Monday, October 10, 2016


I recently came across this quote; like so many, it is attributed to Albert Einstein.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
 (And this one appears to be a legitimate Einstein quote, from an essay in Living Philosophies.)

This is so quotable, isn't it? I sort of want a poster that says this to hang on the wall of my office.

This has me thinking about my role as a Christian educator. How am I making space for my students to "experience the mysterious?" To wonder? To stand in awe?

Would making space for "wondering"--in every sense of the word--bring life to my classroom? What kind of learning atmosphere would result if I sought to include time to wonder in ever lesson I taught? Would students learn more? Would they be more engaged? Would they be more curious? Would they care more deeply about the content? Would they feel like it was a waste of their time? Would it begin to lose it's luster if we "wondered" all the time?

I wonder...

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Opinions: Evidence of Thinking

"Hey, Professor this an opinion question?"

A few semesters ago, I had a student taking a test raise her hand to call me over with this concern. She was in the midst of of the test, doing her best to answer carefully, and the thought must have struck her that there were multiple "correct" answers to the question I was asking.

Not every question I ask on a test is cut-and-dried. Some are. Some questions are convergent: there is clearly one correct answer. Convergent questions are usually best for assessing relatively low-level knowledge and understanding. Can the students recall the facts? Have they mastered the vocabulary? Do they have an understanding of the basic concepts? Convergent questions are good for these sort of course material. By asking a convergent question on an exam, I am verifying that my students have mastered a particular concept. And this is valuable in it's way; there are concepts that I want all of my students to learn, and a convergent question is a way of focusing in on their knowledge of a particular concept.

However, I don't think that convergent questions are always the best questions, even on a test. I want my students to provide evidence of thinking, not just rote memorization. How will they use the basic concepts they have learned? I've written before about Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive objectives. Bloom's taxonomy is one way of thinking about different levels of thinking. Here it is in a nutshell:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Problem of Tribalism

A week or so ago, Scott Evans was a guest on the campus where I teach. Scott serves as a chaplain at the University of Dublin in Ireland, and is an author, speaker, thinker, and--by all evidence--a gracious encourager of an authentic faith. (Oh, and he has a pretty amazing beard too.) I was tremendously encouraged and challenged--at the same time, no mean feat--by the message he brought in chapel while was visiting.

It was great having Scott on campus again!

Scott preached on Acts 6-7, which tells the story of the growth of the early church, and the growing pains that they experienced. They didn't always get along well. There were different groups within the Body even then, and it took creative, faithful problem-solving to address the needs of the different groups. Scott challenged us to think about the contemporary church as well, and how we are functioning as a creative, faithful Body. He was far more eloquent than I am making him sound here, I'm afraid. You can watch a recording of his message, if you're interested. (I recommend it!)

Our campus chaplain mentioned that Scott and a couple of fellow Irishmen have a podcast called The Graveyard Shift, and after being so encouraged/challenged (encourochallenged?) by Scott's message, I figured I'd give it a listen.

Oh, I'm SO glad I did.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Tech Tool (Toy?):

File this under the "how could I use this for a lesson" file... (with thanks to my twitterfriend, Kyle Calderwood, for sharing...)

1. Grab your phone and head over to (Seriously, you should do this right now...)

"Hot Ham!" Or, How Our Words Matter

My daughter, who is now a tween, has begun listening to the radio at her own volition. I knew this day would come.

We listen to a lot of music in our house, and many different genres. She gravitates toward pop music, likely swayed by her friends. She recently asked me to change the radio while we were driving someplace to a station that we do not have on one of our pre-set buttons. Now, this is no problem for me, because I actually have a very eclectic taste in music, and I like to talk with my kids about the kinds of music they listen to, and what they like and dislike.

While we were listening, we heard "Wildest Dreams" by Taylor Swift and "7 Years" by Lukas Graham, and then Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars's "Uptown Funk." Now, if you know any of these three songs, you might perceive that there is some potentially problematic content for a tween in any of them. So far as I can tell, much of it is flying over her head yet, at the moment, but we are going to keep listening to music together and talking about the lyrical content.

What makes this listening session notable for me was something she pointed out about "Uptown Funk." With a slightly embarrassed look, she stopped singing along and admitted that there is a "bad word" in the lyrics.

She's right.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Satire is Tricky

I'm sure many of you have watched Hillary Clinton's bit on Between Two Ferns by now. If you've been under a rock, you can check it out here.

This gif helps to capture a bit of the general feeling of the bit...

What fascinates me about this is not so much Zach Galifianakis, or the fact that she actually did the show, or even anything that she said or did. I'm fascinated by the fact that as many of my die-hard-conservative friends posted this as my oh-so-left-leaning friends. Why would both poles be so apt to share this?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I'm Going to Be the Most Mediocre Teacher I Can Be!

I had a less than stellar moment while teaching yesterday. (Oh, what a good reminder that I am still learning even though I am the teacher!)

It happened in Intro to Education. I was explaining an assignment. My students--freshmen, mostly--are about to undertake their first research project, and I was elaborating the expectations for how to conduct good research, as in, "googling for websites is search, not research." We were talking about the library collection, and Encyclopedias of Education, and reference librarians, and excellent academic resources available online. I closed my explanation with an encouragement to be excellent: "Think about it this way: are you in college to learn? Or to just 'get by?'"

I noticed several students turn to a friend seated next to them and mutter: "I'm trying to just get by..." with a grin.

I did not grin.