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Last week, Dr. Virgil Wood was interviewed by Rebecca Powell-Doherty and Ben Grove on Andy Morikawa’s Trustees Without Borders show. During the conversation, Dr. Wood talked about his life and work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Louis Kelso, and many other leading American figures. The interview can be accessed by clicking on the image below.

Click to view slideshow.

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Round Playing Card Jack of Hearts

I was thinking about contemplation
How it keeps your learning raw
I was thinking about my father
Who I all too rarely saw
But most of all
I was thinking about the Jack of Hearts

(If Alan Levine introduces me to his recent houseguest, maybe we’ll finish the other 14 verses.)

My father was an engineer with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He travelled a lot for work, out to New Mexico a lot, sometimes to Europe, and many times to Taiwan. As those trips got longer, my dad got tired of having to lug multiple Tom Clancy and Len Deighton books around to keep himself occupied on the plane. And so he started operating by a reading-time-to-weight ratio, looking for the books which could keep him occupied the longest in the fewest number of pages. And so he started reading St. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, and Irish poets. (Airport bookstores would look different if we had more liberally-educated engineers running around.)

I’ve told this story a million times, but I don’t know that I really understood it until I flew to ELI, and 12 pages captivated me from Columbus to Houston.

We’re hosting a reading club on contemplative and reflective pedagogies at my center this semester, starting with Mary Rose O’Reilley’s Radical Presence: Teaching as Contemplative Practice. I was out of town while the group met to discuss Chapter 2, but I didn’t want to get behind. So I leaned against the cold airplane wall, and read. And opened my notebook, and reread. And took a moment to contemplate the grandmotherly honey-smell of a plastic cup of bourbon, and reread again.

I am fascinated by the way Chapter 2 lays out a productive tension in the idea of contemplative practices in teaching. On the one hand a practice, by definition, is a behavior you do. If it’s not enacted regularly, then it can’t be a practice… it’s a worldview or a belief or a goal or something. And Chapter 2 is full of behaviors to try – starting classes with silence, observing silence after reading a text, various writing exercises, leaving time for gratitude and review at the end of class. But then O’Reilly closes by asking us not to just appropriate her Buddhist-Quaker-Catholic spirituality by introducing some fashionable faux-Zen! (And echoes Parker Palmer’s warnings against technique in the introduction.) I’ve read a fair number of books on teaching, and I can’t remember seeing another one which said “don’t take my advice!”, or more accurately, “this is not advice which you can just take.”

I hear a lot of people looking for these practices through a non-spiritual framework. They’re hoping that a moment of silence will help students learn the skill of focus, that reflection will be metacognitively useful. And honestly, I believe they’ll find that to be true, but they will be on a different road than O’Reilly describes. Not necessarily a better or worse road, just a different one. Maybe the road they’re ready to be on at that time.

(I went back and looked again at Palmer’s introduction, to find that he’s not so much telling us to avoid “technique” as to avoid using it to protect our hearts. I find myself wondering how often listening to experts about “what works” also provides a convenient outlet to avoid listening to ourselves and our communities about “what’s needed.”)

O’Reilley frames this as a fundamental difference between spirituality and pedagogy. She says that spiritual “practice teaches us what we seek to know and reveals what each one needs to learn about the nature of spirit.” (She collapses time more than a bit here, as anyone who has suffered a long night of the soul – or even a short one – will tell you.) She frames pedagogy, however, as just a matter of technique, a utilitarian decision to do what works.

In matters of technique, we know that practice does not, of itself, make perfect. If you diligently practice a flawed skill, you’ll only make it harder to unlearn. Nor is perfect technique sufficient. It is not only flawlessly executing the steps which makes a great dance partner, but also the awareness of the space and the music and the partner and the other dancers. I suspect that’s the connecting point between this discussion of practice/technique and O’Reilley’s other big theme in this chapter, hospitality. If it’s the teacher’s job to create the hospitable space where learning happens, then the teacher has to be prepared to react to the students’ needs, even if that means changing things. Though one wonders what O’Reilley would think about a course where the students rebel against a contemplative approach… what does attentive hospitality look like if your guests don’t accept it?

