Grace

Oh, those days in the Garden!
Beauty incarnate!
Before the taste of knowledge,
The tarnishing of innocence.

Clouds of guilt and shame gather
Darkening the world
With the stain of evil.

What to do?
How to cope?
Will darkness win?

A child born
A light in the darkness
The taste of a new knowledge.

Bright, shining Hope
Open handed Faith
Deep flowing Love!

Taste and See!
Freedom freely given
The Gift of Grace!

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

DOCTOR: I mean, look, you’re human. And humans are so mortal.
BILL: Cheers.
DOCTOR: I mean, you pop like balloons. (Bill is slowly toppling backwards on the spaceship) I mean, one heart? It’s your most important organ, and you’ve no back up. It’s like a budget cut.
(Doctor Who, World Enough and Time, June 2017)

For those who don’t know the show it follows the adventures of The Doctor, a seemingly immortal renegade Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who lands in 1960s London in the TARDIS (his spacecraft, currently and perpetually stuck in the guise of a blue police call box). Over the last 54 years and twelve regenerations he has traveled throughout space and time with a plethora of mostly human, thoroughly mortal companions and shown just how big his two hearts are. In the context of the show and this particular episode, the above exchange is both comical and poignant. It is a moment from the Doctor’s memory as he’s watching Bill topple over dying after being shot through the chest, a moment in which Bill has just asked him to never let her die-something that not even he can guarantee.

I’ve been thinking about this exchange a lot over the last week.

The heart-the one organ in the human body that you cannot live without! As the Doctor states, we’ve no backup. When our heart stops beating our body stops functioning. On Wednesday, August 2, my father had surgery to implant an ICD (an internal defibrillator/pacemaker combo) in order to help his one heart (which is as big as all outdoors) maintain and hopefully improve its function. I had a great deal of time to think about the importance of the heart while he was in surgery and in the days since.

Our family has had its share of heart related issues over the years. My mother was born with a heart murmur that was not discovered until adulthood. It led to my parent’s first child being stillborn and my being premature by weight (due to the medication my mom was taking while pregnant with me). It also led to my mother giving me and my life to God months before I was born. Her mother died of a massive heart attack a few years before I was born. My father had a heart attack in 1991, which, it seems, started us on the path to this recent surgery. He also suffered a cardiac arrest, thankfully while sitting in the ER, in 2015. His father died of cardiovascular collapse. And we seem to have a familial propensity to high blood pressure.

Our hearts often fail us when we need them most. We are so very mortal! Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” We must protect our hearts, for without them we are dry and dead both literally and figuratively. Heart health is vital to our physical and spiritual existence. So we must partake of all available opportunities set before us in the ways of medical and spiritual guidance to protect and maintain that health.

heart_rate_by_shorty6636-d33l3us1
I thank God for the good works and steady hands of my father’s cardiologist and for His steadfast love and support at all times.

Breath of Life

Breath of Life

Why must we see fault and lay blame on anything and everything EXCEPT what is truly at fault and deserves the blame? It’s not the guns, it’s not the stated belief system, it’s not where you or I or the shooter came from or our ancestry! It’s the spirit of fear, hatred, anger, spite and difference and the violence that spirit incites in the hearts and minds of men. I may never understand hatred and violence, but I do understand this simple fact: very few of us actually, truly “love our neighbors as ourselves”!

I wrote the statement above a year ago today as a way to process the senseless deaths of 49 beautiful souls; 49 children of God. I didn’t know a single one of them and yet my world was and is diminished by their loss. In the year since, more souls from Syrian refugees and Coptic Christians to Nice and Westminster, from Manchester to London, from Somalia to the Philippines, from one end of America to the other have been lost to senseless fear, hatred and violence. Again, I haven’t personally known a single soul lost to this violence and yet my world is diminished.

