The Online Classroom?

This looks like a really interesting piece, which I’d like to read in full… but I suspect of interest to a lot of people working in e-learning particularly:

The time comes for most teachers to face something they think they cannot do. Such a time came for me in 1993, when a guest speaker at the college where I had been teaching for 20 years invited the faculty to prepare courses for our then-developing online education programme. Given the enormous advances in technology and the internet, he explained, digital culture would soon reshape and revitalise higher education.

Students would have open access to scholarship. Discussion boards would simulate classroom conversations. Lecture videos would enable students to watch and listen from home, as often as necessary, to absorb, understand and review material. Overcrowding and high costs would no longer prevent access to classes that students required or desired. Everyone, he promised, would connect with teachers through the power of technology. A new day was dawning.

Read full piece, with a really interesting finish:

Although I see the potential value of the virtual campus, and will continue with great enthusiasm to teach at least one online course per semester, I am persuaded that for the time being the place where I do my best work is in the traditional classroom. For me, there remains no substitute for the force and beauty of the feelings I experience within its familiar confines. I also know that the real joy of education for teachers and students alike lies in its ongoing, expansive character. Whatever the format that inspires it, finding ways to broaden and refine our vision of the world will always be the truest gift of learning.

[AUDIO] Thought of the Day 07/02/14

For Inspirational Breakfast, Premier Radio: Thought of the Day

I was fascinated to see that on this day in 1965, someone thought that it was worth recording that George Harrison (of the Beatles fame) had his tonsils removed. God, however, does care about all the little things in our lives, and, regardless of things that seem much worse in other parts of the world such as Syria, we can take comfort in the fact that God cares about the things that affect us day by day, whether they be large or small.

In our world there are many seemingly insignificant things that happen that can feed into the experience that we have today. On this day in 1915, the first wireless message was sent from a moving train to a station. Compare this to today where we are surrounded almost constantly by our own mobile devices, and those of others, and expect near constant-accessibility (ever heard anyone give an exasperated sigh as the train heads into a tunnel, and the signal gets cut off?). It’s not the same for everyone though – in Uganda with Tearfund last year, most villages considered themselves privileged if there was a single phone in the village, as this transformed their ability to make informed choices about what they sold in the markets.

Rather than ‘tsking’ next time, can we remember: 1 Thessalonians 5:18: Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.?

#TimetoTalk with Historian Barbara Taylor


In the Times Higher Education today there’s an interview with Barbara Taylor, a historian who is the subject of The Last Asylum.

“By the time Eve was published in 1983,” she recalls when we meet at a cafe near her home in Crouch End, “I was incapable of doing any sustained work. I struggled on, the next project flowed so naturally out of it that I knew how to go about it, but I just wasn’t capable.” Among the obstacles she faced was that “I usually couldn’t read. The only time I could read was last thing at night. Losing the capacity to read was just agony.” It was years before she returned to the project – “I literally blew the dust off my files” – and eventually brought it to completion as Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination (2003).

Read full article.

[AUDIO] Thought of the Day 06/02/14

Today happens to be 62nd anniversary of the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II to the British throne. Further back in time, on this date in 1918 – Britain granted women, aged 30 & over, the vote. A poster as part of the suffragette campaign highlighted how women could be a Mayor, Nurse, Mother, Doctor or Teacher, or Factory Hand (so contributing to society), but not have a vote, whilst men could be a convict, “lunatic”, proprietor of white slaves, unfit for service, or a drunkard (so not fully part of society as it was perceived in the early twentieth century). In later years, equality in the vote was achieved for all at aged 18. To me this is a reminder that there are many in history to whom we have to be thankful, who have ((however slowly) moved things forward so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do today.

Whilst we may appreciate these freedoms, we also need to think about how we help others: those less capable, or without the financial or educational privileges that many of us have had, or continue to have – to gain a voice, and a sense of that freedom, so that all can both receive and contribute fully to our communities. As Matthew 25:40 says‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

[AUDIO] Thought of the Day 05/02/14

On this date in 1597, a group of early Japanese Christians were killed by the new government of Japan for being seen as a threat to Japanese society. This reminds me of a question I have heard asked many times: ‘If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?’” – and if you put this into Google, you’ll see lots of conversation about this!

