Sunday, February 28, 2010
  The future of intellectual work
Geoff Pound has pointed me to a couple of really interesting resources recently (on Facebook rather than in Blogworld - How come these parts of the digital sphere are so separate? Except where we drag one into the other, as I will with this post ;)
Poster for Kubrik's film of Clarke's 2001 A Space Odyssey from túaw
First he remarked that Brian McLaren suggested that those of the emergent tribe who are interested in the future of seminaries should read the Life is a Mystery post "Wherein I figure out the iPad". Then he pointed me to Mark Coker's Huffington Post piece "Exploring the Future of Book Publishing at Tools of Change Conference" in which he highlights, from outside the sphere of Bible specialists, the significance of what Logos are doing to create networked books.

Unless I missed something important, (and I might well have as I was thinking about today's interactive sermon when I read it) despite the entertaining reference to Arthur C Clarke's 2001, the iPad post is not so much about the iPad, so don't yawn yet, as about how networked information (think ebooks on steroids, where everything is hyerlinked as in Logos Bible Software or imagine a hybrid of Google books and Wikipedia) together with changing approaches to imagining education may change the way we live our intellectual lives. (For my take on the broader educational context see my article: "Back to the Future: Virtual theologising as recapitulation" from Colloquium 37:2 in 2005.)
illustration from Victor Appleton's Tom Swift and His Giant Telescope Illustrator: James Gary
Interesting times! Networked books and digital libraries are making the activities of scholarship so much quicker, combine these with wider access to publication (and the economic "publish or perish" culture) and information overload becomes extreme, and mere information is again seen as worthless and human interaction more and more significant. Though paradoxically at the same time human interaction becomes (in such media environments) less and less deep or wide. Intense and casual rather than sustained or profound.

Something has to give?!

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Thursday, February 04, 2010
  The Invention of Hebrew: Introduction
In the "Introduction" Seth lays out the four chapters, paying particular attention to the questions that will be raised, and thus providing engaging teasers drawing the reader in.

The book as a whole is situated within a framework which stresses both the direct appeal of biblical texts to their hearers ("you") and to the (usually) communal identity of those hearers ("Hear, O Israel!"). As a Baptist, inheritor of the Anabaptists, I love the stress on the way Scripture produces and moulds the community that reads it. This emphasis will be crucial to the book as a whole.

So, the first chapter will situate the discussion in the broad sweep of intellectual history, and is intended to make a case for the claim that this book aims at a significant paradigm shift to viewing language and its literatures as constituitive of social identity as well as its product.

Chapter two focuses on the Ugaritic literature that precedes and in many ways prefigures the Hebrew Scriptures. It will claim that the combination of the technological form of that writing (alphabet rather than Cuneiform syllabary), its language (Ugaritic rather than Akkadian) and its literary style (address to "you") combine to make it revolutionary. It will also trace this political consciousness back into the Mari texts as well as onward into the Hebrew writings.

With this much (hopefully) in place the second half of the book promises to trace more closely the development of these literary phenomena against the history of the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. This seems to be where the book will become more than merely very interesting! In particular the notion of Assyrian vassals "pirating" the "genres of imperial sovereignty". It is here that Sanders will claim that in this process local rulers "invented" their local languages, and deliberately distinguished them. I love Seth's commentary here (6) on the opening words of the Mesha stele: "'I am Mesha, king of Moab, man of Diban.' Rather than claiming to be king of the universe [as Assyrian rulers routinely did] Mesha claims to be a native of his hometown." I resonate too with the recognition that: "Alphabetic writing, low-budget and easier to learn and produce, circulated outside the court" allowing Levantine communities to speak back to their rulers :)

The discussion of scribal culture and training sounds really exciting too, and the claim that alphabetic scribal practice (in cultures of the Levant) may not have been like that of Imperial syllabic scribal culture seems both obvious and interesting. Here Sanders' determination to deal with the datable (epigraphic) texts from the period sounds excitingly new and powerful.

Yes! I'm sold, this is a book I'll enjoy reading, but already in ways I have not had time to explore here I am aware that it will not merely confirm my prejudices but also challenge and enlighten them, not least by the way Seth intends to situate the discussion rigorously in a broader than biblical context.

This is a proud book, the first sentence under "Limits and goals" claims: "This book is not a history of biblical literature, but ... an explanation of how shuch literature became possible." (7)

[Yesterday, I planned to deal with the "Conclusion" as well as the "Introduction" today, but time is passing and thoughts of land and earth call me back to Amos...]

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Sunday, January 17, 2010
  Might I ambiguate, please?
Christmas #23 - One hundred sigma by kevindooley
Miriam Bier wrote in her Facebook status "question: if you can disambiguate, can you not also ambiguate?"

In view of my recent posts I have to claim an emphatic: Can I [you choose the punctuation]

Since the halcyon days when I was a bright young thing the world has gained an almost infinitely greater degree of capacity to communicate. I grew up in a world of broadcast (TV and Radio - basically one way transmission of information, one way is not communication), print (also basically one way - one way is a dead end ;) and occasional handwriting (letters and such) and even more occasional telephone chats (once or twice a week to my fiancée) as the extent of common long distance communication. So a face-to-face world enriched by a little long distance communication and a lot of one to many lecturing. Now, a generation later, I sit in a refugee camp and email colleagues around the world, MSN my children in other continents, and Facebook and blog to all who are interested. Almost instant, almost ubiquitous and almost free communication. My 1975 self would see this as utopian.

BUT this increased capacity to communicate also increases our access to information, which increases our (own estimates of our) knowledge. Greater perceived certainty is a dangerous thing. It leads to simplistic black and white thinking. This combined with our increased capacity to communicate, leading to fads (on a global scale like the latest TV sensation or publishing blockbuster, or locally like the way biblical studies bloggers have rashes of posts about the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon), produces an uncertain, unstable world.

That's dangerous as well as exciting. An uncertain world in which humans are more "certain" scares me. Certainty is the enemy of truth, truth comes from living with ambiguity, ambiguation is the servant of truth.

See also: John's History versus Myth: A True False Dichotomy and my Internet fast: The degradation of predictability - and knowledge.

So, my friends: Ambiguate all you can! Disrupt certainty :)

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Saturday, January 16, 2010
  Snippets on how the Internet is changing us
There is a brilliant collection of short essays at Edge, edited by Jonn Brockman in which several digerati reflect on how "the Internet" [a term the first contributor, computer scientist, W. Daniel Hillis notes is not unproblematic] is changing us. They are all good, but here are my highlighted snippets.

