Archives For March 2016

Teaching that Guarentees LearningTeaching is not teaching without a sure grasp of what it means to learn. Or, at least, that’s what I’m learning.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the torrential downpour of, “how to’’, “when to”, “10 things you must do”, “five things you should do.” […and the lists go on and on]

Whilst some of these lists are good, there is a limit to them. This includes the fact that they’re largely compiled by Westerners. Most contain a predominantly Western perspective built on tried and true concrete concepts about education.

These, however, are also haunted by a variety of legislating, and the enforcement of ever-changing approaches to education. (Some of which is thrown about by the ‘’revolutionary’’ whims and fads of a minority among the tenured academia, and which are, sometimes, to quickly approved by the approval ratings hungry, bureaucratic class.)

For those parenthesized reasons, it’s important to hear beyond the Westernized realm from time to time.

In his 2012 book ‘Teaching That Guarantees Learning’, Nigerian teacher, Dr. Obed Onwuegbu, writes:

‘Teachers are employed for three reasons. To set the goal, select and arrange factors and guide the learner to learn. The student can learn without the teacher if proper arrangement is in place.’[i]

For Onwuegbu, teaching is about the setting up of a learning environment. The teacher takes into account the form and content of the material, and then facilitates the way forward. This involves identifying primary “factors.” Then by enabling these primary factors, such as the learning environment and learning tools, an interest in learning is stimulated. Each factor or “method of delivery” plays a key role in empowering the student’s education.

Here Onwuegbu attempts an explanation:

‘Let me illustrate. Onwuegbu is my last name. Invariably Americans ask me to teach them how to pronounce it. Left on their own they say On-wu-eg-bu. Then they struggle but almost never succeed to say Onwu- egbu, because there are six instead of eight letters and two syllables instead of four in the name. That “struggle” from pronouncing four syllables On-wu-eg-bu to two syllables Onwu-egbu is what I refer to as process and only the learner can experience it.[ii]

By focusing on facilitating the primary factors that empower learning and moving to a facilitators position in the learning process, the teacher removes any chance of becoming an obstacle to the student’s learning experience. The responsibility to learn what is taught is then placed in the right order, first, on the learner and secondly, on the teacher.

Onwuegbu’s approach has weight.

‘The teacher arranges the factors before the learners walk into the classroom. Imbedded in the arrangement is the objective of the lesson. The teacher introduces the learner to the goal and the arrangement, i.e. how to achieve the goal before the learner interacts with the factors. At this stage, the student is present. He has been introduced to both the goal and the means of achieving it. The facilitator waits and watches to help. He reinforces or corrects. That is teaching. The result is learning.’[iii]

Instead of rushing towards progress at the expense of process, Onwuegbu places progress and process on the same line. Process is then placed before progress, whilst progress still rightly maintains a position of importance. In short, Onwu-egbu, if I’m reading him correctly, aims to bring teachers back to a place where “the means” are put back before “the end.”

This is akin to merchandising. The seller sets up a display. In retail jargon it’s what’s called a “silent” salesman. From there the customer learns about the product both with and without the sales staff. This invokes a learning experience whereby the customer gets an hands-on, up close and personal encounter with the product in the context ascribed to it by its producer. The display is designed to create interest and interaction.

According to Onwu-egbu,

‘Identifying the factor per se is not enough. For example, it is not merely choosing a film or going to the library, but it is choosing the right film and books, and knowing what, how and when to use them. It is not going to the library alone, but knowing what section, books, topics, pages, questions and answers or even other materials the learners may need to facilitate learning.[iv]

In a similar way to a merchandiser, the teacher functions as a manager of the process and progress of a students learning. By dressing up the educational environment with exciting and interesting material the teacher has effectively merchandised the learning environment. Thus creating “silent educators” by which the student can meaningfully interact.

‘Whatever arrangement the teachers make must be finished before the students enter to interact with the factors. One arrangement takes about eighty to eighty-five percent of the teacher’s teaching time. The remaining fifteen to twenty percent of teaching time is used to reinforce and guide the students while they interact with the factors‘ [v]

What Onwuegbu isn’t advocating is the abdication of teacher responsibility or abolition of teachers.

What he is advocating is liberation from a sort of curriculum purgatory; a gulag. Where constrained creativity incites boredom; where meaning and purpose is easily lost. A place where  zero incentive is given and indifference is propagated en masse. “Silent educators” still require preparation; ground work, creativity, clear communication and reviews.  I.e.: direction, vision and management. The teacher is freed to teach. Not robotically, but dynamically. Exercising freedom in limitation, unchained from an empty and static routine.

