If you care about your work…

Stanley Kubrick, the great director of 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining, cared deeply about the tools of his trade. This was exemplified when he filmed Barry Lyndon with two ultra-rare Carl Zeiss primes. These 50mm and 35mm f/0.7 camera lenses were originally created for use in the Apollo space program and were later modified for Kubrick to use with a Mitchell BNC camera. The lenses allowed Kubrick to film portions of Barry Lyndon by candlelight, something that was unheard of at the time (and is still extremely difficult to accomplish today). You can see an example of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon work, and read more about the lenses, here.

Every field requires tools to do a job well. Of course it’s possible to complete your work with subpar tools, but this oftentimes results in subpar results. This underscores a very old saying: If you care about your work, you care about your tools. 

This can be applied to education–especially in today’s classroom. Educational tools will never be more important than a good teacher, just like a lens isn’t more important than a gifted movie director. But just as Kubrick took a very expensive lens and made a masterpiece like Barry Lyndon, a teacher can take a Chromebook, iPad, or SMART Board and enhance student learning.

Unfortunately in education, we don’t talk about the quality of our tools very often. We discuss how this device or that web based program can get the job done, but there’s very little said about jettisoning computers, websites, apps, or curriculum because they’re crappy. There should be. Kubrick would’ve never suffered tools that didn’t help him make quality pictures, and teachers should be no different.

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2 thoughts on “If you care about your work…

  1. In school districts that struggle to pay for basic utilities such as heat, teachers might not have any ability to demand more effective tools. I appreciate the principle of demanding quality. Teachers shouldn’t have to settle. Neither should their students. I’d also like to be four inches taller.

    I’ve seen posts on several education-oriented blogs about technology in schools. The two themes are 1) technology can’t replace teachers and 2) teachers need more technology (or training). I wholeheartedly agree with the first theme. The second seems shakier. Technology engages students, which is crucial. Whether or not it improves competencies seems to depend on the source.

    An issue with technology is the staff charged with using it. I worked at a school where teachers tripped over all the wonderful gadgets at their disposal. Only about half of the teachers made worthwhile use of the available technology. I met as many teachers in my career who became anxious about having to check their email as those who could employ technology effectively. Some were great with it. Others left thousands of dollars worth of fantastic hardware collect dust, largely because they didn’t know how to use it. These teachers cared sufficiently, but their technophobia kept them from using the technology that would make many teachers jealous. Surprisingly, not all of these technophobes were boomers approaching retirement.

    Everything comes back to the abilities of the teachers wielding the tools and the caliber of the students with whom their wielding them.

    • Yeah, I agree. Just having technology lying around a classroom is totally inefficient. This could be because teachers aren’t making worthwhile use of the tech, as you stated, or the tech isn’t an effective tool. The thing I like about Kubrick’s use of the lens is he found the perfect tool to create the images he wanted the audience to see. No other lens at the time could do what the two primes accomplished. Likewise, it would be great for teachers to pick the tools they use in the classroom with the same care as Kubrick did. This goes for tech, but it also goes for other tools the teachers believes are necessary to foster student learning–expensive and inexpensive. I’m thinking more of a craftsperson’s approach: A chef owns his or her own knives (see the terrific movie ‘Chef’ for an example of this), carpenters pick their own type of saws, dentists prefer some devices over others, etc. So a teacher could say, ‘I use x software program because it accomplishes y for students,’ and altogether discard other software programs that accomplish little in the way of student learning. This could go for pens, pencils, dry erase markers, whiteboards, furniture, laptops…and much more.

      Kubrick’s vision led his craftsmanship no matter what the studios said. Hopefully teachers can have this same approach.

      Thanks for visiting the site again and sharing your great insight, Jeffrey!

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