Hillis suggests print enabled "the enlightenment" the Internet enables the "entanglement". In the enlightenment we became independent, in the entanglement we are becoming interdependent:
In an Internet-connected world, it is almost impossible to keep track of how systems actually function. Your telephone conversation may be delivered over analog lines one day and by the Internet the next. Your airplane route may be chosen by a computer or a human being, or (most likely) some combination of both. Don't bother asking, because any answer you get is likely to be wrong.

Soon, no human will know the answer. More and more decisions are made by the emergent interaction of multiple communicating systems, and these component systems themselves are constantly adapting, changing the way they work. This is the real impact of the Internet: by allowing adaptive complex systems to interoperate, the Internet has changed the way we make decisions. More and more, it is not individual humans who decide, but an entangled, adaptive network of humans and machines.

He illustrates this discussing Internet Time Protocol the system that allows software to know what time/date it is now, so saving humans from needing to enter the time and date on bootup. The system depends on multiple networked devices, and few if any programmers understand it, we all use it. We are interconnecting not only when we are aware of it, but also and particularly when we are not.

One item only from Hans Ulrich Obrist's (Curator, Serpentine Gallery, London) partial and multiple alphabet of an answer:
D is for Doubt
A certain unreliability of technical and material information on the Internet brings us to the notion of doubt. I feel that doubt has become more pervasive. The artist Carsten Höller has invented the Laboratory of Doubt, which is opposed to mere representation. As he has told me, 'Doubt and perplexity ... are unsightly states of mind we'd rather keep under lock and key because we associate them with uneasiness, with a failure of values'. Höller's credo is not to do; not to intervene. To exist is to do and not to do is a way of doing. 'Doubt is alive; it paralyzes certainty.' (Carsten Höller)
Yes! Now, can we encourage students to begin to understand this?

The ever stimulating Clay Shirky, Social & Technology Network Topology Researcher, provoked me most with this Contrarian gem:
Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba (photo by goldberg)
It is our misfortune to live through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race, a misfortune because surplus always breaks more things than scarcity. Scarcity means valuable things become more valuable, a conceptually easy change to integrate. Surplus, on the other hand, means previously valuable things stop being valuable, which freaks people out.
This is the lesson Big Music is beginning to learn, the moving image industry has begun to face, that is freaking the publishers, but will change higher education beyond belief (one day, soon?). [See my Back to the Future: Virtual Theologising as Recapitulation especially the first section "Return of the Rabbi" 115-121.]

And, I am only about half-way through the articles :) What a cornucopia of stimulating thinking!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009
  Science or commerce? Copy right or copywrong?
Duane posted an abnormally interesting certificate which came from Lawrence Lessig's keynote talk to EDUCAUSE09. The video is here (I have not seen it as we only have slow intermittent Internet here on the Thai-Burma border).

I posted a long comment on Duane's blog, but since I am unlikely to post anything else here in the next while, on holiday with intermittent Internet, I'll reproduce here in even more extended and focused form, as a post.

Copyright, which seems to mean the right to forbid others to copy, may or may not be theft. Actually, of course it is NOT theft, producers of creative works have the right to obtain a reasonable (or at least today an unreasonable, if they are sufficiently famous) income from their work.

But copyright certainly IS the antithesis of science, since any science worthy of the name is open to debate and criticism.

Education is more interesting. There are two extreme cases:
  • There is a commercial form of education that exists to ration and control the supply of licenced practitioners of various professions - that sort must love copyright.
  • Then there is education as the process of learning to share in the process of growing and nurturing knowledge - that sort detests copyright as its antihesis.
Technology is another really interesting case, which Lessig (on this slide, as I have not seen the whole, having slow intermittent Internet here on the Thai-Burma border) does not mention.

As for education, the question is: Is technology science or commerce?

Now let's consider the case of theological study or education. Is copyright right or wrong? Is theology science (in this post I have tried consistently to use "science" in it's European sense of an open and criticisable body of knowledge) or commerce?

I know where I stand :)

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008
  Vernacular resources for local communities
The idea for producing resources in local (tribal) languages by approximate oral translation, and for distributing these by mobile phone and/or cheap MP3 players is explained in a post below: Watering the "Desert of Books" and with some followup ideas and replies to objections in Vernacular resources: watering the desert of books II. For those who prefer to see and hear there is a short presentation available either in Flash format (which most people can watch) or a Quicktime movie (which is much smaller, 2.5MB instead of 9MB for Flash).
Photo by
If you can see problems or fishhooks that I have missed, I'd like to hear from you...

If not, and if you know of someone working or interested in the area of resourcing local churches in languages please point them to this post as I'd REALLY love to hear from them!

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Monday, October 27, 2008
  Vernacular resources: watering the desert of books II
I'm just back from a long weekend away, and teaching tomorrow, so before I respond specifically to comments on the post below, I'll respond to some of the frequently asked questions in other conversations about the idea.

Won't the translations be inaccurate?

Oh yes! But this is part of the attraction of the project, as well as being rendered in the mother tongue the out of copyright texts are also adapted (a little more than is usual in a translation – for all translations are also to some extent cultural adaptations) this makes them more useful. But it may mean that some sort of peer review process should be built in, to ensure that undesirable errors do not creep in. I doubt this needs to be formalised. Since the new “text” is semi-oral and since semi-oral cultures have a flexibility to adapt their texts, the pastor would rework and improve any chapter that their colleagues question.

How will we ensure that busy senior pastors actually find time to do the translating?

First, not a lot of time is needed, just read a chapter, then reread it a paragraph at a time and speak it in their mother tongue. Say two hours for a chapter, once they have done a couple during a training day, and done the first few more slowly on their own. Second, the laptop itself is a carrot. It stays under their authority as long as they produce an agreed number of chapters – becoming their possession after an agreed period. Third, the fact that they are producing this resource is a source of honour (mana etc.) and the fact that it is in their voice will also add to their authority in other things.

Senior pastors won't be able to master the unfamiliar technology!

How many senior pastors do you know who do not have children (and/or grandchildren, nieces, nephews...) in their household. How much training do you think those guys will need? But it is true not all will be able or willing to support the project. Many useful medicines cannot be tolerated by some patients, Penicillin is a well-known example, this does not stop their use among the rest of the population!

Sometimes you have to really hunt for that mobile phone signal.
Photo by MikeBlyth

There will be a lot of new technology to break down and support!

