Proverbs 23:12a Apply your heart to instruction.

(Note to the reader: I hope you are not called upon to bring remarks upon the passing of one of your students.  If it must be so, I hope you have fond memories of the one to be remembered as I have.)

Evelyn Marsh Dowd

February 15, 1944 – March 30, 2016

On behalf of the university we express our condolences to the family of the late Evelyn Marsh Dowd.

The family has asked that I share brief remarks for the community and students. I shall speak of beginnings, middles, and endings with Rev. Dr. Evelyn Dowd.

Beginnings. I recall in the late 1990’s sitting in a cold basement classroom where cardboard was placed in the window. On one side of the desk I sat teaching a class on Existentialism, and on the other side of the desk Evelyn was seated. CAPE had given her a second chance at education, and she was preparing herself as an adult learner completing her undergraduate degree.

Middles. Evelyn got her degree and went on to receive a M. Div. degree in the 2000s. Then she began to teach as one of our adjunct instructors. At CAPE students developed a community of mutual support. We had several campus events through the year such as the Homecoming Tailgate, the MLK Jr. Breakfast, and the Senior Banquet. As I would survey the crowd that gathered I would find this student or that teacher missing. Among those present I would see front and center Dr. Evelyn Dowd and her husband. They had traveled the one hour and thirty-nine minute drive to be part of the community. They were giving back.

Middles again. After the husband had become ill and required home care, a conversation took place in the home between Evelyn and a caregiver. The caregiver said, “I would just love to have your job and teach theology.” Evelyn replied, “Child, if you want to do what I do, you will have to prepare yourself as I did. Talk to the Director, and get back into school.”

Endings. When we received news that Rev. Dr. Dowd had passed from this life on Saturday, the job fell to me to collect from the office her personal belongings to give to the family. On my office wall is a much admired certificate of appreciation from students. Visitors call attention to it. It says, “We love you.” That’s the kind of thing a teacher keeps in their office.

What do you suppose I found among the belongings of Dr. Dowd? I found atop the desk a delicate cut-glass candy dish reminding me of the lady we had lost. Inside a drawer was a bit of Mary Kay foundation to keep her perfect appearance. On the wall was a large bulletin board where Dr. Dowd’s certificate of appreciation was posted. It was buried under a mountain of greeting cards. There were birthday cards, get well cards, thank you cards, Christmas cards, and more. As I picked them off the board I saw three messages repeated over and over again. “Thank you Dr. Dowd.” “You’re awesome Dr. Dowd.” “We love you Dr. Dowd.”

Rev. Dr. Evelyn Dowd believed in giving back to the community. To prepare to make a contribution to the community she completed her education and received her Doctor of Ministry degree. What she gave back to the community was the gift of herself.

Thanks to her family for sharing with us Rev. Dr. Evelyn Dowd.

Remarks shared on April 6, 2016

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Add some Muddy-and-Clear Discussions to your Online Course
In Fall, 2014, I became part of the October Cohort in the Online Learning Consortium’s Advance Teaching Certificate program. Our Facilitator was Dr. Laurie Hillstock. Many are the valuable lessons gleaned from the workshop. This post focuses on just one exciting development relating to online discussions.
In many of my online courses I have included in the final weeks a forum dedicated to the best and worst discussion forums or topics. Dr. Hillstock introduced the idea of using “clear-and-muddy” discussions within class to garner student feedback. I was intrigued and wanted to introduce this new variation on the discussion into my class. When I did, I was rewarded with a wonderful surprise.
I chose to introduce about five clear-and-muddy discussions into the class I was teaching in Spring, 2015: Logic and Thinking. These discussions were introduced about every other week, and they were designed to allow students to respond by telling peers and the instructor what they found to be muddy or clear when studying an assigned topic. Two topics we covered were metaphorical thinking and formal logic.
Two quotes are chosen from the discussions. The first comes from the clear-and-muddy discussion about metaphors. The second comes from the clear-and-muddy discussion about formal logic.

  1. So far mostly everything that we have went over was clear. If I could choose something that was muddy, it would probably be the metaphor. Although I am used to metaphors and hear them quite often, especially in certain genres of music, I myself found it to be quite hard with coming up with my own metaphors which led me to use some I already am familiar with. I like how the creativity forum gets us to thinking. I also liked brainstorming on homelessness because for me, I was reminded of free writing.
  2. The Syllogisms forum was a little muddy starting; however after reviewing the examples in the power point things became more clear….