Onwuegbu writes,

 ‘‘I know that teachers use films when they teach in the U.S.A. That is a luxury I did not have throughout my years as a student or teacher in Nigeria. I was lucky if I had a picture. My granddaughter in fifth grade complained about a film her class watched. It seemed the film babysat the class for the teacher […] For this arrangement to succeed, the lesson should last for more than the usual fifty minutes.[Then] the teacher introduces the lesson and plans for the students’ interaction […] A different arrangement should be made for every lesson. This is one of the reasons the current number of lessons per day must give way to a new time arrangement. There must be less number of lessons, and more time for every lesson. Time and tests will no longer control classroom activities.’ [vi]

I’m in agreement with Onwuegbu’s main theme about process and progress. I’m on board with his idea of teaching being about ‘facilitating the factors’. As for the other points he makes, I need a little longer to really think about them. For example what are the consequences of not having tests? Of restructuring grade tiers, and how do we avoid real-time restrictions if we’re to extend lesson times?

Overall, his research and experience gives wider credibility to the concept that the world is our classroom:

Since: ‘teaching did not start in schools.’

His conclusions are reassuring. Facilitating eliminates the temptation to see teachers and learning tools as baby sitters. The teacher still has to teach. As a facilitator the teacher or parent/s cannot escape his or her own leadership role in the learning process or the progress of the learner.

Teachers are an essential part of the interwoven fabric of factors. Onwuegbu’s idea that the function of a teacher, is that of a facilitator, has the potential to reform Western societies notion of what a teacher is and what a teacher does.

 ‘If there is one word, which describes learning, it is process. Hence, to teach is to enhance and facilitate that process. The teacher is the facilitator. The function of education is to do everything to promote the process.’[vii]

 

Source:

[i] Onwuegbu, O.I. 2012, Teaching that Guarantees Learning (Loc. 48-49) Kindle Ed.Loc. 825-827

[ii] Ibid, Loc. 775-782

[iii] Ibid, Loc.823-824

[iv] Ibid, Loc. 114-117

[v] Ibid, Loc. 201-204

[vi] Ibid, Loc. 251-252

[vii] Ibid, Loc. 48-49

This weekend is about a monumental moment in time. No matter how hard we try to evade it, it still confronts us with a monumental Word, whose scarred reach, stretches further into the hearts of men and women, than is at times fathomable.

Will all that will be written over the course of this Easter weekend, grasp the weight of the events it represents? Through all the scripted thoughts, edited paragraphs and literary considerations, can any of us really claim to understand the gravitas of those three days?

Can we even truly claim to have a superior insight over against those who not only found themselves swept up in those events, but came to give their lives for them? Can we really afford to discount, detach and de-construct the accounts, seeking to reduce our own responsibility to hear and act, by cheapening theirs? This weekend, what if we were to actually hear and see what and who stands before us? What if we trimmed off the fashionable arrogance and could hear, then see what and who actually stood before them?

That, Word became flesh, testifies to an event. This event both comforts and terrifies us.  By it God speaks. He freely chooses to transform the world; speaking life into deserts and renewing deserted places. By this decision the creature is realigned; reconciled; physically embraced by its creator. It is by this Word that we are taught of how humanities attempts to conquer, mountain, monster and myth, will not succeed if it includes the corrupted primal quest to supersede God. God cannot be devoured or surpassed.

He is free and in His freedom He chooses to act in His Son for us, on behalf of us to be with us. Inviting us to be with Him. We see this thundering throughout history and we hear this resolutely spoken throughout the biblical text:

“I will be your God and you shall be my people.”

 

Cross Easter 25th March 2016

 

As Karl Barth, in 1942, wrote:

‘And God has chosen this man in the election of Jesus Christ. It is the lost son of man who is partner of the electing God in this covenant […] God does not merely give Himself up to the risk and menace, but He exposes Himself to the actual onslaught and grasp of evil.
Man cannot evade his own responsibility by complaining that God required too much of him, for what God required of Himself on man’s behalf is infinitely greater than what He required of man.
The exchange which took place on Golgotha, when God chose as His throne the malefactor’s cross, when the Son of God bore what the son of man ought to have borne, took place once and for all in fulfilment of God’s eternal will, and it can never be reversed. There is no condemnation-literally none-for those that are in Christ Jesus.
For this reason faith in the divine decision (predestination) as such and per se means faith in the non-rejection of man, or disbelief in his rejection. Man is not rejected. In God’s eternal purpose it is God Himself who is rejected in His Son.  The self-giving of God consists, the giving and sending of His Son is fulfilled, in the fact that He is rejected in order that we might not be rejected.
Predestination means that from all eternity God has determined upon man’s acquittal at His own cost. It means that God has ordained that in the place of the one acquitted He Himself should be perishing and abandoned and rejected – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ [i]

 

For the duration of this weekend our attention is held, in remembrance, of the Word which calls us to pull back from devouring each other. The call to repentance and the acknowledgement that we cannot do it alone.