Not a lot. Most of the distribution can be to existing mobile phones or MP3 players. So, for each district you are looking at one laptop (the OLPCs are designed to be rugged and if they are becoming the possession of the families there is an interest in protecting them) and perhaps several MP3 players (they are also very rugged and now quite cheap <$20 retail). You would naturally use the laptop model that is that is chosen for the national education system, or one for which support should be available. And anyway, how much does it cost under the old print system to get books to pastors? And they are culturally inappropriate books, in foreign languages!

This scheme gives the power to the local church!

Yes! Great isn't it :) Print allowed foreign missions, missionaries and ministries to produce “great” resources for the poor people people of the land. This way they get assisted to produce resources for themselves. If they start out doing Matthew Henry in Kisangali, how long do you think it will take before some pastors also produce their own “texts” dealing with locally raised issues? Where has print ever achieved that degree of localisation?

This scheme will reduce the motivation for literacy in places with low literacy rates :(

First, get your priorities right! What are you about? Helping people become clones of the West? Or deepening their understanding? Second, if you think this little project will have a bigger impact than radio, TV and mobile phones you have a higher view of its potential than I have ;) Literacy as we have known it for 500 years is under threat, but this project will not contribute much to the change, though it does work with it rather than resist... “Literacy” and “books” are not idols to be worshiped but a technology and skill that are no longer as dominant as they once were – do not make the dominant technology of the past a fetish object!

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Friday, October 24, 2008
  Watering the "Desert of Books"
Following on from my previous post The "book" of the future Theologians Without Borders has converted a comment to a stimulating post in Transferring Knowledge in a Desert of Books Jennifer Turner puts the experience of teaching in Africa where "libraries were very sparse, due both to shortage of funds and lack of materials in the local language" with the sight of an OLPC laptop, to generate the dream that we might "skip to the next generation of knowledge transfer" by putting a library on such a machine for village pastors.

How about we put these two posts together, and then tweak the results a bit?

At selected centres (like theological colleges) someone provides a laptop stacked with out of copyright or e-texts for which permission had been given. Senior pastors with a good command of the "imperial" language (English, French or whatever) then read selected works a paragraph at a time into the built-in microphone, translating into their mother tongue as they go. It would not be an accurate translation, and it might well include explanation, but that would just make it more useful!

It is in the senior pastors' interest to help, because they get to base a laptop at their home (their kids will nag them into it) and the churches they are responsible for will respect them even more.

These audio books get loaded onto mobile phones (or MP3 players) for village pastors and others. The result semi-literate (and lets face it in much of the world village pastors are often either semi-literate or less than fluently literate) pastors get real solid stimulus and information for a fraction of the cost of print.

It is in the village pastors' interest to listen because they will seem better educated, without all the hassle and risk to their status involved in moving from partial to full literacy.

Do the maths! For a district with say 20 local churches:
  • cost of one laptop, loaded with "books" $250
  • plus 20 MP3 players @ $30 = $600
Round it up to allow for labour $1,000. This provides all the pastoral workers and anyone else who is interested with all you can eat access to all the "books" on the laptop for (say, on average) five years. Compare this with printing "real" books, the same money probably buys 100 paper books!

All we need are:
  • enough people to catch the vision
  • publishers of texts like the Africa Bible Commentary to be willing to see their print editions reach extended twenty-fold
  • people to "sell" the idea to senior pastors
  • a bunch of Western agencies to give up their fetish for print!
Which of the above bottlenecks do you think will scupper this vision? Or can you see other problems with it?

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Saturday, October 04, 2008
  Scholarship is not "free" but it should be open
Way back in July (in the depths of my winter) Charles posted on the topic of the cost of scholarship. Since then I have been intending to reply ;)

In Is Scholarship Really Free? Charles argued that:
  • it is good when scholarship is freely available:
    I really love the fact that so much academic material is now distributed free of charge: the Oriental Institute is offering their treasure-trove of publications gratis, lectures on every conceivable topic from thermodynamics to Thermopylae are available on institutional sites as well as iTunes U, free online journals have arisen, and individual scholars are putting their work on their websites.
  • even such scholarship however is not really "free", since someone paid for it, he groups the patrons of scholarship (or rather its production and publication) as:
    • institutions that can use "scholarship" as advertising - here he lists teaching resources
    • institutions that employ scholars to research - if degree level teaching is "research led" should not all institutions employing scholars be employing them to research?
    • individual scholars - working for love
    • publishers - who pay for proofing and other editorial work
  • distribution costs(e.g. printing or hosting) need to be paid for
Thus far it seems to me to be good common sense. Scholarship is not free, nor is its distribution.

Though, Charles writes about scholarship in general, I'll distinguish between the research and teaching components. In this post I'll focus on research, since I have different things to say I'll do another post on teaching.

Scholarship is not free, nor is its distribution.

But institutions pay for its production either because that is what they have been given money to do, or in order to gain "profile". I'd add that (at least in places influenced by the European tradition) they also sponsor scholarship in order to retain the right to teach degrees. And sometimes individuals contribute out of love for the subject, as they have always done. Scholarship that is "paid for" in some other way, like medical research whose patron is a drug company, is suspect as it has sold its impartiality.  Scholarship which is driven by the royalties from book sales is NOT scholarship and is not worth reading ;)

Distribution costs. Traditionally scholarship was nevertheless made open through the existence of libraries which opened their doors to unattached scholars as well as to institution members, sometimes there was a small fee but this did not often bar anyone with an interest from access. Today with electronic distribution those costs are negligible Charles asks: "who’s going to host the publications and pay for bandwith" since the costs are now very low. My host copes with 60GB a month data transfer, which since "scholarly publication" is usually words with some pictures is quite a lot of scholarship ;) for US$100 per year which includes a domain name. That equates to over 2,000,000 scholarly books for $100 or 0.000000108 US cents per book. (Yes I know in reality the labour involved maintaining the site costs far more than the hosting, so let's multiply the figure above by 1000 making a whopping 0.000108 US cents per monograph.)

That leaves editing. Traditionally much editing of scholarly work has been done by volunteers, e.g. those who edit journals for the kudos not the cash. That is becoming less workable and has never worked for larger projects, like monographs. The open access movement began with research grants and institutions paying for this, but why not in each developed country a tiny proportion of the research budget gets spent on providing editing services to peer reviewed publications. It is after all in the national interest, in dozens of ways, to be seen to sponsor such work! (It would also be in the national interest to sponsor good work from scholars in other countries ;)

My conclusion is the direct opposite of Charles'. Research publication should be freely accessible, except where such "research" has been bought by the military, by drug companies... and then it should NOT be considered a scholarly but a commercial activity, and so not eligible for tenure, promotion or other scholarly uses ;)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008
  Bible "Style Guide"
Huge thanks to Stephen for the tip off (via email) to this brilliant resource:

The Bible Style Guide may be "a reference text designed specifically for those working within the media industry." But the "crash course in the Bible" it offers is good for far more than just "busy journalists, broadcasters and bloggers." It combines a very brief, down to earth, and wise glossary of key terms that people use when talking about the Bible. With a crash course in the nature of biblical literature, translation and the Bible in today's world. There is probably no one who can not learn something from this free 70+ page book!

