Thursday, December 07, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
I've used Gliffy to produce this model, an heuristic metaphor that will help me envisage the structure of my thesis. What I want to do is this: as I write, I want to imagine a three-way dialogue among Torrance, Lonergan, and a "third conversation partner." That composite imaginary friend has been reading contemporary theologians (like Miroslav Volf, for example) whose approaches to "doing theology" have affinities to the "virtues & practices" model for which Alasdair MacIntyre contends.
Re: the genesis and history of the metaphor/model--I've enjoyed the work of Kevin Vanhoozer, most recently his The Drama of Doctrine, in which he reshapes (via intratextuality) the schema proposed by George Lindbeck in his The Nature of Doctrine. Lindbeck analyses (and finds wanting) what he calls cognitive-propositional and experiential-expressive theories of doctrine, putting forward instead his cultural-linguistic theory. Lindbeck makes specific reference to Lonergan--apparently, in the lecture series on which the book is based, Lonergan figured prominently, much more so than he does in the book. From the way he characterises Lonergan and from what he says about the cognitive-propositional perspective, I think I can "place" Lonergan and Torrance as I have on the diagram. I won't spend time looking at Lindbeck himself, but I want to interact with people like Vanhoozer who have recognised the importance of his critique and suggest that the insights of such scholars help to fill out some of what's lacking in both Lonergan and Torrance--particularly re: relationality. In that regard, I've found the work of F. LeRon Shults very helpful. There's one rather large hole in my diagram, of course--I haven't included an Eastern Orthodox conversation partner. I'm counting on Torrance's forays in that area, and those of my favourite recent scholars, to help fill the gap, and I'm also trying to work through David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite. The first half is incredibly (and, I'd say, unnecessarily) difficult, but I'm enjoying the second part, where he deals with theological loci, a lot. In places, it even begins to live up to its title, becoming aesthetically pleasing to the point of being doxological. His updating of the analogia entis has recently become the focus of an interesting discussion, and I think he's on to something with his contention that the concept actually provides the required distance/difference/otherness for thinking about the relationship between God and humankind, and that in that sense is not at all an appeal to likeness as either homoousios or "some 3rd thing in common," which he rightly recognises as illegitimate.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Then I opened my bloglines to surf for a bit when I got home, and found that the first two keynote speakers mentioned on the website advertising Online Educa, happening now in Berlin, are
- Hon. Prof. George Saitoti, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Kenya
- George Siemens, eLearnspace & Complexive Systems Inc., Canada
Monday, November 27, 2006
Contrast this from David Guretzki, who explores the fatal choice in Eden as "an act of ingratitude!":
I think of how small children (and maybe us more often than we want to
admit!) can have dozens of toys to choose from, but only want the one that
they do not have or have been kept from playing with. It is hard to imagine
that truly thankful persons would be tempted to covet that which has been
withheld from them. It is only when we are no longer thankful for that which
we already have that our ingratitude leads us to disobey God by coveting
that which we do not have. And it is then, perhaps, that we are most tempted
to get what we want in ways that we know can only be displeasing to God.
Perhaps on this Thanksgiving weekend, we need to be reminded that being
thankful is not just something good to do alongside all the other good
things we should do. Rather, being thankful might be the very essence of
what it means to live Christianly in a world where "getting more" is what we
are told life is all about. As Paul says in Colossians 2:6-7, "So then, just
as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and
built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and
overflowing with thankfulness." In Christ, we have all that we need. The
question is, Are we thankful for what we have received in him?
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Harry Daniels [Harry Daniels, Vygotsky and Pedagogy (London; New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2001), 42, 43] reviews contemporary debate in ed. psych. on how the individual learns in/from community: “The critical issue is with respect to whether the resources that a collective culture embodies are regarded as fixed offerings from which the individual selects or they constitute the starting points for negotiation.” This is strikingly similar to questions raised as we see Vanhoozer (Drama of Doctrine) reworking Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic theory in Nature of Doctrine. If we put this in the context of constructivism in (theological) education/epistemology, we can say that both view learners as constructing their understanding of texts, but Vanhoozer, drawing largely on John Webster, calls for conforming our understanding to the texts as to things-as-they-are: reading with the view to “dwelling within” the text and living the Christian life as performing the established texts; Lindbeck sees exactly the texts more as artefacts to be shaped in my construction of understanding (myself, my world, God). Torrance’s insistence on the isomorphism of ontology & epistemology is relevant here, too—we must allow the object of our study to dictate to us the categories & method by which we learn about it.
