Category Archives: Higher Education

Here’s to My Students: You Make Teaching a Joy

On June 20, 2012, I published this post on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the fifth and final post in a series about teaching Sociology of Religion Online.

“Yesterday I finished teaching a 5-week online course in sociology of religion. As I remarked in earlier posts in this series, there were many ups and downs… I wrote a personal note to each student in my summer class with their final paper grades and final course grades. The two heartfelt replies I got were both rom non-traditional/transfer students, who had really done the most work out of anyone in the class. One of them, Angelique, sent me this video interview with her about her experiences being a single mom and going back to college:

Read the full post at Black, White and Gray.

How Effective is Online Learning? Insights from Sociology of Religion Online

On June 6, 2012, I published this post on theBlack, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the fourth post in a series about Teaching Sociology of Religion Online.

“Earlier in this series of posts about my experience teaching sociology of religion, I wrote about the promise of delivering lectures online and the challenges I faced in actually doing it. Today I’ll explain how I finally created my first narrated presentation on YouTube, how I got small group discussions going on Elluminate, and how my 8-year old nephew taught me about online teaching all the while teaching me about the correct usage of metaphors and similies…

What amazed me was that making the narrated presentation was the easy part. It took longer to save it in the right format and upload to YouTube than to record my explanation of the slides. But thanks to Keynote and YouTube, the file is now compressed so students (or any viewers, including you) can see it without any problems. My previous problem was not in making the recording presentations, but sharing them.  Thanks to my Mac, and lots of encouragement and tech support, I found success at last!..”

Read the full post on Black, White and Gray.

Three Things I Love about Teaching Sociology of Religion Online

On May 23, 2012, I published this post on theBlack, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the third post in a series about teaching Sociology of Religion Online.

Here I am again, spending my “free” time thinking how much I love teaching sociology of religion online…

Front CoverFirst, now that I have overcome my initial technical challenges and anxieties, teaching online is fun. In Martin Seligman’s bookFlourish, he recounts how teaching positive psychology made him realize that learning is deeper when it is engaging. I delivered my second ever online lecture this week, and I was in the flow (to borrow Seligman’s colloquial term for one dimension of flourishing–engagement). In my online lecture, my video and audio streamed live to 15 students while they watched a screen streaming the course website which I spent many hours designing. As I scrolled seamlessly through my carefully constructed website, it seemed beautiful. Engaging. Fun…”

Read the full post on Black, White and Gray.

The Ups and Downs of Teaching Sociology of Religion Online

On May 18, 2012 I published this post on theBlack, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the second post in a series about teaching Sociology of Religion Online.

“I’ve just finished my first week of a hybrid in-person/online course in sociology of religion to undergraduates at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Of four days we met this week, two times we met in class, one day I assigned a video and a podcast, and the fourth day we met synchronously (at the same time) for a short lecture and class discussion. Thus far, my experience has been both exhilarating and frustrating. Let’s start with the exhilarating.

First, I have flipped the order in which I present material to students and it definitely captured their attention better than before. I used to assign heavy readings, give a lecture, and then give them a podcast, video or interactive quiz to reinforce what the readings and lectures said. Although I’m using the exact same material as when I taught sociology of religion in the classroom, now for each topic we will cover I firstassign a video, a podcast, or an interactive survey and require that students write a blog post in response. Once they are excited about the topic, then I assign them sociology texts that put the topic into a broader context using history, ethnography, and survey data, and I have students write short assignments applying sociological theories and concepts to the  specific topic we covered…”

Read the full post on Black, White and Gray.

Teaching Sociology of Religion Online

On May 11, 2012, I published this post on theBlack, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the first post in a series about Teaching Sociology of Religion Online.

“Next week, I start my first online course in sociology of religion at the University of North Carolina, and I’m about as nervous about it as when I first entered the college classroom 5 years ago as a new professor. Despite my trepidation, I agree with New York Times columnist David Brooks who wrote in a recent column that online education can certainly be done easily and quite poorly, but that when top schools start adopted online education, amazing things could happen…”

Read the full post on Black, White and Gray.

Want to Fight the Man? Reform is Hard Work

Published on February, 15, 2012, on the Black, White, and Gray blog. Click here to read the full post.

“In his recent column responding to the You Tube hit video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” New York Times Columnist David Brookssent a clear message to many would-be reformers: if you desire reform, you are better off joining a movement tied to a tradition….

I admire the energy and optimism of those calling for religious, economic or political change. Yet, I agree with Brooks that not everyone is called to be a prophet. I learned great intellectual humility when I completed my Ph.D. thesis. It took 6 years of study, writing and research to come up with one important and well-argued thesis in sociology. If it took me 6 years to say something original to my field of study, shouldn’t I pay attention to the ideas that founded this nation? Shouldn’t I learn about the traditions that have guided Christian thinking for two thousand years? Shouldn’t I consider competing arguments about the best way to organize economic life? The best ideas show they understand the alternatives, that is, the traditional arguments, and demonstrate why the new ideas are superior.”

Why I Love Teaching Sociology of Religion

Published on the Black, White and Gray blog on December 14, 2011. Click here to see the full post.

“Unlike other sociology classes I teach at UNC, students who come to this class are not (for the most part) sociology majors. Many are religious studies majors, some are in biology, and many in English. All come because they are curious about religion, but not necessarily sociology of religion.

So I start them off with difficult readings from Daniel Pals’ Eight Theories of Religion on Weber and Marx, along with Karen Fields’ introduction to Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life. I mix more contemporary readings for those weeks to show why those theories are still relevant. Then I have them go out and observe a religious service and apply one of those theories to what they observed.

Undergraduates are very skilled observers of the social world, and I always look forward to reading their observations about Mormon congregations, megachurches, Bob Jones University chapel, and a whole host of religious organizations I have never heard of but are right under my nose.”

Click here to see the full post.

Women’s Dignity in the Workplace

Published on November, 16, 2011, on the Black, White and Gray blog, my thoughts on what Edith Stein insights offer to women in the professions.

“Although she points out that women’s temperament will likely lead them in greater proportion to certain professions like art, history, and the humanities, Stein insisted that some women will also shine in physics, medicine, politics, and diplomacy. Stein is right on when she says “there is no profession which cannot be practiced by a woman” (Woman, p. 47).

But beyond saying that women can shine in every profession, Stein calls women to exercise their professions as women: “The participation of women in the most diverse professional disciplines could be a blessing for the entire society, private or public, precisely if the specifically feminine ethos would be preserved” (Woman, p. 49). What does this mean?”

To read the full article, click here.

The Media and Research on Religion

On October 26, 2011, I wrote on the Black, White and Gray blog about how I am teaching students to integrate peer-reviewed research on religion with what they read in the media (newspapers, magazines, and online).

Here’s part of what I had to say. To see the full post, click here.

“This year, for the first time ever, I will allow students to include newspapers, magazines, and online media in their research papers. To do so, however, they must follow several strict guidelines. First, they must only use newspapers/magazines/online sources in addition to (not instead of) scholarly sources. Second, they can only search a limited set of newspapers/magazines/online sources which I as a scholar know provide generally good information on religion. Third, I worked with UNC’s research library staff to discuss with students how to analyze sources for credibility, accuracy and bias.”