Students, do you:
  • think Ebionite is a sort of ancient plastic?
  • a Codex is used to decode secret messages?
  • that a canon goes "bang"?
Just get The Bible Style Guide and look it up! The answers are neat, quick and sensible.

Kids, do you think the Bible is old fashioned but confused because you were brought up to think it a Holy Book?
Just get The Bible Style Guide and browse through it like a magazine.

Mature Christians (that's code for "not longer young" and somewhat stuck in a rut) just get the (totally free)
Bible Style Guide and discover something new and inspiring - before breakfast.

Teachers, fed up with people who do your Intro class yet still think the Catholic Epistles were written by Pope Benedict? Point all your classes to The Bible Style Guide and then warn them you'll get tough on people who have not at least mastered its under 80 pages!

Quite seriously this is the most compact, useful and easy to use Bible Handbook I have ever seen...

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Saturday, August 30, 2008
  Theological education and outdoctrination
Linking to Geoff's "Creativity in Theological Education" post and then watching the brilliant presentation (in just 20 minutes) by Sugata Mitra the Indian "Hole in the Wall" man (on TED) "Can kids teach themselves?" has got me thinking (again) about how we do theological education the wrong way round.

[By the way if you have only heard about Sugata Mitra's work it is well worth spending 20 minutes to watch the man himself, whether you agree with him or not, he is a fine presenter!]

He calls his suggestions "outdoctrination" because they are the opposite of indoctrination. In indoctrination a teacher who "knows better" tells a student the answers. Most theological education is built from the ground up on an indoctrination model. Teachers (or possibly the school boards who govern the teachers - quis custodiet custodes) decide the curriculum. They then decide how it is to be taught and how success is to be measured. Students then are fitted into this mold. Evidently, despite our efforts to steer clear of "imposing" our conclusions on students, this is indoctrination. After all, though we may seek to avoid imposing answers, we did impose the questions!

Why not a system designed the other way up. Start from real issues and situations and get teachers to asist students to learn what they need/want to approach these issues. There would be severe difficulties creating "suitable" learning outcomes, and perhaps worse ones working out how to measure them - but I suspect the real measure of success would be seen when students "leave college" and really start to learn!

[I suspect Dr Mitra, a professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle, thinks his work only applies to kids, and that adults are too far calcified in the cortext, but I wonder, humans have more capacity to make do and adapt, I believe that even "mature students" can still learn if we offered them "minimally invasive theological education"!]

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008
  Biblical Studies Publishing in an Internet-dominated economy
Sean in a post Unbundling Biblical Studies a few days ago (I'm busy trying to write a paper on Baptist Hermeneutics, so I missed a few days, OK!) starts from discussion on the Britannica Blog related to their "Newspapers & the Net Forum" the first post starts from "The New Economics of Culture" noting that many traditional roles of Newspapers are becoming free services on the 'net.

print journalism is going through a wrenching transformation, and its future is in doubt. Over the past two decades, newspaper readership in the United States has plummeted. After peaking in 1984, at 63 million copies, the daily circulation of American papers fell steadily at a rate of about 1 percent a year until 2004 when it hit 55 million. Since then, the pace of the decline has accelerated. Circulation fell by more than 2 percent in 2005 and by about 3 percent in 2006.
A print newspaper is a "bundle" of services but:
When a newspaper moves online, the bundle falls apart. Readers don’t flip through a mix of stories, advertisements, and other bits of content. They go directly to a particular story that interests them, often ignoring everything else.
This, it is sometimes argued, is promoting an "unbundling" of traditional newspaper services, with some becoming free on the Internet, and other more specialised services being paid for, yet users do not want to pay online, and:
few newspapers, other than specialized ones like the Wall Street Journal, are able to charge anything for their content online, the success of a story as a product is judged by the advertising revenues it generates. Advertisers no longer have to pay to appear in a bundle.
Neither the first article, nor Clay Shirky's followup, which argues that What Newspapers and Journalism Need Now: Experimentation, Not Nostalgia, really offers a clear prediction of the future of investigative journalism, though Clay seems to see blogging filling this role [?] ;).

Sean asks some sensible questions:
If you take as a given that academic publishing must change to meet the new realities of the Internet economy (i do), which parts will become essentially free goods, and which parts will continue to require a high level of professional competence. Even more importantly, assuming some of these services can’t be easily replaced, what are the new economic models that will provide the required compensation for them?
My answers really haven't changed much over recent years. I still see the "content" of tertiary education (textbooks and lectures typically in the current system) becoming free, or at least dirt cheap. See "Gatekeepers, Open Courseware and the future of the University". That others have joined MIT since 2004 just reinforces this view. Nichthus will ask: How will such content be financed? Basically I suspect long term through either advertising or cheap prices and high volume (a sort of iTunes University ;-)

So, what will teachers, like me, offer to justify our excessive salaries: guidance, tuition, the things we have traditionally provided, since time immemorial. See: Tim Bulkeley
to the Future: virtual theologising as recapitulation
" Colloquium,
2005, 37,2, 115-130.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007
Before today I knew e-portfolios were really trendy and important but had no idea why, or even what they were! Mark fixed that... It's dead simple, "an e-portfolio is a webpage for life!"

He was speaking at the University of Auckland "Teaching Showcase" session on e-portfolios. He began by revealling the results of googling himself and the other panelists. Consistently and woefully the prominent results were out of date or inaccurate.

I challenge you. Do it now. Google your name (as it is usually heard professionally, with quotes) and if necessary your country, so I'd look up "Tim Bulkeley" (or: "Tim Bulkeley" nz). What do you find?

That's right, out of date static material! Now imagine, instead of those static pages, a dynamically interlinked collection of your information sorted and revealed differently to different sorts of audience.

[Actually at this point I can preen quietly but smugly, googling me - with or without the nz - brings up my Amos commentary site and a pretty up-to-date academic CV :) ]

Family and friends see one selection, students another, your employer another... From all your material many different views... Update once, use in several places...

