For my other day job, I write short articles posted on university websites. They usually discuss educational issues like leadership, best practice in teaching, and why getting a master’s degree is a great idea.
One of the most recent ones focused on educational technology and how tablets and laptops are moving into classrooms at lightning speed. It won’t be long until almost every student has bell-to-bell access to their own online source of information.
In many ways, I’m all for it. When I look past all of the scary elements of the internet (Good golly, Miss Molly and thank the good Lord for strong and thick safety walls), I appreciate the possibilities available to all students, no matter their learning style. That “one-size-fits-all” approach to education we have taken forever is, well, not for all. Not at all. Even the rock-star teachers I have had the privilege to work with cannot create an appropriate learning environment with matching lessons and student work to meet the needs of every student. I don’t care what the district mission statement says.
Some teachers come close, but no teacher can do it all.
So, yes, modern technology is a wind-fall, especially for kids who learn differently or who have an approach to life not appreciated by those who publish and sell educational program materials.
But I read a most interesting quote in a scholarly article entitled Educational App-Development needs to be informed by the Cognitive Neurosciences of Learning & Memory. In this article, two wise and accomplished scientists that they had concerns about the presence of technology in our schools, especially about how important it is to keep up with the on-going research about how humans learn best. They said, in other words, don’t let the cart get ahead of the horse.
According to these authors, it may be all the rage, but no matter how much we think having a tablet is good for our kids,
Ultimately, it is actually unclear how much is gained by expensive [new-fangled technology] over cheaper traditional learning approaches that follow well-established principles of learning and memory.
(To be clear, I changed a more scientific phrase to new-fangled technology. But the meaning remains the same.)
Traditional and well-established principles of learning and memory. Maybe like reading a real book with printed paper pages and a sturdy cover or taking notes with a pencil and spiral notebook.
Maybe it’s like working with a friend on the carpet, testing each other with flashcards you make on 3×5 index cards, held together with a rubber band – adding new ones when you learn the 6’s, then the 7’s, the 8’s, and the 9’s.
As I read about the continual push to use new technology at school, even when we aren’t sure it’s the very best for our kids, even when it may be just the next new thing, I thought about church.
Now, I have loved (almost) every church I’ve ever attended on a regular basis. They were big and small, modern and more rustic, permanent and portable. Some had ministries for everyone at every age in every situation. Some were limited by numbers and expertise to big church, little church, a women’s bible study and kids’ clubs.
At some, I interacted every week with people I knew and loved being around. At others, church was almost an escape, a place to hide or reset.
I’ve been a Believer since childhood. And now, I’m a grandmom. So Jesus and I are pretty close. I’m not a Bible scholar. I should know more than I do. I wish I did – I’ve had plenty of time and opportunity. I’m not the most consistent in meeting with God everyday. And my prayer life is super up and down.
But Jesus and I are pretty close. Thanks, in large measure, to those beautiful churches.
And I still can’t shake those words: tradition and well-established principles.
Now, I have to admit, I am a musical snob. I can hear an out-of-tune guitar or piano a mile away and, forgive me, it can ruin my day if someone is singing flat – or sharp.
It’s also hard for me to settle in on a folding metal chair (especially if the cap on one leg is missing, causing that inescapable rocking motion). And I can be easily distracted when thin, old walls let the pre-school Bible Verse of the Week recitation spill out loud and clear, as if they had sold tickets.
So, a modern sanctuary with comfortable chairs, a good sound system and top-shelf musicians, great acoustics, and a pastor or speaker with truth to tell and an engaging way of telling it are right in my worship wheelhouse.
But those words: traditional and well-established principles.
Every day, all over the world, people learn about the Bible and hear the name of Jesus. And the Good News is the same whether delivered in a well-designed sanctuary or a high school gymnasium, the living room of a 2-bedroom bungalow or a dirt-floored tent. The greatest story ever told is no less powerful when it is shared on a city bus or in a doctor’s waiting room or within the cruel walls of a Thai prison.
Because the chairs and sound system, the singers and speakers, and the “worship experience” are not the Word of the Living God. They might bring the message in a more spectacular way. And the promise of a wow! presentation may be just what someone needs to be convinced to come to church … or to come back next week.
I do not argue. We live in a world where new, up-to-date, fancy electronics and digital effects are expected. Churches use that “new-fangled technology” to reach the minds and hearts of current generations. It’s all good.
But then those words: traditional and well-established principles.
Maybe the big songs and comfortable chairs are part of it. Maybe an e-reader Bible and dimming the lights help people feel like Christianity is hip enough to consider.
What I hope we remember, though, is that what leads people to Jesus is not a beautiful stage setting or an espresso bar in the lobby. Those are all nice. Good things can come from beauty, comfort, and coffee.
But where people really see Jesus is in us. What really makes the difference is in how we love and care about them as sons and daughters of the Most High..
My lovelies, when we go old school, sit with someone at the dining room table, and take out the tattered Bible from years gone by, the one with printed paper pages and a sturdy cover, we show them that they matter to us as a person – a real soul for whom God gave His Son and Jesus gave His life.
We realize that the traditional and the well-established principles of being Jesus with skin on – just like pencils, spiral notebooks, and note cards and like looking someone in the eye and holding their hand – still work.
In fact, I’m going to give it a try. So there.