Archive for the ‘Various Memories and Opinions’ Category

Course Evaluations and Classroom Technology   Leave a comment

Especially Regarding PowerPoint

Spring Semester ended recently.  Nine days ago the contents of my students’ evaluations of me and of my course became available to me.  I, as a classroom instructor, was understandably curious about their ratings and comments.  Over the years I have found them to be (A) generally quite different from the depiction of me at ratemyprofessor.com and (B) occasionally helpful, occupying the category of constructive criticism.

Usually, though, I have found these course evaluations to be mostly useless.  For example, I copied the course objectives verbatim from the university and pasted them into my syllabi, yet some students thought I had not stated the course objectives clearly in those documents.  Also, I critiqued drafts of essays whenever students asked me to do so, but one pupil criticized me for having no involvement in assignments outside of the classroom.  Furthermore, I organized the material (as many students acknowledged) yet some accused me of being disorganized in my teaching.

My interpretation of the last criticism is that those who wrote it really meant that they would have preferred for me to have used PowerPoint in the classroom.  But, as one student told me, he was grateful that I did not use that technology.  He had become accustomed to copying PowerPoint slides for other courses and had found that procedure mind-numbing.  He enjoyed my emphasis on analyzing the material, he said.

Technology is useful is my lessons.  I enjoy being able,  for example, to show my students the full text of the Stamp Act (1765) and to use a website to adjust historical dollar amounts for inflation.  However, PowerPoint is useless in my classroom.  I recall that almost every PowerPoint presentation to which someone has subjected me has entailed he or she reading the slides.  PowerPoint is a useful tool in certain settings and for some subjects, but I avoid the technology.

Besides, my teaching style is not amenable to reading from a script, notes, or PowerPoint slides.  No, my instructional style is more discussion-based.  I master the germane material, follow skeletal notes that function mostly to remind me to cover certain topics, and use my memory.  I speak authoritatively and from my knowledge.

This style, I know, is foreign to many students, spoon-fed notes (often via PowerPoint) for years. I want them to think critically, however.  I know that this exceeds the capacity of many of my pupils.  This is not entirely their fault, but I must raise the bar, I know.  I realize that I will do them no favors by not raising the bar.

I found no constructive criticism in the course evaluations this time.  I did, however, learn how oblivious some of my students were to objective reality and how dependent upon PowerPoint they were.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

Posted May 24, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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Downsizing   Leave a comment

Above:  My Desk, April 25, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I recall a story a co-worker at a previous place of employment told me years ago.  She and her sister were cleaning out the home of their recently departed mother.  One of the sisters was removing boxes from a shelf when she found a box labeled

STRINGS TOO SHORT TO USE.

It contained strings too short to use.

I have never been that bad.

I have, from time to time, rid myself of a large number of possessions at in short periods of time.  Usually this has happened prior to moving.  A few years ago, in the space of less than one hour, I sold about 1,500 books to someone.  I had about 1,000 books left.  On other occasions I have filled up part of my car and made large donations to thrift stores.  I have also been generous in making donations of books to college libraries.

For about a year now I have been in a nearly continuous mode of downsizing.  This started when a friend and I were helping her friend, a hoarder.  I had to leave the hoarder’s house, which was disturbing in a plethora of ways, as well as unsanitary.  My apartment was far from being a hoarder’s home and from being unsanitary, but I resolved to downsize.  So I did.  For a few days I was extravagantly generous to a thrift store.  I have also made smaller donations to individuals and thrift stores over the past few months.

I have entered a mode whereby I donate items to a thrift store every other week or so.  Life does not, after all, consist of the abundance of possessions, as the Bible says.  In reality, the overabundance of possessions detracts from the quality of life.  Also, I should act out of consideration with regard to those who might have to clean out my home after I die, whenever that will happen (hopefully not for a while).

I am down to between 850 and 900 books.  That is a good count for me, for I use books.  The count is not the best measurement, though, for books come in a range of sizes and thicknesses.  The real standard is book space, which is finite and easy to monitor visually.  I have x amount of book space; so be it.  I must not exceed it.  After a while, adding volumes to the library becomes a zero-sum game; a book I have not consulted for a long time and probably will not revisit must go away.  Thus I also become increasingly picky about what to add to the library.

I like open spaces and empty desk tops.  I do not like too many dust collectors.  I also like having recently found a way to fit all my clothing neatly into one of two closets in my bedroom.  Sometimes more is less.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Posted April 27, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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Renovation of the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days on Haitus   Leave a comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  April, 1400s

Image in the Public Domain

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I will return to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days eventually.

The renovation of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS is in progress.  I still have to change the dates on many posts, for example.  I also have a composition book containing drafts of new posts, which I will add to the weblog on schedule.

I also plan to continue to share a variety of thoughts here.

Until later….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

Against Xenophobia and Other Sins   2 comments

Above:  Superman on Diversity, 1949

Confirmed here:  http://www.snopes.com/superman-1950-poster-diversity/

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I tend not to be shy about expressing myself on my weblogs.  Usually I make comments in the context of a particular saint, some passage of scripture, or a theological or ethical principle that comes to mind because of that saint or scripture.  This post belongs to a different category–thoughts that simply occupy my mind.

Xenophobia, nativism, racism, and homophobia are sins.  They violate the highest principles of ethical monotheism and the ideals of the United States, as well as mere human decency.  These four sins are also endemic in human history and current events.  Holding up ideals is far easier than living according to them, after all.  Fear–not the variety that prevents one from touching a hot stove, but the sort that leads to hatred and flows from misunderstanding–is ever with us.  It leads us to deny our fellow human beings the civil rights God has granted them.  Even worse, we frequently engage in these sins while justifying them with religion.

