Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Reflections


A few simple Vermont sayings, collected by Allen R. Foley, author of The Old-Timer Talks Back.
• What you don't say won't ever hurt you.
• You can't always judge a cow by her looks.
• It's better to wear out than rust out.
• Independence is better than riches.
• It's nice to sit and think but sometimes it's nicer just to sit.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Simon Price, R.I.P.

An obit for Simon Price in the Telegraph:

Price was a central contributor to the remarkable recent revival of academic interest in ancient Roman religion, but his interests were much broader. He wrote the best short book on Greek religion, Religions of the Ancient Greeks (1999), as well as articles on such diverse topics as ancient and modern theories of dream-interpretation (From Freud to Artemidorus); the role of terracing in Greek agriculture; and early Christian apologetic literature.



The book of his thesis, Rituals and Power. The Roman Imperial cult in Asia Minor, was published in 1984 and caused a sensation. It was on the one hand a meticulous scholarly study of the extremely abundant evidence for the “who, when, where?” of the cults of Roman emperors in Asia Minor; but it also sought, with considerable success, to overturn previous understanding of this centrally important aspect of Roman rule.
Emperor worship had generally been understood as a form of flattery, more politely expressed as a “loyalty cult”, of no religious significance. Price argued, however, that it gave something in religious terms to those who practised it: treating the emperors as quasi-gods was a way of coming to terms with the godlike power that these individuals wielded from a distance over their subjects. It helped them to make sense of their world.
To the objection that nobody could really have believed the emperor, a mortal, to be a god, Price replied that ancient religion was not about belief but about ritual; to insist on belief was to treat pagan religion as though it were Christian. He remained a vigilant scourge of what he called “Christianising assumptions” throughout his career.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Created in God's Image" for today's Daily Episcopalian. Please feel free to comment!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Evolution of Bible Stories (NPR)

NPR reports on the evolution of bible stories by interviewing Prof William Warren of the New Orleans Baptist Seminary. The intention of the project is to enable ordinary Christian people to be aware of and assess some of these alterations. Changes in Mark's ending of the gospel and John's gospel are discussed:


"We actually have more than one ending in the manuscripts, and then we have some with no ending," Warren explains, "So what we think probably happened there is that as soon as you see the other Gospels with the resurrection stories, early in the 2nd century at least, someone says, 'You know, we need to put some of this material into Mark to round it off better.' "
Warren points to another significant change in the gospel of John: In the earliest manuscripts, he says, John did not include Jesus challenging a mob that's about to stone a woman accused of adultery with the now-famous line: "Let any among you who is without sin cast the first stone."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Promoting Active Learning

From Faculty Focus via a keynote address by Elizabeth F. Barkley at a recent Teaching Professor conference in Atlanta, excellent tips on promoting active learning including:


Get to classroom 10-20 minutes early, greet students by name as they come in.

Active Learning—have each student read another student’s paper and provide feedback. I provide a list of questions and comments as a guideline.

Use “participation quizzes” (for extra points) to keep students on task.

Motivation—when starting a project, ask students probing questions to help them break down the tasks so they are manageable.

Community Building: On the first day, I hold a “Mocktail Party.” Students out of seats, shaking hands, and meeting one classmate at a time. After 2 minutes, I say “switch” and students move on to the next classmate.

Send students motivational quotes via the vista (Blackboard) each day…that apply to something that each of them have shared at one point & time with the class. Student response has been exceptionally accepting.

“The Daily Quiz”
a. 1 question the minute class starts-fixes attendance issues and makes good into the lecture. It offers a reflection from previous lesson and gives a good segue to the next.
b. If you’re late?—no luck, typically easy marks too!!
c. If class is lagging??—I will ask if it is from material yet to be covered.

Motivation/Task is Tough Enough: Hold student/instructor conference for larger assignments (ie: first drafts). It helps student feel like he/she is important, treated as an individual. It also allows instructor to tailor the rest of the assignment to the student needs & abilities.

I try to help students “unlearn” previously experienced situations. For example, many of my students have had negative experiences in math. I work with them to overcome those experiences and learn.

Putting them into learning groups.

“You can do it, just like others did!”
I post previous semester grades and explain how test, attendance, & activities impact previous students grades.

Active Learning—I create a worksheet with course concepts & have students work in pairs in class with their books to define terms. We discuss terms as a class to make sure everyone agrees. Then we watch a film/movie in class looking for examples of course concepts. In class & online discussions.
Optimal Challenge Zone
a. I try to create a Friendly First Day. While the syllabus is clear, it is not designed to be scary. The first day of my Composition One class, I have students meet together and discuss the Best Writing they have ever done. I point out that academic as well as career and personal writing counts. When they finish, I emphasize that we are all already writers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A new horizon: distance learning at GTS

With a lot of hard work and some great initiative from the administration and staff, it looks as though NT1 will be offered as a distance learning course at GTS this coming Michaelmas semester, the fall of 2011. NT1 is already a hybrid course on Moodle and by the fall, I will have put content driven mini-lectures into each module so that class time will be spent on implications, discussion and application in different formats. More soon as things take shape.