A collection of different portfolios, for different people, or purposes, but using or reusing data. I'd upload a scan of my Distinguished Teaching Award, link to selected blog posts (not this one, it's probably terribly inaccurate ;-) a couple of my u-tube videos, extracts from student testimonials... Some of that would be for prospective students, some for users of my websites, some for family ...Mahara Home

And, there's a cool open source tool to allow us to play with the concept, Mahara. (BTW it's not pronounced like the desert, try to give each vowel the same stress - the word means "thought".) It is only version 0.8.5, but usable and stable enough so it has already been used by classes, or version 0.9.0alpha2 for the adventurous. They hope to have version 1.0 out "by Christmas".

The educational possibilities... are endless, but as so often likely to be hamstrung but institutional inertia. But just imagine if the teacher's task was to facilitate the student...

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Friday, November 16, 2007
  Learning with style!
Several things have got me thinking about human difference. One was our recent staff training day (the middle of the marking season is also "naturally" the prime season for extra meetings ;-)

We focused on "Learning Styles" with input from Dr Peter Gossman from AUT University's Centre for Educational and Professional Development. He introduced the concept of learning styles through a question about which medium we'd prefer to use to learn about a rotary engine. He showed us:
  • a series of pictures of a cut away of the motor at work
  • an animated GIF
  • a page of text describing its workings
  • a model which one could turn and watch
Interestingly our preferences for these correlated pretty well with our scores on a test of learning styles. He also had us do a VARK questionnaire. There are dozens of different approaches to measuring learning styles, and they do not agree among themselves, nor do all the tests match their respective theory, so this is a fun playground for empirical educationalists ;-)

However, the VARK approach is conceptually simple. People tend to prefer to learn in four modes:
  • Visual: diagrammes, pictures, colour coding...
  • Aural: the people who download my 5 Minute Bible podcasts presumably, and those who like to talk about what they are learning
  • Read/Write: the bookish ones, who write good notes in words (my notes were kind of mindmaps with few words)
  • Kinesthetic: the ones who fiddle with their pens while others are talking, and who walk about or wave their hands a lot...
Now of course everyone is a mixture, and some are more mixed less biased than others! But, still in our group of a dozen or so all four styles were evident. When he spoke about Kinesthetic learners being hard to cope with in the classroom, Miriam was sitting next to me clicking her pen, while I was rolling mine in my fingers - from what he said, he is lucky we and a few others weren't wandering round the room! (Kinesthetic learners do not like sitting still being talked to, or even with ;-)

This stuff was fascinating to me, I spent a decade in tertiary education (BSc, BA, PhD and a year of missionary training) and almost all of it was either oriented to the read/write learners (books, articles, essays...), the aural learners (lectures, discussions, arguments over a coffee...) with just a little for visual people (the occasional photo or diagramme). None, nada, zero, zilch was formally oriented to my learning style! Though since I passed, either the visual stuff (my second preference) helped a lot, or I managed to roll my pens enough to learn something...

Now it gets really interesting...

My teaching, has largely copied my teachers. It is VAR but little K. Actually I think its the reverse, RAVing nuts (since according to our time estimates we expect students to Read and Write much more than they Talk/Listen, and Visual material is still regarded as a nice extra added on to enrich the words!

Wouldn't it be nice if our classes catered for ALL our students!

Next year's Intro to the Bible at Carey will do a better job than most, my secondary style "visual" has always been "allowed" so the material is pretty visual already, and Karen (who has experience and training teaching children!) has developed some great exercises where the students actually do (as in move, kinesthetic experience, real doing) things...

So, which learning preference(s) are yours? (Do the test at the VARK site to find out it really only takes a few moments.)

Does the teaching/learning that you do/endured match your preferred style?

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Thanks to Jim I now have to bear all something of myself and reveal where I was and what I was doing various decades ago (at least that seems to be how this thing works).
  • 10 years ago we had been in NZ for 5 years, not yet fellow citizens with the saints, but well-established manuhiri, looking back a decade it seems strange that I've taught my last class in the University of Auckland, back then all Carey classes were University of Auckland classes, more recently I've been 50% Carey 50% School of Theology... a big change now that casts its shadow back to my memories of long ago...
  • 20 years ago I was vice-recteur of les Facultés Protestantes au Zaïre (the institution that has now added other faculties to the two we had then to become the
    Université Protestante au Congo)

So that's three countries or continents in the period under review, obviously I shall have to seek employment in either Asia or the Americas if this trend is to continue indeed I must be overdue for relocation ;-)

It is always difficult to know who to tag, in one's turn, on these occasions. I do not have a good record. Since northern hemisphere memes seem to propagate just as our academic year down here is in final panic mode I often pick on people who have already had a go (which somehow I missed amid the marking). However, here goes:

I hereby tag:
  • AKMA (because his blog always has interesting reminiscences and I'd be glad of more context)
  • Mark Brown (because his post Wonderful News!! gave us a tantalising fragment of the story)
  • Judy Redman (to ensure that another antipodean is disturbed at this disturbing time of year, and to make sure that all those North Americans are aware that the University of New England is naturally down here!)
  • AKMA has responded, with a much fuller account than mine (but I'm not ashamed, just marking!)
  • Judy has also responded, also giving a fascinating insight through glimpses into her life particularly into how far from "egalitarian" our society was still in the late 20th century (I'm still not too ashamed, because still half sunk in the tide of marking :(


Saturday, October 27, 2007
  How to sit exams
OK, at last its time, all the preparation and revision done (well almost all that's going to get done anyway ;-) the exam is tomorrow... What is left to do?

Photo David HC

  1. Prepare your survival kit:
    • two pens
    • two pencils (if it's an exam for which you have to draw graphs or whatever a sharpener too)
    • eraser
    • ruler
    • the essential damp face cloth in a transparent plastic bag to wipe your hands - they get sweaty in exams and to cool your fevered brow and neck. It is astonishing how refreshed you'll feel and how much more cool and calm too ;-)
    • Tictacs or if you are like me and 3 hours is too long between coffees caffeine tablets (but do NOT take too many, or you will swallow too many, NOT a good look!