Daniels quotes G. Wells, Dialogic Inquiry: Toward a Sociocultural Practice and Theory of Education (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 322-23, and his analogy of learning to dance as it illustrates learning-in-community (participating in the dance—learning to dance by dancing with others, very much like Vanhoozer’s “dramatic performance” model), but implies that some may need individualised, directed intervention from an instructor to learn the basics, including the techniques, of dancing-as-it-ought-to-be-done. That caution is an important corrective for Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic theory, for Linda Zagzebski’s thesis re: virtue epistemology (that we learn to be virtuous and to act virtuously by observing virtuous examples), and also for constructivism itself. There are probably significant times when we learners need direct instruction in the established texts.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
Paul M. Churchland has proposed to explain learning of all types by means of a model that relies on the notion of neural "prototypes"; that is, neural networks are formed by a learning process in such a way that receptors are set to fire in response to particular patterns of stimulation. This understanding of brain function suggests that both moral behavior and application of moral concepts depend on building up specific sets of neuronal connections. He concludes that neurologically we are much better endowed to think in terms of virtues than rules.
She cites Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul: A Philosophical Journey into the Brain (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 144, 146.
I'm looking forward to checking out Churchland and comparing his claims to what George Siemens says in his new book.
W. Jay Wood, in his Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), put me on to Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski's work in Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry INto the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), and I've also checked out her Divine Motivation Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004) and her edited volume, Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 1993): lots to chew on here.
The best piece I've read on theological education is Craig Dykstra's "Reconceiving Practice in Theological Inquiry and Education in the Virtues and Practices volume noted above.
All of this is beginning to come together for me as I look at social constructivism; now if I can only get it out on paper . . .
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined on the web and really enjoying it. I'm coming to appreciate just how our world (and learning in that world) is being changed by the influence of the internet--or was it always thus and the internet has just cranked it up significantly?
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Keith Johnson at Generous Orthodoxy ThinkTank links to Gordon Graham’s convocation speech at Princeton Seminary last Tuesday, a very interesting exploration of theological education, especially for me since I'm finally getting around to reading David Kelsey's work on Athens/Berlin. Graham situates the heart of theological education in discipleship.
At the same blog, there's an entry by KevinHector entitled Five Theological Trends to Watch, of which the first is
- The resurgence of the analogia entis. The analogia entis or “analogy of being” has started getting a lot of attention, mainly from theologians who are interested in recovering a Catholic/Orthodox way of seeing the world (read: RO and its sympathizers). This trend corresponds with a not-to-be-missed AAR session: David Bentley Hart and George Hunsinger are scheduled to talk about this issue at the Barth Society meeting.
I'm a card-carrying Queen's student now, and the preliminary work I've been doing on my project has given me a good head start. I'm pleased that the main library has a good collection of Lonergan and Torrance is well represented at Union Theological College, and I received really good news about the education (social constructivism) aspect of my study (which I'll share later).
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
- Online expands options (high schools offer online course because otherwise they would not be available)
- Online learning is growing rapidly (30%/year)
- Online learning is effective (research shows that it is equal to or better than face-to-face)
- Online learning improves teaching
You take a teacher who’s been teaching for a few years, if they go through an online learning to teach online, they become a better teacher.
Patrick just said something that I think is very important. Please typically write more in an online learning environment than in face-to-face. This is important, because as people write about what they are learning, they tend to become more fluent in the issues of the topic.
The last 2 items are very interesting to me: teaching online makes one a better teacher, and writing (more) improves understanding.
Monday, May 08, 2006
I attended Denise & Carol's presentation on online roleplaying software, Diane's on building an institutional e-learning strategy, Gale's on ID as social negotiation, and the presentation from Ruth & co. on native studies. David Porter's keynote was very good; what he had to say resonates completely with the blog reading I've been doing lately. Cool to see that he's blogging.
What I enjoyed most, though, was the chance to re-connect with folks who are very much old friends, though I'm still a newcomer on the block. Denise has to be the queen of networking, and I have already benefited from her enthusiastic efforts to draw connections (more on that later, I hope). Denise, where's your website?
All in all, I came away so pleased with the warm welcome that I have always received from fellow SK IDs. (Yes, I created a group blog with that title; any SKIDs willing to try again?) Many, many thanks to all.
Monday, April 10, 2006
"A community needs to be nurtured and grown. It cannot be created, it must create itself over time. It can be fed and helped along, but for a true community to emerge takes time, understanding, and knowledge of models of growth."
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Almost makes me want to try a hybrid class--f2f & online--again (someday).
Saturday, April 01, 2006
My so-sweet bike was a Christmas gift from my family. Aren't they great?