I want to call special attention to the second quote. The student reports that in the beginning her study of syllogisms was muddy, but later it became clear. This was not an isolated phenomenon. “Golden” is how our facilitator referred to some thoughts or ideas, and I must say this was a golden discovery. The clear-and-muddy forum was acting as a prompt to allow students to report how they were becoming familiar with the unfamiliar or how they were becoming clear about some previously confusing topic. The student worked it out. That is spontaneous. That is metacognition. That is golden.
Will I include clear-and-muddy discussions in an upcoming online class? I hope so. Will I encourage others to use the clear-and-muddy discussion technique? Yes, definitely. Will I say my time spent in the OLC certification program was worthwhile? You bet.

A muddy trail

When do you say thanks to your PLN?
Having a great PLN is vital, if you want to be a lifelong learner. I do.
Recently some major players in my Twitter PLN began to give accolades to one another. I am calling them and others my #Bestpractices PLN. I received an accolade as a tweet from an outstanding scholar in her own right, Rusul Alrubail. So I had to blast back with a tweet:
My pleasure to learn from a #bestpractices PLN:@dinamoati @KrisGiere @RusulAlrubail @alicekeeler @dbuckedu

That led me back to a question I sometimes ask myself. When do you say thanks to your PLN?
I would like to say my policy is like that of early voting: Say it early and often.

That said, I am reminded that I recently completed a Mastery Series Workshop on Instructional Design that was hosted by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). You can see the link below. Lessons learned from my PLN proved valuable in my completion of the workshop. I owe a debt of thanks to my PLN for telling and showing me things about best practices in instructional design.
Someone may ask, Don’t you have your degree? Yes, sure; but having a degree is not an endpoint for a lifelong learner.
So, when did you last say thanks to your PLN?

In case you are interested in the workshop follow this link:

As a college advisor I consult with students about their course requirements and their schedules.  Perhaps you will find the following exchange refreshing.  I know I did.

Advisor: Hello, how are you?  I see you have your baby with you.

Advisee: Yes.  Ester came with me today.

Advisor: She was the size of a teacup when I last saw her.  How old is she now?

Advisee: She is five months. She was five weeks old when you saw her in January.

Advisor: Let’s get started.  We want to review your transfer credits, your current classes, and look for classes for Fall.  I will clear you.

Advisee:  Okay.

Advisor: How did the semester go?

Advisee:  Good.  I finished your course, and I am done with the rest of the courses.  Are you teaching anything for Fall? I didn’t bring my glasses today to look at the print out you are showing me.

Advisor: Let’s look at the Fall listing.

(The Advisor goes over the courses that are available and the instructors.)

Advisee: I cannot take Dr. Somewhere, I was told he is hard.  What about Dr. Whodunit?

Advisor: He is good.  He has one class you can take.

Advisee: No, you will put me in a hard class.  I guess I will take Dr. Somewhere.

Advisee; Oh, look at that picture of your father.

(The advisee spots a plaque given to me by my former students.  It features a grainy picture of me with the signatures of several students.  The plaque reads “We love you.”)

Advisor: My father?

Advisee: Oh, wait.  I’m sorry.  He is deceased.

Advisor: Father? Deceased? (I begin to laugh.)

Advisee: I’m so sorry.  Why are you laughing.  Ester, he’s laughing at us.

Advisor: You misunderstand.  That picture.  It’s me.

Advisee: You? I thought it was your father.

Advisor: That’s rich.  I am my father, and he is late.

Advisee: That’s not funny.  Ester, we have got to leave.  I’m so embarrassed.

Advisor: Don’t be.  You just have to understand.  Today I have become my own father, and I have become late.  Wait until I tell that story.

Advisee:  Oh, really I must leave.  Can I just come back.

Advisor: You’ve had my class. you know how I like to tell stories.  Don’t worry about it. Let’s pick out your classes while you are here.  Everything will be just fine.

Advisee: Okay. Ester you okay? Are you hiding my keys?  I want to take four classes.

The student successfully completed a course schedule before leaving.  Although I never became my own grampa that day, I consoled myself in becoming my own late father.