What would happen if we were on trial, and all of those we had ever met were were called as witnesses to put forward evidence that we are Christians? What would that look like? Would we be convicted or would the evidence be non-existent? There are still many around the world who continue to be put on trial for their faith , so even if we don’t face this ourselves, can we put ourselves alongside them in much free-er society. I work particularly to encourage people to be ‘whole-life Christians’ in the online space as much as anywhere else: how can we gain the confidence to share this underlying aspect of our life in a way that is natural and relational, rather than pushy?

The other week I was at a preparation session for Spring Harvest later this year, which focuses upon gaining this confidence, where I heard someone remind us that “grace is love when you have nothing to give in return”, so we shouldn’t tickbox the evidence, as Jesus has paid that price. Faith, however, should be transformational, and therefore visible in our lives.

Broadcast on Inspirational Breakfast, Premier Christian Radio

[AUDIO] Thought of the Day 04/02/14

Today’s events in history are a little more depressing. On this day in history, in 1933, in Germany, President Von Hindenbrg limited the freedom of the press, part of the journey towards the same date in 1938 when Adolf Hitler seized control of the German Army and put Nazis in key posts, ultimately precipitating the Second World War.

My PhD focused upon British Propaganda Posters of the Second World War, and I’ve always been convinced of the importance of understanding the media, how it can be used, and how it can be misused. In my current role I work on The BIGBible Project, where we seek to encourage a range of voices to speak into the same topic, not giving any one person too much control or too much credence.

The Nazi Party’s propaganda was so successful largely because after the First World War, harsh reparations were imposed upon Germany, with debts to the rest of the world largely unpayable. Hitler promised to rectify this, which the German nation brought into.

This makes me think about the longer-term ramifications of the way that we treat others in our world. We are all God’s children, and as Romans 8:15 says “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” How do we speak positively into this situation in the wider world?

Art and Technology: Can they work together?


Interesting piece from the Guardian:

Technology and art have enjoyed a tempestuous relationship over the years. Fine art purists have demonstrated a wary scepticism towards the use and abuse of new technologies, and tech-heads have been staunchly resistant to art’s whimsical influence.

But as the pressing issues of privacy and identity, addiction and dependency, and lives increasingly enmeshed in technology begin to create compelling subject matter for artists and technologists alike, art and tech are enjoying a second honeymoon.

This rebooted relationship will be clearly visible in 2014 with a number of high-profile, boundary-pushing exhibitions and initiatives being launched, and more tech-art collaborations being funded by government bodies.

Read full piece, including overviews of the projects, and look back to the debates about whether Leonardo da Vinci was a ‘great artist’ or a ‘great scientist’… or both!

[AUDIO] Thought of the Day 03/02/14

Looking through this date in history, it’s a date scattered with disasters, including the Hawke’s Bay earthquake, New Zealand’s worst natural disaster in 1931, with 258 dead; a Baghdad market bombing in 2007 which killed at least 135 people, with hundreds more injured, and 33 people killed by a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2013. This is the nature of news: we so often hear the worst of every situation, and as we consume news through multiple channels, it can be hard to battle against the cumulative depressive effect that this can have, upon our thinking, and therefore our motivation to engage with others.

In 1 Chronicles 16:23, we are told “Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.” One really encouraging story that I came across from this day in history is that in 1943, four US Army chaplains drowned after giving their life jackets to others – the story even makes it onto Wikipedia (search ‘Four Chaplains’). The chaplains were from a range of denominations, sang hymns as they drowned, and were a great example of self-sacrifice and cheerfulness in the face of death. I wonder if we’d be prepared to do the same?

Today, can we think about how we can add some good news into the world: not platitudes, but evidence of real joy amongst the struggles and reality of everyday life.