“Round Playing Card Jack Of Hearts” photo by Leon Reynolds, CC-BY-NC-SA at https://flic.kr/p/cHpU3j

The cover of Radical Presence was designed by Jenny Jensen Greanleaf. Image taken from Amazon.

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Bajo el título de “Enfoca tu futuro profesional”, acaba de lanzarse un innovador SPOC (Small Private Online Course), iniciativa del Vicerrectorado de Innovación y Emprendimiento de la Universidad de Málaga bajo la coordinación del Director de Secretariado de Cultura de la Innovación, y dirigido al alumnado universitario, como parte de las iniciativas establecidas en los Planes de Acción que la Universidad de Málaga les ofrece.

El curso, en el que he participado asesorando en el proceso de guionización y producción de contenidos online y como docente de uno de los módulos, dedicado a Competencias Digitales, está diseñado desde una perspectiva amplia y práctica, con el objetivo de abarcar las diferentes facetas que cualquier persona debe tener en cuenta al diseñar y llevar a la práctica su proyecto profesional. Se compone, así, de 6 módulos formativos, supervisados y/o grabados por varios orientadores de la propia Universidad de Málaga, como puede verse en este apartado de la web del proyecto:










Planteamiento metodológico

Cualquier interesado puede autoinscribirse en este SPOC, de forma gratuita y cuando lo desee (ya que la inscripción permanecerá abierta todo el curso), a través del campus virtual de la Universidad.

Los contenidos, en formato de vídeos de escasa duración, contienen numerosos ejemplos y referencias a recursos que facilitan el aprendizaje a los estudiantes, que tras visionarlos debe realizar actividades prácticas y pruebas de evaluación. Al concluir, conforme a los requisitos de evaluación, el total de los módulos y asistir a la sesión presencial prevista como complemento (se propondrán al menos dos fechas, julio y septiembre de 2017), obtendrán un certificado acreditativo con un reconocimiento de 2 ECTS.

Su modalidad, principalmente virtual por tanto, su metodología flexible, ya que además de estar abierto de forma permanente los contenidos y las actividades podrán realizarse al ritmo del alumno, conforme vaya avanzando en los distintos módulos, suponen, y precisamente esta es una de las razones del origen del proyecto, una ventaja frente actividades formativas presenciales.


Resumen de características del curso

  • Modalidad e-learning (SPOC, Small Privado Online Course)
  • Créditos: 2 ECTS
  • Inscripción: Abierta durante todo el curso académico
  • Duración: 50 horas (curso online + 1 sesión presencial)
  • Gratuito para alumnos/as UMA
  • Tutorización on-line
  • Diploma acreditativo al acabar el curso


Para saber más…


La entrada Estamos de estreno: curso SPOC de Orientación Profesional para estudiantes de la Universidad de Málaga aparece primero en Cibermarikiya 3.0.

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On March 24-25, the School of Public and International Affairs will be holding its Ridenour Faculty Fellowship Conference & High Table Celebration, at the Virginia Tech Inn. The title of the conference is Faith in the System: Rebuilding Trust in Government in a Time a Complex Governing Challenges.

During the conference, I will moderate a panel discussion (at 2:45pm on Friday, March 24) on The Future of Work and Income in an Era of Economic Inequality.

The panelists include Dr. Virgil A. Wood (Pastor Emeritus, Pond Street Baptist Church; Former Dean, Northeastern University; Former ten-year working associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), Dr. Joyce Rothschild (Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech), and Dr. Christian Matheis (Visiting Assistant Professor, Government and International Affairs, Virginia Tech).

Dr. Virgil Wood beside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Source: Getty Images)

During the panel discussion we will explore how the forces of globalization and rapid technological change, along with an overall decline in pay and wages, have resulted in the perception of a stagnant post-recession economic recovery. Emphasis on economic inequality was persistent in the 2016 presidential election along with promises to bring back jobs and industries that once supported the American Dream. The panel members will examine these major socio-economic and political shifts, and discuss what could be done to reduce economic inequality and reestablish trust in government.

The conference sessions are free, but participants are asked to register.