Ban the Laptops?

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Peter Arkle

Does technology help or hinder learning? Putting the question so baldly likely will not lead to meaningful answers. However, as many social commentators call for deeper reflection on the impact of technology on our lives, increasing attention has been focused upon not only the benefits of technology in education, but also the drawbacks to true learning and human formation.

I’m hardly a Luddite, but I often advocate for discerning engagement with technology, including social media. In fact, our entire family was challenged to rethink our technology strategies while reading Andy Crouch‘s book The Tech-wise Family, a forced family read-a-loud while I was on sabbatical this summer.

Then, I encountered the following article in the New York Times, “Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting,” by Professor Susan Dynarski from the University of Michigan. At least take a moment to read some of these excerpts below, if not the entire article, and let me know your thoughts:

with laptops, students can, in some ways, absorb more from lectures than they can with just paper and pen. They can download course readings, look up unfamiliar concepts on the fly and create an accurate, well-organized record of the lecture material. All of that is good.

But a growing body of evidence shows that over all, college students learn less when they use computers or tablets during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them. It’s not much of a leap to expect that electronics also undermine learning in high school classrooms or that they hurt productivity in meetings in all kinds of workplaces….

The researchers hypothesized that, because students can type faster than they can write, the lecturer’s words flowed right to the students’ typing fingers without stopping in their brains for substantive processing. Students writing by hand had to process and condense the spoken material simply to enable their pens to keep up with the lecture. Indeed, the notes of the laptop users more closely resembled transcripts than lecture summaries. The handwritten versions were more succinct but included the salient issues discussed in the lecture….

The best evidence available now suggests that students should avoid laptops during lectures and just pick up their pens. It’s not a leap to think that the same holds for middle and high school classrooms, as well as for workplace meetings.

[Read the entire article here.]

Community and Labor

This past two weekends at Eastbrook Church have been a real joy for me as two friends, Gabriel Douglas and Will Branch, preached as part of our journey with the Psalms of Ascent, “Ascend.

Gabriel walked us through Psalm 122, focusing on worship and community, two weekends ago.  Gabriel is a ministry resident working with me this year at Eastbrook. He preached a couple of summers ago in the midst of our series on Judges, “Flawed Heroes,” and I was really blessed by his message this time, “Community.” You can watch Gabriel’s message here.

Then, Will Branch took us into Psalm 127, opening the topic of humanity’s partnership with God in the labor we undertake. Psalm 127 is one of those interesting psalms that has two parts that at first glance seem nearly unrelated. The first part is about working and watching, while the second half is about children and our heritage. Will did a masterful job bringing the two parts together in a way that opened things up for all of us. Here’s Will’s message for your viewing pleasure.

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast. We also have a reading plan for this series, which you can access here.

The Steps I Walk Upon

IMG_1817Here’s a reflection I wrote after gathering for worship this past weekend at Eastbrook Church during our series on the Psalms of Ascent.  Not a finely fashioned poem, but more like poetic reflections on my life journey and the grace of God oozing through each step.

the steps I walk upon
woven day by day and year after year
with strands of silvery sadness and vibrant joy
I feel those textures singing underfoot

the steps I walk upon
chiseled from the bones and dreams
of those who have walked before me
I hear those voices speaking in my ears

the steps I walk upon
ever behind me and ever before
through the hungry heights and the distressed depths
until cresting the final ridge to home

these steps I walk upon
illumined by the One hanging in the sky
eternal light shining undimmed through the darkness 
who walked before and walks ever behind

these steps I walk upon
not steps merely my own but those laid 
by the One who cut and carved the pathway
I know His Voice ringing in my steps

Give Thanks to the Lord

Thanksgiving.pngOne of my favorite portions of Scripture is Psalm 136. The call and response of the musical poetry of this psalm is both refreshingly focused and hypnotically reflective. On this Thanksgiving Day, when we focus as a nation on things we are grateful for, join me in giving thanks to the Lord, for He is good. Also, if you have things you want to share about how you are thankful to God and praising Him today, take a moment to write something in the comments below.

Psalm 136 (ESV)

1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

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Live Thankful

thankfulEvery year in the US, we mark out a day to celebrate what we have been given. Thanksgiving Day, in my opinion, is actually one of the most culturally amazing moments where we take time out from work and normal routines to simply celebrate and enjoy God’s goodness. Of course, like all things, Thanksgiving can be trivialized by commercialism, but it is still a fascinating moment in our country’s history and experience.

The wonder of the life with God is that each day spent following Jesus propels us into thanksgiving. The abundance we have received from God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is beyond words. Today, we want to come alive with thankfulness.

Throughout the Scripture, we encounter many sacrifices offered in worship of God. In Psalm 50, however, we encounter a different kind of sacrifice:

I have no complaint about your sacrifices
or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
But I do not need the bulls from your barns
or the goats from your pens.
For all the animals of the forest are Mine,
and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:8-10, NLT)

God is familiar with all the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the Israelites, but He is looking for something else. And here is what it is:

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. (50:14, NLT)

Thankfulness brings life to us. When we make our lives an altar where gratitude rises up to God like a sacrifice, He is pleased. At the same time, offering thanks back to God for who He is and all He has done brings life to us. Thanksgiving brings life to our souls because when we voice our thanks we are forced to reflect on all His goodness toward us. Thankfulness draw us closer to God.

At that same time, we may soon realize in life that thankfulness is not – or at least should not be – limited by our circumstances. Circumstances change with seasons and times of our lives, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. Yet God, in all His unchanging faithfulness, never alters in His work in us and goodness toward us. So as Paul urged one early group of believers that they – and we – can learn the way to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Today, why not come to life with God by offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving? You might even want to stop for ten or fifteen minutes right now to thank God for all He has done, for all He has given, and for all the things You may not even know that He is doing right now in Your life.