May we respect the image of God in each other.  May we love one another as we love ourselves.  May we eschew bigotry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

Posted April 18, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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The Hitler Analogy   Leave a comment

Above:  The Front Page of Stars and Stripes, May 2, 1945

Image in the Public Domain

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Just leave Hitler out of it.

Morning Joe, April 12, 2017

As Sean Spicer has learned this week and, to his credit, he should have just left Hitler out of a discussion of the crimes of the dictator of Syria.

The Hitler analogy is one I hear people of various political stripes invoke against their opponents frequently.  The analogy applies well to only a select group of individuals that includes Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, the body count of each of whom exceeds that of the Fuherer, responsible for the Holocaust.  I recall that, in one statement, my Paul Broun, Jr., my former Congressman, compared Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin–one a Fascist and the other a Communist–representatives of two opposing ideologies.  I remember hearing someone say “Hitlery Clinton” years ago.  I also recall hearing more than one person liken advocates of gun control to Nazis.  Oddly enough, I do not remember hearing anyone condemning the ownership and driving of Volkswagens, vehicles of which Hitler approved, due to the Nazi connection.

The crimes of the Nazis–especially Hitler–were of such magnitude that one should never trivialize them.  If every other thing is as bad as something the Nazis did, how bad could the Nazis have been?  The answer to that question is or should be obvious:  (1)  The Nazis were especially evil, and (2) Very little has ever risen to the level of evil of the Third Reich.  Evil of a magnitude lesser than that of the Nazis has long existed; examples have included Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad.

As Jeffrey Toobin has said, “arguments are easy at the extremes. ”  I conclude that the comfort level with the simplicity of easy arguments makes many people want to avoid the messier arguments between the extremes and leads them to resort to fallacies such as the misuse of the Hitler analogy.  Doing so also weakens their arguments and reveals them to be idiots.

Can we just leave Hitler out of it when he does not belong there?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Speaking Out of One’s Ignorance   Leave a comment

I make an effort, whether I am speaking in public or in private, or writing on a weblog, to do so out of knowledge.  Toward this end I prefer to do homework and check facts.  In conversation I am not afraid to say something to the effect of

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know where I can find the answer,

with the intention of doing so and reporting back.  I would rather do that than be inaccurate.  Even better is to know the answer ahead of time.  At a weblog I strive for accuracy also.  If I can find the answer to a given question before publishing a post, I like to do so.  If my sources prove to be inaccurate, I accept factual correction.  Objective reality is what it is, after all.

I am also a fan of science fiction.  My inherent attention to detail, in combination with my fandom, has made me a person full of science fiction trivia, especially with regard to Star Trek, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, and other franchises.  Recently, when watched the entirety of Lost, I kept track of many details that my viewing partner had missed.  I kept reminding her of scenes from previous episodes or the same episode.

I also know that there is much I do not know, so I endeavor to learn.  Toward that end I consult a variety of sources.  Tor.com, I have found, is a fine source of information about various science fiction franchises, especially Star Trek series, episode by episode.  For Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine the official series companion volume sets the standard for other volumes of that genre.  Certain reviewers who create and post video reviews are also fountains of knowledge.  Many podcasters and reviewers at YouTube, however, routinely speak out of their ignorance.  I have decided to stop listening to a number of podcasters and reviewers there because of this fact.  As I have listened to them profess their lack of knowledge or go off on tangents I know to be baseless in universe I have thought or uttered something to the effect of

I know more about this subject than you do.  Why do you have the podcast?

I have also caught myself correcting them audibly.

One can do homework of these matters easily enough.  I know of websites with detailed information about these series, including by episode and character.  Finding them is quite simple.  One can consult the special features on DVD or Blu-ray sets, if one has those.  I have found special features quite informative.  Commentary tracks have proven especially helpful.

So, those who analyze episodes, series, and movies online, do your homework first, please.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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CBC/Paramount Versus Quality   Leave a comment

ares-class-starship

Above:  The Ares Class Starship from Prelude to Axanar

Image Source = link

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The golden age of Star Trek fan films and series, available on YouTube, has ended; CBS/Paramount has exercised its rights under copyright law to neuter the Axanar project, intended to be a feature film.  Axanar will instead be two fifteen-minute-long episodes, consistent with the draconian rules the corporation has established for fan productions.  Prelude to Axanar has become a foretaste of a production that will never come into existence.  With substandard products such as Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001), Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005), Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), many fan films, despite certain limitations regarding acting,  sets, uniforms, and special effects, are superior, given their better stories.  Star Trek:  New Voyages/Phase II  and Star Trek Continues have proven to be generally enjoyable and watchable series.  I have also enjoyed Starship Farragut and Starship Exeter, among others.  The overlapping Star Trek:  Hidden Frontier, Odyssey, The Helena Chronicles,  and Federation One series, which rely more heavily on green screens than on sets, have also proven fascinating.  I have also become a fan of Star Trek:  Intrepid. Furthermore, I would rather watch Star Trek:  Of Gods and Men than Star Trek (2009).

To the extent that fan productions constitute competition with official productions, that is the case because so many fan productions are superior and more interesting than the corporate productions, which frequently have less creativity than the fan films.  CBS/Paramount ought to learn from fans who make their own films, not impose draconian rules upon them and even sue them.  CBS/Paramount should even hire some of these fans and give them a large budget and creative control.

That will not happen, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

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