you.