We grow up understanding that the opposite of love is hate, that hate is the feeling, force or spirit we need to fight and protect ourselves against. Perhaps, but in the timeless words of that great philosopher, Yoda: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” Fear. Fear is far more dangerous, far more deadly. Fear leads us to flee, to do stupid things, to anger and hatred, to travel the path of the Dark Side. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear is the spirit we need to fight and protect ourselves from. I don’t mean fear as we feel in the fear of heights or spiders, although those fears can lead us to do stupid things that could get us hurt or killed. I don’t even mean the fear of the unknown. We can handle those fears and work through them. What of the fear of what we think we know? What of the fears we are taught and believe even when evidence proves otherwise? What of the fear of ourselves? These are the fears we need to fight. This is the spirit that is the antithesis of love.

Fear is common, ordinary, vulgar, reactionary. Love, true unabashed unconditional love, is uncommon, extraordinary, refined, revolutionary. Love is the rainbow in the sky after a deluge. Love is the beauty of a clear blue sky. Love is the purring of a cat on your lap or the wag of the dog’s tail as you walk in the door after a long day at work. Love is a heart open to the light and beauty held in the darkest of fears. Love is a man born for the sole purpose of granting us grace for the sins borne of our fears. Love is faith in that grace sight unseen. Love is the breath of life.

Journey

A great teacher once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

 

My journey begins

The mazes of my mind pulling at me with the fingers of memory,

Calling to me with the voices of ages past.

My feet search in the darkness for the first step

Of the spiral staircase loretto-chapel-stairs

Leading downward away from, nay, TOWARD

A deeper knowledge!

 

I find the railing

Gently tracing the turning of the wood with my fingertips

As I step down

Searching, seeking the next step

From the darkness of the mind’s maze

Into the light!

 

The light whispers to me

The still, small voice

Of Love.

I strain to hear

Forced to travel on

Deeper down, into the depths

Searching, seeking the next step.

 

Deeper still I travel.

The whisper now a gentle hum surrounding,

Wait, WITHIN me!

My heart beats in time with the hum.

 

I turn down the spiral

Into the beating of my heart.

I reach the last step.

Darkness pushed back by light.

The labyrinth of my soul spread out before me

Encircled and encircling in LOVE!70fae49478696bc3ed50f944c55d0063

Love

1 Corinthians 13

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I am a creature of love. I was created in love, sustained by love, given to God through love, born to joy, and raised by love. I give love. I speak in love. I am love. Or at the very least I try. Real, unabashed, unconditional love.

I have known for many years that I pick up on the emotions of others or just out of the air quite easily-good, bad or indifferent. To say that this is taxing is an understatement. However, it is a large part of who I am, of how I react and interact with my world, of what I learn and how I learn it. It makes me me and is informed by my faith, hope and love. Yet, I do have my limits. Recently I have been struggling to work with what is coming at me at an almost constant pace. I am constantly annoyed, I snap at the drop of a hat over the simplest of things, I sense a dark cloud following me around…and I don’t like it! It’s not me! I’m not my happy, centered self and I aim to change it!

I know that the world is on the brink, that the way of this current world is hatred, anger and divisiveness. I know that there are forces working to eradicate all that has been created, produced and done in love. I know that many feel the only road to take to fix this trend is to use the same tactics being used against them. As President Trump stated the US needed to do earlier this week, many are fighting fire with fire, fear with fear, hatred with hatred, anger with anger, and divisiveness with divisiveness. We are no longer working for a common goal, toward the common good, with the better angels of our nature. We find it easier to work for ourselves, toward what is good for “me”, and against our better angels. We are envious, boastful, proud, dishonorable and dishonoring, self-seeking and self-serving, easily angered, and oh boy do we ever keep records of wrongs! I can no longer participate in this faithless, hopeless, loveless vision of the world. I must return to the arms of love!

Mahatma Gandhi, one of my favorite peacemakers, once said “be the change you want to see in the world.” This is my intention-One person, one moment, one act of love at a time in my little corner of the world. How is this going to help a world in crisis? How is this going to fix the great big problems we face? LOVE! Love grows mustard seeds in the worst of conditions, love moves mountains, and love conquers all! Simple acts of love-openly receiving unsolicited hugs from students who may only see love at school, saying “thank you” to waitresses and store clerks who rarely hear it, giving of myself and my time FOR the benefit of something or someone rather than against, paying and praying it forward. It will not be a quick or easy way to change the world, but it will be my way for “love is patient, love is kind.”