    Photo Jack Hynes

  2. Before the exam:
    • plan how you will get there, if it is by public transport make sure you get an earlier bus or train, if by car allow extra time for parking - you do not want to arrive flustered in a hurry
    • the best advice comes from the famous Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy - Don't Panic!
    • really, do not panic, however bad it seems, you will survive, and if you keep calm pass with a better grade than you expect or deserve ;-)
  3. During the exam:
  4. Photo Mr.Tea

    • you planned how much time to allow for reading the paper and planning your answers (probably about 15mins, maybe 30mins for a 3 hour exam) and how long for each answer (30 mins?) write down the timetable - if you don't write it, you won't stick to it!
    • read the questions - SLOWLY - work out what they mean (really mean) you are NOT going to write a brain dump "all I know about..."
    • mark the questions you will answer
    • write headings for your answers - you can easily add more headings (the ones you forget now) later - but if they are written on the pages that count you already have some marks
    • sit back, stretch - hands locked behind head stretch your back and look at the ceiling, relax, do it again, wriggle a bit - this sounds daft, but you'll be surprised how calm it makes you feel, and calm is your friend ;-)
    • keep to the timetable, be ruthless, and start the next question
    • take regular breaks, use the cloth, do the stretch, relax, noticed how funny and worried everyone else looks - remember you are calm!
    • If (despite the timetable, and my advice above) the 15 minute warning comes before you have finished, try to fill out the headings that are left with some key points each... that way you can get most of the marks...

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Thursday, October 18, 2007
  Whose world is it anyway?

Photo by kitsu

Writing the post below, It's not what we're teaching, it's HOW we are teaching! Reminded me of Amber's post We’re Living in Their World Now. Her account introduces a teacher, incensed (and I think also in-sensed) at a student daring to email another teacher during her class:
“Well, that’s when I banned computers from my classroom,” she said smugly. “That fixed that problem up right quick.”“It’s probably inconvenient for them to have to use pen and paper but it’s just so rude for them not to be focused on my lecture!”.
Amber responded:
If liberal education is going to make progress and be of any value in this culture, it has to embrace the way people actually learn and consume information today, not they way they did in the days of Socrates, or even our parents. Or even, truly, us..
Amen! She also imagined a start-the-year speech introducing the new batch of students:
They were five years old when Quentin Tarantino gave us Pulp Fiction. They’ve been using the internet since elementary school. They’ve never seen a floppy disk. They barely remember VHS tapes, and have never gotten tangled up in an overly long phone cord because they grew up with cordless phones. They’ve never recorded songs off the radio: they’ve always been able to download them. These are this year’s freshmen.” I’m sure that hearing this, many professors will balk and stammer, and many will think, “God, what do we have in common with these kids?”.
But, we still expect students, old and young in the age of MSN and TXT to sit, often in ROWS, and look to the front, while someone "delivers information and ideas"!?

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  It's not what we're teaching, it's HOW we are teaching!

Photo by athena.

Have you ever thought how sterile and alien an environment the average classroom is?

Have you every wondered what those students were doing with their laptops in your class?

Most of what we teach is not what we intended to teach, it is the things we do and say and the way we do and say them...

Michael Wesch has done it again, you may remember the brilliant YouTube video "Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us" now he's posted on his blog a video on teaching and the Facebook generation. A Vision of Students Today can basically either be read as a list of facts and figures from a survey of students - "read as a list" very literally since it is both presented in the video and as a list on the blog.

This is sobering [the title of my post refers to an anti-drunkenness campaign on NZ TV - "it's not the drink, it's how we are drinking"] to think about. Do we really realise how out of touch the culture into which we are seeking to inculcate our students is from the "real world"?

Before several of you remind me that students [may] need to learn that culture, since ordered thought and book-like presentation are necessary [probably/maybe] to orderly and deep thinking, I'll note that I am seeking to teach, persuade students to read books, indeed one objection made by a colleague to a class I helped plan was that it would be too successful in getting students to read - they would read less in HIS class ;-0

More striking and visceral though, for me, was the opening of the video which sets the scene and poses the issue in an empty classroom! The environment in which we teach (onsite classes) is alien and sets up a model of information which is no longer true! Information is no longer scarce, no longer "out there", no longer even ordered and organised the same way. It is not what we teach, it is how we are teaching that is the problem!

What teaching in the 21st century needs is not "better/more use of technology" - though that would be nice, nor (surely people do not actually believe this!?) students who are "as well educated as we were", but simply new ways of doing and being. Many of our deep-rooted assumptions are enshrined in material forms, "class" rooms, whiteboards, "lecturers" and the like. So, what do we do to change how we are teaching?

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Sunday, October 14, 2007
  How to pass exams: Part One: Revision
For years I sat exams, my school had exams three times a year, and I did two separate "first degrees", since then I've spent most of my life setting exams for others to sit! So now it is time to write the definitive "How to pass exams" series ;-) Warning: this post only covers exams in Arts-type subjects, with a small number of essay-type questions, for advice on multi-choice and short answer exams and for science exams look elsewhere.

Photo from Jez

In this first part I'll cover revision, the next post will cover the exam itself. (I covered "How to avoid reading books" in a previous post...)

Stage One: Select topics

  • Do NOT try to revise everything - that might be good for you, even great for your future usefulness to an employer ;-) but it won't help much with passing the exam!
  • Identify likely topics: make a list of the topics that the exam is likely to cover. At this stage you are aiming for a longish list, but not one that includes unlikely topics. Sometimes you will even be told the topics the exam covers, if not try to identify the most important topics from what was covered in the classes and the required readings. The "learning outcomes" (or whatever your institution calls them) may help you identify topics also...
  • Select the topics you will prepare. You want a list about 60% longer than the number of questions in the exam (to allow for bets that don't win), so for a 4 question exam you need a list of 6-7 likely topics, choose the most "important" first.

Noddy GuideTM
Is my name for a short simple summary of a subject or topic.
A good noddy guide will be:
- brief,
- simple but
- complete
Ideally, however, it will be written by a real scholar - avoid people with an axe to grind!
For smaller subjects, and for topics, subject "dictionaries" and "encyclopedias" are often a good source (e.g. in Bible the Anchor Bible Dictionary contains thousands of topic level noddy guides it also has quite a few subject level guides).

Stage Two: Prepare notes

Choose a noddy guide, it is worth spending some time to get the right one - ideally you will do this during the term (but I was seldom that organised ;-). The goal of this stage is to prepare a page or two about each topic, how you do this is up to you, as is what you include, but aim to cover the topic thoroughly - check this against your "noddy guide". Finding a good noddy guide for the topic is a real help, it may well also suggest ways to organise the material and headings.

Double check that you have all the most important information and ideas on these sheets.

Now, having gathered the material, reduce each topic to notes that cover at most one sheet. Do NOT use full sentences and connected paragraphs, but bullet points and headings that summarise the essentials.

Photo from CraigBoney

Another good approach is to divide your pages for the initial notes into two-thirds and one third, then to use the bottom one third to prepare a draft of the one page notes. If you do it this way it is still a good idea to copy the final brief notes onto a separate page.