Billy Abraham, in his "Theology in the University in a Hobbesian World," helped me see where my overly optimistic views need a corrective. He notes that higher ed in North America operates on a 2-track system where scholars either dismiss revelation claims & study them phenomenologically or allow those claims but confine them to confessional contexts. His position is that we just need to accept this and "get on with it"; his advice is to do your best work and expect opposition and derision. On the other hand, he says theology needs to regain its proper place in the university; because "divine revleation is a threshold concept," we need to "pursue everything in the light of its resources--and we don't know all that that involves until we get there." He appealed to John Webster's appeal that we "develop a theological theology." His prescription for theologians if we are to avoid a pedestrian "nice" (my word) naivete: 1. boldness and a recovery of nerve, 2. depth and epistemological self-awareness, 3. imagination and creativity. He quoted Sarah Coakley on cultivating the intellectual and spiritual virtues that transcend polarization, from an article in Christian Higher Learning, a journal that I haven't been able to find. Apparently, it's a Routledge publication, but there's nothing about it on their site.
Ellen Charry spoke of scientia leading to sapientia through love & empathy. I wish she had had time for what she wanted to say about empathy (an interest of mine, as is obvious from earlier posts here), but her focus on the connection between pedagogy and formation (teachers as shepherds) was very helpful. She maintains that Foucault's "power" framework is apt only in the absence of such formation and a focus on the awareness of the knower.
Darryl Tippens (provost of Pepperdine) tied the conference themes together with an application to Church of Christ higher ed institutions, emphasizing that a "vibrant articulation of Christian vision" ("telling the best story") is the most impportant characteristic needed in a Christian university. He also recommends a focus on research scholarship, a community rich in memory, a radical hospitality, a heart-centered ethos (in the Biblical sense), a sacramental welcoming of mystery, wisdom and discernment that includes modelling & building community, practical service, and the spiritual development of faculty.
All in all, very good stuff, and a good push on my way to getting down to business on my research project!
I shared a presentation slot with the library folks, and it was very encouraging to see them applying the NT concept of hospitality (in the sense of welcoming strangers and sending on itinerant teachers) to their work with students. In practical terms, that's meant making the reference desk a welcoming, working-together kind of space instead of the imposing gatekeeper fortress it is in many libraries. Also, to encourage conversation in a "Learning Commons," they've added a coffee bar to the library. Imagine--no more "Shush" and "You can't bring that in here!"
Another presenter explored the theological issues around an exploration of the blues--the kind of music we'd never hear in church but has to be taken into account in an understanding of the human condition, including our own.
A shared presentation on the place of formation in the Christian university, from the perspective of Orthodoxy and through the lens of Clement of Alexandria's metaphor of "statues of the Lord," had some very rich content for me to process, particularly Clement's description of "educated Christians" (David Kneip's "translation" of C's "gnostics") as "forming and creating themselves" as "assistant sculptors." Sounds like constructivism to me. :)
More on the keynote speakers later: Stan Hauerwas, William Abraham, Ellen Charry, Darryl Tippens.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
We left our house just after 4 am Tuesday and got to North Platte just after 7 pm. When we crossed the border from North to South Dakota, we started seeing the snow along the road and it got worse and worse. The roads were fine, but the snow! Here's a pic from Valentine, Nebraska:
Along the way, there were hundreds of meadowlarks on the shoulders of the highway. I wonder if they got stranded on their way north. We also counted 41 "human snowbirds" in their RVs migrating back north, some of whom were from Saskatchewan. We're safely in Abilene tonight (got here at 6:45 pm), and looking forward to checking out the city before the conference starts tomorrow.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Anyway . . . what George Siemens has been saying about connectivism was brought home to me this week when one day I got an email from George, who was so gracious as to read & comment on a paper I'm giving later this month, and another from Heidi Campbell, who was introduced to me by Dwight, a friend of mine who knew Heidi during her studies in Edinburgh. The same day, another friend who has been staying with us this week casually mentioned that she had met someone while in India a couple weeks ago, and we figured out that it was Dwight! George is from southern Manitoba, and friends who grew up in the same area visited with us a week ago. As a wonderful surprise, they sent me a beautiful pair of moccasins from northern Ontario, where they now live and we used to, and they arrived the same day as the emails I mentioned above. They at one time lived in northern Manitoba, in the town where Clarence Fisher is teaching, and he taught their kids (who are now both grown up--my, how time flies!).
In moves rather uncharacteristic of me, I had contacted both George and Heidi because they are working in a field that I'm fascinated by, and they have been so gracious. Many, many thanks to you, and to all whose blogs I have been learning so much from in the past while.