Shared knowledge

I have learned so much from my colleagues over the course of this class and reading through the blogs each week. We all come from different backgrounds and have different goals, which creates a vibrant community of thinkers about technology and its use in the classroom. This has just been amplified by the course content and other assignments. The blog assignments have been a very eye-opening and interesting learning experience. I have found so many new and interesting technologies and thoughts about how to use technology in education that choosing three was difficult. The three I have chosen come from a variety of ideas about and uses for technology.

First, I was intrigued by an application mentioned by Angela Brockman on January 18th (http://angelalovesschool.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/new-applications-for-the-esl-classroom/) called World Lens. With World Lens, ESL students are able to translate the words on street signs or other signs by taking pictures from their cell phones, tablets or iPods. I find this to be a very excellent and useful learning tool to both engage and interest students in their own learning, creating self-directed/directing learners. As Angela mentioned in her post, students become excited and engaged when they are able to learn and grow independently and then show that skill off. World Lens allows them to do this. Also, as Angela mentioned, this application lends itself to class activities such as scavenger hunts. Not only does it lend itself to scavenger hunts where ESL students translate signs and then do what they say (Brockman, 2013) it also lends itself to a history class by combining the translation aspect with studying history. This is how I would use it in my class. As I mentioned in my comment to her, I would use World Lens to create a scavenger hunt activity looking at historical landmarks and markers both to engage students in the history of the area and to help students understand what the markers are saying. By using cellphones and tablets, World Lens makes learning mobile, fun and collaborative. Another way I would use this application is to allow students to find signs that confuse them and then bring in the pictures and translations for discussion. By discussing the signs and the translations we will be able to work as a group to clear any idiomatic misunderstandings. This is important because it is idiomatic language that most confuses ESL students.

Second, I was intrigued by Dennie Coombs-Norman’s discussion of Interactive Whiteboards from January 19th (http://educator1966.blogspot.com/2013/01/emerging-rechnmologies-blogweek-2.html). Interactive Whiteboards open learning by making it collaborative and creative. They offer the ability to work on a particular problem/concept while looking up web-based information regarding that problem/concept. They also allow both students and teachers the ability to be as creative as possible in order to open learning by lowering technological barriers (Richardson, 2010). Technology can either create or remove barriers and the collaboration and creativity of whiteboards will help to remove barriers. With the use of whiteboards in my classroom I can create interactive and creative activities that both build on and challenge my students’ skills and understanding of concepts-activities such as collaborative crosswords to learn vocabulary or video presentations. Whiteboards also allow me to build on and challenge my skills and understanding through creating multisensory activities and learning modules. Although whiteboards are relatively simple to use and create content for, there is still a learning curve for both myself and my students as there is for many technologies. By lowering technological barriers through creativity and collaboration, whiteboards engage learners in the endeavor and make learning fun.

Third, I was intrigued by Flat World Knowledge (http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/) as mentioned by Valerie Richards on February 16th (http://vrichards1980.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/educ-6177-educational-technologies-blog-open-and-distance-education-technologies/). Flat World Knowledge is an open license virtual textbook site that allows students to purchase cheap print copies of textbooks (as low as $30) or access free copies online and instructors the option to change and update textbook content in order to suit the course and how they teach. I was impressed with this site as a student because I remember paying huge sums just for used textbooks during my undergraduate days. As an educator, I am struck by the ability to update and customize textbook content to suit my course needs. Learning and a student’s engagement in it can be complicated by outside frustrations like the price of textbooks this site eliminates that frustration. As I went through the site I was impressed by the fact that there are instructors at my own college currently using the site and saving students and their respective departments thousands of dollars in textbook costs. This is highly important right now as my school is like so many working through the economic downturn and still trying to provide a high quality education to our students. Flat World Knowledge will allow me to customize the textbook to fit my course content rather than fitting my course content around a textbook I might not entirely like or am forced to use. It will also save my students money by letting them access the free online copy or pay for relatively cheap print copies. This type of technology is a great resource for low income communities or schools with limited budgets.