Speaking of education for all, here's a recent article from the Chronicle on University of the People.


UoPeople strives to serve the vast numbers of students who have no access to traditional higher education. Some can't afford it, or they live in countries where there are simply no good colleges to attend. Others live in rural areas, or identify with a culture, an ethnicity, or a gender that is excluded from public services.
UoPeople students pay an application fee of between $10 and $50 and must have a high-school diploma and be proficient in English. There are also small fees for grading final exams. Otherwise, it's free.
The university takes advantage of the growing body of free, open-access resources available online. Reshef made his fortune building for-profit higher-education businesses during the rise of the Internet, and he noticed a new culture of collaboration developing among young people who grew up in a wired world. So UoPeople relies heavily on peer-to-peer learning that takes place within a highly structured curriculum developed in part by volunteers. The university plans to award associate and bachelor's degrees, and it is now seeking American accreditation.
Rather than deploy the most sophisticated and expensive technology, UoPeople keeps it simple—everything happens asynchronously, in text only. As long as students can connect their laptops or mobile devices to a telecommunications network, somewhere, they can study and learn.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lexington Theological Seminary names Dr Charisse Gillette as President

LTS announces the appointment of its first woman president: Dr Charisse Gillette. The Chicago Tribune also reports the news. Congratulations, Dr Gillette.


Dr. Gillett has served as Vice President of Administration and Special Projects at LTS since February 2010. Dr. Gillett has more than 20 years of successful administrative experience in higher education, including service at Transylvania University, Midway College, Robert Morris College and University of Northern Iowa. She holds a doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University. A former moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she has been a commissioned minister by the Christian Church in Kentucky since August 2010 and is Associate Minister at East Second Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where her husband, LTS D.Min. alumnus Dr. Donald Gillett II, serves as Senior Pastor. She is also a former LTS trustee and officer of the board.
“I am deeply committed to the church and to the work of the Seminary in shaping students for ministry,” Dr. Gillett said. “I am excited about the future of the Seminary, and the students and congregations we will be able to touch in the years to come as our program continues to grow in dynamic ways. We have a wonderful team of faculty and staff who are dedicated to our students and to the church, and I am looking forward to working closely with them and leading the Seminary as we move forward into the next page of our story.”
Dr. Gillett’s appointment is a historic one in the 146-year history of LTS. She is the first woman and first African-American to lead the Seminary as president.
“Dr. Gillett has an outstanding depth of knowledge and experience about the Seminary,” said LTS Board of Trustees president Rev. Gary Kidwell. “LTS has a storied history of shaping people for ministry, and with Dr. Gillett’s leadership, we look forward to an exciting future for the Seminary.”

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Istanbul from Heart and Soul

Episode Two of Heart and Soul speaks of fishing on the Bosphorus for fish important to Jews some of which was sold to the local Jewish community until the ship bound for Gaza last year was prevented from landing by the Israeli military. This year no fish has been sold to the Jewish community by this fisherman.

Greeks, Muslims, and Armenians used to live together in Istanbul in the thirties. But now this is no longer true. There are now only a handful of Greeks remaining. Patriarch Bartholomew is optimistic for the future, however, and several ecumenical projects are underway. Interviewed on the program, he notes that the Turkish government has made concessions to religious officials.

In the project to build an tunnel for the underground under the Bosphorus, an ancient harbor of the Byzantine port has been uncovered. At Yenikapi a shipwreck from the fifth century has been discovered.

The wreck is among some 35 sunken ships at the old Byzantine harbor which had silted over, probably in the 10th century. The discovery of other Byzantine merchant ships has led this to be described as the greatest nautical archaeological site of all time. A collection of the discoveries has already been put together in an exhibition at the İstanbul Archaeological Museum, together with artifacts retrieved during other metro excavations around the city, including a hugely important find on the Asian side of the city at Üsküdar.
Archeologist Sırrı Çömlekçi was quoted in Radikal as saying that the remains from this Byzantine ship will provide a lot of information about the past. “It will be possible to see the whole ship when we complete our work,” he said.
Zeynep Kızıltan, the head of the Marmaray-Metro Salvage Excavations, said that once the dig is complete, they look forward to sharing with the public all of the findings and their significance. She added in Radikal's report that the latest discovery seems to be quite unique. The dig is expected to continue through the end of summer.

The program ends in Aya Sofia noting the religious history of the building: from church to mosque to museum. A newspaper columnist interviewed notes that no one is happy with turning the building into a museum. Surely we can find a way to share the building as a symbol of the more positive aspects of our religious history, he says.