For the duration of this weekend our hearts are held to attention, as the sound of nails slamming through the hands of Jesus Christ, echo down to us through history.

For the duration of this weekend, the world is called to attention. Not just to remember, but to anticipate His answer and challenge, decisively spoken on day three.

He who will be, was. He who was, is.

Maranatha!


[i] Barth, K. 1942 CD.II/2 The Doctrine of God: The Election of Jesus Christ, Hendrickson Publishers, (p.167)

In a letter, dated December 23, 1955, Barth sets out to (reluctantly) esteem one of his musical heroes for a newspaper. The letter speaks for itself, so there’s no real need for a deep exposition. The only thing that needs qualifying is the concluding statement by Barth, where he speaks figuratively of imagining angels worshiping with Bach, while at work, and then later Mozart, as they gathered together. Barth writes,

‘Mozart’s music is not, in contrast to that of Bach, a message, and not in contrast to that of Beethoven, a personal confession. He does not reveal in his music any doctrine and certainly not himself […]
Mozart does not wish to say anything: he just sings and sounds. Thus he does not force anything on the listener, does not demand that he make any decisions or take any positions; he simply leaves him free. Doubtless the enjoyment he gives begins with our accepting that […]
He thought of death daily, as his works plainly reveal. But he does not dwell on it unduly; he merely lets us discover it. Nor does  he will to proclaim the praise of God. he just does it – precisely in that humility in which he himself is, so to speak, only the instrument with which he allows is to hear what he hears: what surges at him from God’s creation, what rises in him, and must proceed from him […]
Mozart’s sacred music, too, is heard to originate in a region from which vantage point God and the world are certainly not to be judged identical, but which does allow the church and world (these are not to be interchanged) to be recognizable and recognized in their merely relative difference, in their ultimate togetherness: both emanating from God, both going back to God.[i]’

Out of necessity, I’ve redacted some of his letter to fit the 3:22 min instrumental. In doing so, I’ve stuck to Barth’s main theme: gratitude for Mozart. As it is, it’s neat and, I think, communicates well. Barth might not have been a musician, however, it’s clear from the melody and rhythm in his own writing, that he had the ear, heart and mind of one.

Can Karl Barth’s words to Mozart be put to music?

My tentative answer is, yes.


Source:

[i] Barth, K. 1956, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Wipf & Stock Publishers (pp.19-23) & (pp.37-40)

Music is my own.

facade of compassion 2Positive advances in communications technology drive the functionality of information delivery like a viaduct.

Information is carried along at a fast pace. Which means that we’ve found ourselves living in an era of information deluge. Words, thoughts and opinions rain down on us from everywhere.

In this downpour, writers can be too easily tempted to reach for the fastest way to keep people reading their work.However, putting something together that’s worth a reader’s time, takes time.

In this environment, writing can be hard. Gimmicks and stunts; shock and awe, are all potential roads writers can go down.Simply because time poor people need fast facts, fast entertainment and fast news.

Selling drama buys sympathy, or in this day and age, at least a like, share or a twenty-four hour hashtag trend, triggered by a bubbly questionable logic that says, “like, wow! hashtag riots really do make a difference.”

It’s safe to say that we now live in a tabloid age. Words are thrown like darts at constructed targets of opportunity. For instance, people comment in ways they never would if the conversation they were part of was held face to face in a physical public forum. We would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have that one “friend” on social media, who always seems to take their own level of intelligence more seriously than others.

Think of the beauty and vibrancy of the democratic process presently underway in America. To an Australian, it’s portrayed as a circus. Partly because, no doubt, some of it is. What’s not portrayed is the fact that most of this circus is concocted. It’s not real.

As a result, the vibrancy of the American democratic process is overlooked. The beauty of it is pushed to the sidelines. For sure, the system is in need of reform. But guess what? Review and reforms are part of adult life. They’re also a chief reason for why democracies still exist.

For the most part, the gratitude that should stem from an awareness of what we still have, is subsumed by a deep anxiety about what we’re told the other side wants to take from us.  As a consequence, thankfulness for having such responsible freedoms and a responsibility to uphold those responsible freedoms becomes pretty much non-existent. Apathy and abdication from the democratic process soon follows. If the people aren’t interested in Governments, Governments will govern outside the interests of the people.