Stage Three: Read and re-read

Now you read and reread both sets of notes... As "the day" gets near focus on the short notes - you can even take these with you to the exam room door (opinions differ, some people, like me, prefer to cram to the last minute, others like my wife prefer to have a rest in the hours just before the exam - I take my rest the day before that gives a longer rest ;-) but find the pattern that suits you) some institutions expect this and have a waste bin near the door, if not just place them in a corner and if need be retrieve them after the exam.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007
  How to avoid reading books
Good students avoid reading books. To explain this I need to start by describing how average students read, so you will understand what I mean.

Many of us try to read wrong

The average student faced with a book reads it. They begin at the beginning (or more likely at chapter one - which as we shall see is never the right place to start), and slowly - but only sometimes surely - plough through until with a sigh they finish the chapter. Little information and few ideas are retained, the words have mysteriously passed from eye to brain, only to drain out through the pores of the skin to be join the other lost words in linguistic limbo. Such reading is the next best thing to useless. That is time spent in "uselessness" would have been invested more wisely, for wasted time often pays a surprising dividend, time spent reading this way seldom does!

Having described how one ought not to read books, and hinted at why, let's think about how to avoid reading books. The aim of the smart student is to read as little as possible but gain the maximum intellectual benefit from what one reads.

I've always been a slow reader, I try to cope by "reading smarter".

One way I do this is to "waste time" overviewing something before reading it:

Contents list

Even if it is only chapter titles, this page or two should give you a fair idea of what the book is about and how it is organised - a few moments (1mo is shorter than 1min but much longer than 10secs) spent well on the contents list means you can already make intelligent guesses about where to find what, and even join a conversation about the book without sounding totally stupid.

At this stage, if you glance at the foreword (that's the bit before the first chapter - it often tells you what the author though their book was about, and so is often vital reading!) - and the conclusion (yes like detective stories serious textbooks demand you read the ending early on!) you should be able to write a summary of the book in a few sentences - this is a skill worth practising for when you become a teacher, because then with all that marking you will no longer have the luxury of actually reading books ;-)

Go on, write the summary down! At the very worst you can look back at it later and shake your head over how naive you were before you understood the full complexity of the topic ;-)


Look first at beginnings, endings and headings to try to get an idea of what the each chapter is about and how the different parts fit in.

Then skip through the material, not actually "reading" but reading a bit here and there to firm up your idea of what it is about and where it is going. By now you should be able to join a conversation about the chapter and sound like you read it!

Essential "reading"
: they say a picture is worth 1000 words (1Kw in metric measures), well it is true a well chosen picture is worth 1Kw, though badly chosen pictures are worth-less (however, they are fun to look at, so worth wasting time on ;-) charts, tables and diagrams are usually (even when badly done) worth at least 1Kw - so spend time on them!

The right way to read is much like the way we "read" the newspaper or a magazine!

At this stage you should be able to write a brief summary of the chapter - yes, just like you did for the book earlier.

Important "bits"

Then read carefully the bits that you think matter most. Seldom (using this approach) will you actually "read" all of a chapter, but you will get a good idea of what is in it - often better than if you had scanned each of the words!

I find if I try to read page by page that it goes in my eyes and out my ears. If I try to read that way page after page it is all forgotten five minutes after I scanned the page. Such reading is a waste of time - don't do it!

Sometimes with this scheme you will end up reading nearly everything twice - but it will be a chapter or book that really matters. Sometimes you will end up not reading some pages at all - but you will know where they are if you need them "one day"!

In summary

Do a survey of the book, or chapter (much as suggested above - playing about till you know what it contains, and where things are) then actually read carefully the "bits" that matter to you.

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Friday, August 17, 2007
  Online meetings, PDA evangelism and more...
I spent an interesting evening yesterday with Chris (who is helping this year with PodBible - he'll be running a PodBible free lunch on Sunday, so if you are interested in seeing how the brainstorming of Think|Pray|Do ideas works email me and I'll send you details) and a friend of his who does web programming.

He is the guy behind the highly featured rich learning environment Collaboroom, which he briefly demonstrated... I can see so many ways to use such a tool, with shared whiteboard, the ability to present PPT live with audio or video of the presenter, file sharing, chat etc.

He also did the programming for an evangelism tool for PDAs
ProclaimIT "ProclaimIT is a multimedia presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." His problem with both products is similar (and familiar) no one wants to pay for things online, yet he has spent time (for ProclaimIT I guess months, for Collaboroom years) work and needs the income...

We need a different economy unless the cult of the free one day dies online, but after all these years I see no sign of that... but how does one connect the dots?

Dot One: producing software and content takes time - people need to eat, etc...
Dot Two: the culture of the free - we have to somehow operate a gift economy...
Judging by the increasingly hard sales pitches from long term shareware sellers like WinZip shareware does not work. Advertising may, but do we want to live in a 100% commercialised world, were even the gospel comes with advertising!? Maybe the answer is a return to patronage, but wouldn't it be nice if this could somehow be patronage of the masses rather than of the already rich and powerful!

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Monday, August 13, 2007
  Highlights from "University Publishing in a Digital Age"
The Ithaca University report University Publishing in a Digital Age is a potentially important landmark. Conducted by Laura Brown (former president of OUP USA), and Ithaka’s Strategic Services group, and sponsored financially by Ithaka and JSTOR, it has the potential to be heard by those who control purse strings.

I have only begun to digest it, so intend here simply to quote some of the phrases and ideas that seem to me to be most interesting and important (initially drawn from the "Executive Summary" as representing a distillation of the full content), and sometimes to comment on them. My goal is that those of my readers with an interest Which mainly means academics and students, or others with an interest in the future of academic publishing - which probably ought to mean most of my readers! either are stimulated to read the report for themselves and comment directly, or make comments here. The essential is that this report gets discussed!

Let's start at the beginning:
[u]niversities do not treat the publishing function as an important, mission-centric endeavor. Publishing generally receives little attention from senior leadership at universities and the result has been a scholarly publishing industry that many in the university community find to be increasingly out of step with the important values of the academy.
My take on the first point is that Universities (on the whole with a few, largely historic exceptions) have found presses to be good money-losing opportunities, and have failed to notice that "scaling back" their activity risks stultifying the whole academic scene through the commercialisation of academic publishing. I think my second point comments closely on their final careful phrase!