References

www.eschoolnews.com

http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Teich, Anne (200(. Interactive Whiteboards Enhance Classroom Instruction and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.neamb.com.

Digital citizenship and netiquette in our online world

Mike Ribble defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use” (2013). Just like community, national and global citizenship, digital citizenship requires a sense of responsibility and care for yourself and for others in your digital community. These are not necessarily skills we are born with. They are often skills that must be taught and continually reinforced over time. This is what happens as parents and others involved in a child’s life instill morals and ethics in that child. When new technologies come up we often have to teach ourselves or help each other learn the ropes and how to navigate this new landscape. Are the rules and guidelines the same as when we step out of the digital world? Is there a new set of morals that need to be followed? There are any number of websites and online tutorials available to answer these questions. One of those websites is the digital citizenship page of www.nisd.net.

The nisd page follows Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship grouped into three groups similar to his REPs model. The groups are: School environment and Student Behavior (digital rights and responsibilities, digital communication, digital access, digital etiquette, digital security), Student Learning and Academic Performance (digital literacy, digital law), and Student Life Outside the School Environment (digital health and wellness, digital commerce). While this site is primarily made for K-12 educators, there are lesson plans, activities and ideas that can certainly be modified for use with adult learners. They will also be able to take many of these activities and videos back to their families and show them to their children thereby paying their learning forward.  Whether my students are in my class or out in public taking care of their daily business they will have to learn how to handle their digital lives just as they do their offline lives so incorporating the nisd lesson plans into our everyday technological learning will help to make it a seamless transition and give us all the skills necessary to take that learning back to our families.

Just as we have rules of etiquette that we follow as responsible and polite individuals in the offline world, we must also follow rules of etiquette online. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines netiquette as “etiquette governing communication on the Internet”. In most cases this includes following an online version of the Golden Rule: Do unto others online as you would have done unto you. Following good netiquette will help you become a good digital citizen and like digital citizenship there are any number of websites that give a student somewhere to start.  The following websites are good places to start: http://learning.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=4, http://www.networketiquette.net/netiquette.htm and http://suite101.com/article/netiquette-guidelines-a26615. Each of these sites offers something different to the educator and the learner and takes the netiquette discussion in a different direction. Yet each is an excellent source of information. The Colorado State University page borrows the core rules from Virginia Shea’s 1994 book entitled Netiquette. Looking at these 10 rules learners will be reminded that everything starts with remembering there is another human being at the other end of any online communication. That is one of the most important things that can be taught about following good netiquette as good digital citizens. The rules listed on the Colorado State page are similar to those found on the suite101.com website, yet the suite101.com list makes learning the information fun and entertaining and reminds the learner that it is important to use emoticons in order to convey emotions that are otherwise difficult to recognize in written communication. The network etiquette page employs the most entertainment value in order to get the necessity for good netiquette across to those viewing the website. It also defines netiquette by domain making it easy for the learner to understand what is most important in that domain. It even includes an online education definition that is very helpful for those of us who are looking to teach online. What makes this website even more interesting and fun is the netiquette videos that are included. All of these websites are places I would go to share netiquette information with my students and the videos on the network etiquette page will help break the ice and make it a fun topic to discuss. Each page will also create a space where dialogue and learning can take place regarding what is different between one area and another and how culture and domain might change the rules.

http://learning.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=4

http://www.networketiquette.net/netiquette.htm

http://www.nisd.net/digitalcitizen/

http://suite101.com/article/netiquette-guidelines-a26615

Netiquette. (n.d.).  In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/netiquette

Ribble, M. (2013). Nine elements: Nine themes of digital citizenship. Retrieved from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html