Like writing, good democracy takes time and effort. Participation in a physical public forum requires planning. It involves preparing beforehand what you are going to ask, say or discuss. Unlike the psuedoisms of the virtual realm, decorum and respect would trump temptation to make off the cuff comments, concocted to perform a duty, not to the community involved in that forum, but to the ego of the person commenting.

Their words can penetrate with no real benefit, but to that of the owner of the ego. Who is, sadly, sometimes even celebrated by followers or friends who also enjoyed seeing a target hit by a cheap shot. As a result, words are reduced to noise. This noise is amplified by the commerce of Social Media and the superficial, transactional relationships upheld by it. Which is why the mechanic [for the sake of the bottom line] is programmed to sell an idea of community as if it’s the real thing.

This is something foreseen in the lamentations of Jean Bethke Elshtain[i], who, not without her critics, acknowledged in 1995 and later, 2012, that the trajectory of technology, empowers mobs via technology, to hinder participation in the democratic process.  For Elshtain, the inevitable outcome is the decline of democratic debate, authentic participation and therefore democracy. Of which there now exists numerous examples.

Elshtain was right to call this out. Wading through the density of information and navigating the sometimes manipulative statements, images, etc. Sometimes feels like wading through stagnating bloated rivers. The raft people climb onto in order to escape these rising waters, however, is dangerously overloaded on one-side.

As Elshtain noted,

‘we often hear more about the folly of the right, than we do of the left.’[ii]

Cynicism abounds. Responsible commentary is paralyzed by the attraction of sensationalism. Under the dark smile of Machiavellian logic, certain elements, through a facade of compassion seek dominance, if not total rule. Fear of offense and that fear (come commodity), is utilized by the few to control the many.

We can begin to fix this by seeing that our reliance on technology cannot replace the need for careful comment and face to face interaction. Being physically present and visible in the democratic forum upholds the democratic forum.  It is the rock of genuine relationship. All of which requires communication – the respect for representation, convention, conversation, and planning; elements that not only contribute to the idea of democracy, but are part of the very fabric of real democracy.

Democracy takes time. It means wading through the hard stuff. Asking the difficult questions and then allowing room for those questions to be answered.  If the way forward for democracy is to be taken seriously, it begins with deep gratitude, not an unruly anxiety.

As an American friend said to me a few weeks ago:

 “Well, at least we still get to vote on something.”

Source:

[i] Elshtain, J.B, 1995 Democracy on trial, (Amazon)

[ii] State of Democracy: Maxwell School of Syracuse University Lecture 2012 (Source)

See also, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s, 1978, Harvard Speech {Transcript available here: American Rhetoric}

Stand out quotes vary. Some grab us and cause us to say, “ah!” Then others come along and burn out as quickly as they were lit. Then there’s the ones which latch on to us. It gnaws at us and doesn’t let go.

Quotes like these have longevity. Often, they stand alone outside their context. Holding meaning without being drawn into the abstract; where the quote loses meaning, or worse, has it’s meaning misrepresented.

Writing these kinds of quotes down is always a good thing to do. They tend to be words in season or word given for a season to come. Words that aren’t kept in order to win arguments, but words encountered that sow deep encouragement. Words that change us. Words that build us. Words that multiply life and the significance of it.

Words exemplified by John Bunyan,

 

‘Do you the substance of my matter see.
Put by the curtains, look within my veil;
Turn up my metaphors, and do not fail:
There if you seek them such things to find,
As will be helpful to an honest mind.’

 

– (Pilgrims Progress, The Conclusion)

 

 


Lazy Fury

March 8, 2016 — 4 Comments

Do you, uh, haiku?

Lazy Fury Haiku 3

 


‘Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth
with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, so that
he may have something to share with anyone in need. let no corrupting
talk come out of your mouths, but only such as for building up,
as fits the occasions, that it may give grace to those who hear it.’
– (Ephesians, 4:25-29, ESV)

#makessense

Mist 1 RL2016River Mist header 1

Mist 2

Mist 3

Mist 4

 

Earlier this week, while doing an errand, we took a detour to check out some early morning fog lifting off the river. Spectacular doesn’t sum up the experience of watching the sun rise into this. As it’s light moved across the water, the mist shifted. Had we arrived earlier the fog would’ve been to thick to capture it.

Good inspiration for a song.

This weeks features include drums, classic organ, the POD HD400 and the Ibanez. I had layered a few other bits with a Wah rhythm, for more of a funk feel, but decided to keep it as simple as possible because of how much the layer of guitar work was doing already. I was also keen to have the bass guitar remain as clear as possible.

 

 


Music and images are my own.