They note that academics "publish" in two ways, formally and through what they term "grey literature" (an odd phrase since the examples they give are far less grey than the average peer-reviewed monograph! But let's notice with the report what this means:
In the past decade, the range and importance of the latter has been dramatically expanded by information technology, as scholars increasingly turn to preprint servers, blogs, listservs, and institutional repositories, to share their work, ideas, data, opinions, and critiques. These forms of informal publication have become pervasive in the university and college environment. As scholars increasingly rely on these channels to share and find information, the boundaries between formal and informal publication will blur. These changes in the behavior of scholars will require changes in the approaches universities take to all kinds of publishing.
In other words "take your heads out of the sand people, academic publishing is going through a revolution - whether you like it or not", and that for me is the key point, the revolution WILL happen, the only question is who will be left standing afterwards!

What will this revolution look like:
Publishing in the future will look very different than it has looked in the past. Consumption patterns have already changed dramatically, as many scholars have increasingly begun to rely on electronic resources to get information that is useful to their research and teaching. Transformation on the creation and production sides is taking longer, but ultimately may have an even more profound impact on the way scholars work. Publishers have made progress putting their legacy content online, especially with journals. We believe the next stage will be the creation of new formats made possible by digital technologies, ultimately allowing scholars to work in deeply integrated electronic research and publishing environments that will enable real-time dissemination, collaboration, dynamically-updated content, and usage of new media.
Photo by uptick
Yes!PHX 6731

That was the good news. Now for the sting in the tail:
Administrators, librarians and presses each have a role to play (as do scholars, though this report is not directed at them).
Yes, people, this brave new world may be digital and electronic and cool, but lets make sure that scholars do not get their inky hands on the levers of power or horror of horrors learn to take control of their own work. We administrators, along with senior librarians who have learned across the years to "speak our language" are better able to decide the future of academic publishing, so we must make sure scholars do not worry their pointy heads about it. They might rock the boat.... At least I think that's what this sentence means:
Their efforts should be closely and intelligently connected to their campuses’ academic programs and priorities in order to ensure their relevancy and institutional commitment.

Noticed how relevancy and institutional commitment amount to much the same thing?

Oh! Important: yes. Revolutionary: certainly. But really deep down possibly counter-revolutionary... I intend to read more closely over the next few days (marking permitting) so watch this space!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007
  Wicked problems? Can theological teaching change?
Nichthus wrote a long post eulogising Sydney, and the conference he is/was at (I could not really work out what the conference was about ADBC or something, that and "PowerPoint slides break the rules of working memory.") But he began with a mention of ‘wicked problems’ and that wording kept me reading. Which is just as well, since for me the meat of the post was in the tail.

There he presents some ideas for the future of theological education. I think what he presents IS a wicked problem. The things Mark says are common sense and largely accepted in Pedagogy (some of them for decades but most theological educators are not trained teachers, and the structures we work in and our own educational experiences make us subject oriented, and so sadly not (despite our desires) student centred. So I'll repeat Mark's bullets and comment on them, from where I sit. He looks forward to:
Clearly defined student outcomes that focus on the development of the learner rather than content coverage (already a standard feature of instructional design).
The trick is that we need:
  • First: to get acedemics to really accept this, with their heads - many still think (deep deep down) that it IS all about content. Unless this conversion happens we will get no where. Even if this was what teachers were teaching teachers in the 70s. Most theological teachers are NOT teachers!
  • Second: someone to help us to put it into practice - we were taught, and most of us (since thanks to the baby boom after the war, most are frankly old) we have taught for many years, in a content-focused way, so - even when convinced - we need nudging and reminding not to slip back into bad habits.
Assessment tasks that encourage process rather than outcome, and that are flexible enough to permit reference to a variety of real world contexts. Linking students in with their real worlds as the context for theological and exegetical engagement (yes, already an established theme in general educational literature).
Here, many of us already agree in principle, so this task is easier. But again, since we were not taught this way, we need help. It is so much easier to set an essay from the list that old Dr Brown used.
Shifting the classroom and meeting experience from didactic teaching first, conversation and dialogue supplemental to conversation and dialogue first, didactic teaching supplemental (this could be achieved with a national resource-based approach).
From where I sit the key here is the little term "resource-based". The conversation thing is common, dialogue is present (not as often as we'd like, because hierarchical structures oppose it, but it occurs), but no way is current practice resource-based! This depends (I think) on the conversion mentioned above - if theological teachers really accepted that they teach students not subjects, people not content, really really believed that, then resourced-based teaching would be easy to encourage.
Viewing church history and established dogma as a resource, not as the subject. The subject is now, the student context, the today world. We do not need to reinvent; rather, we need to discover how we can make relevant. We must enter the future looking forwards, but still with a sense of continuing the Christian story and writing its current chapters in the context of what has been written before. To ignore theological tradition makes us ignorant and impoverished. To focus solely on it without reference to the current context makes us irrelevant and impotent.
And maybe this is the way into the whole conversion...
We must design with an appreciation of the gradual development of the learner. Yes, level 5 study ought to be more structured and foundational. Yes, levels 6 and 7 should be far more open-ended and conversational. Wisdom must guide our pedagogies. Faith in the Spirit’s work in developing the learner must be apparent.
Though, of course, this is the real key...

....but faith without works is dead ;-)


Related content:

Way back in June AKMA had a post I have been meaning to think more about What Is Theological Education Like? in which he contrasts two sorts of outcome of learning: objective/cognitive and affective/intuitive. Different sorts of endeavour require different mixes of these, so horrifyingly in advance of events he wrote:
In some fields, we expect practitioners to have mastered a field of vitally-important facts. I do not care how my civil engineer feels about cement, steel, and road
surfaces; I care urgently that the overpass stays up while I drive over (or under) it.
He notes the lack of consistency and clarity among people about the goals of theological education, and then writes:
For my part, I take the consequences of “untrue” theological practice as much more grievous than of, let's say, a very unpalatable, vacuous performance routine.
AKMA's position on this is strikingly similar to what Nichthus' writes from a different part odf the theo-ecclessial spectrum:
It’s great to embrace post-modernism and to engage in ‘free-field’ thinking. But we must remember that those participating in such discussion must first have a reliable framework and point of reference. Particularly in theological education, we need to take careful steps to create boundaries for participants. There are some things in evangelical Christianity that we simply must take for granted in a modernistic sense. The resurrection and Lordship of Jesus. The authority of Scripture. Salvation by faith, expressed through works. There is a core cluster of landmarks that we must have in place before embarking on theological dialogue. Novices can drown in an open sea of conversation.
I tend both to agree, and to dissagree! God knows (to quote Oscar Wilde out of context) I am with them in some things. And Mark's list looks about right. And yet... I wonder if even here the passion for truth needs to be preceded by a passion for people... Does conversation and dialogue even here precede understanding of why these truths (whatever list you or I hold as basic) are the ones and not others like them but different. The "why" is perhaps at least as important as the "what"!

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