Here is the instructor’s challenge: How do I pose questions to facilitate maximal learning? At least one educator, John R. Walkup @jwalkup, believes that we can aim to achieve depth of knowledge (DOK) by posing questions in the right way:  When you speak of improving quality of learning I want to buy-in. See his blogpost: What is DOK?  Alice Keeler @alicekeeler provides an insightful answer: Suppose you are of the not so old “old-school” and think that the pathway to maximal learning is found by following Blooms’ Taxonomy. Clearly there are ways to pose questions to heighten the quality of the conversation.   Rusul Alrubail @rusulalrubail recommends that we consider using the infographic found in Teach Thought: So, here is the practical issue.  Suppose you have 26 pupils in a class.  Suppose your aim is to facilitate maximal learning, and that means satisfying the criteria for DOK or Blooms’ Taxonomy.  You agree with Walkup that this will not be achieved by allowing Mister or Miss First-hand-in-the-air to end the discussion.  You are prepared to pitch the question and wait. Wait before you pitch.  Take stock of the environment.  You are pitching one question to twenty-six students.  The first student that swings for the fence could end the inning.  (Yes, it takes skill to mix so many metaphors.) Before you pitch reconfigure.  You could pitch one question to twenty six and have one respondent.  Or you could pitch one question to thirteen think-pair-share groups.  If students are paired, they can reply to one another.  Presto. How would this work in an asynchronous setting?  Group your students in your LMS.  If your using Moodle group students so they cannot reply to members of other groups, that is visible or not-visible.  Pitch the question.  Allow replies.

Digital Citizen?

Are you a digital citizen?

Are you a digital native, digital immigrant, or a digital citizen?

If you are confused about your own role in the digital world, take a moment to reflect on these labels.

You are or you are not a digital native, and you are or you are not a digital immigrant.  The digital immigrant was not born with smart phone in hand.  He or she may remember how computers used punch cards and reel-to-reel cellophane tape.  (Don’t get big ideas.  I saw it in a movie.)

The digital native came into a world of computers, smart-phones, and tablets.  Digital natives are millennials and subsequent generations. Even though they were born into a digital age, they still have to learn how to navigate in a digital age.  As Alice Keeler points out, they may not have upper hand when we count computer and internet savvy.

So where is the digital citizen?  I suggest we think of an analogy from good ole’ social philosophy.  Two social philosophers, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, discussed the notion that we are born into a state of nature.  We surrender our standing when we choose to become part of a social contract.  Another social contract theorist, Jean Jacques Rousseau, says, “Each of us puts in common his person and his whole power under the supreme direction of the general will; and in return we receive every member as an indivisible part of the whole.”

To put it simply, a digital citizen is someone who has voluntarily chosen to join in a social contract by taking the digital citizen’s pledge.  Here’s how Edudemic states it:

The Digital Citizen Pledge

Digital citizens pledge to…

  • Communicate responsibly and kindly with one another
  • Protect our own and others’ private information online
  • Stand up to cyberbullying
  • Respect each other’s ideas and opinions
  • Give proper credit when we use others’ work.
  • Fill in your own!


You are or your are not a digital native.  That is a given. You choose to be a digital citizen.

Have you taken the digital citizen’s pledge?
I Pledge of Allegiance 5-9-09 1

Equitable Supplies

A Check List for a Well Supplied and Equitable Classroom

(Preface: It is well known that Socrates never wrote a book.  His student, Plato, broke ranks to write his idealistic vision, The Republic.  Beware of the moderator who would answer a question.)

Problem: You are an instructor who desires to maintain an equitable classroom.  One problem among many is that of asking students to bring extraordinary supplies to class. This might include supplementary books, publisher software, or whatever you find missing in the supply closet.  Is there a way to ask students to bring supplies to class that is fair and equitable?

Answer:  Follow this ten-point checklist to make your class a well-supplied and equitable classroom

  • Insofar as it is possible choose and request supplies that confirm to the ideal of universal design learning (UDL) standards.


  • Assume and act upon the premise that your class provides the only opportunity for students to have equal internet access.


  • Insofar as it is possible reduce or eliminate the need for extraordinary supplies by making use of open-source resources.


  • Wherever possible provide extraordinary resources such as handouts, off-prints, and electronic resources you have the rights to offer.


  • Ask and answer: Is the resource necessary?


  • Encourage students to work collaboratively to promote an equitable environment.


  • Adopt a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method for obtaining print or purchase resources. This may include convenient resource rentals and shareware.


  • Find Web 2.0 tools to make resources available such as e-reader apps or Google Drive sharable documents.


  • Understand that you may be accountable for creating an equitable learning environment, and you cannot be held accountable for overcoming all learning disparities.


  • Empower learners to help the instructor and fellow classmates maintain an equitable learning environment, and have fun.

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