Creating a “Collaborative Syllabus” Using Trello

I believe very strongly in creating a participatory learning environment for students but when it comes to creating a syllabus it seems like the only option is to use the standard “banking” model of education (Freire). As the instructor for a course, I lay out specific texts, assignments and themes for the students to digest in class and organize it in an easy to follow document we call the syllabus. [^1] But I want something that can move beyond this parameter and allow the students to participate in the actual development of the content within the syllabus.

My question is: How do I get the students more involved and interacting with the actual syllabus from its very creation to how it gets used in class throughout the semester?

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This is where trello flexibility comes into play. Continue reading Creating a “Collaborative Syllabus” Using Trello

Moving Deeper Still: Three Roots of Community

Flickr credit: Elf-8
Flickr Credit: Elf-8 “Racines/Roots/Raices”

How do we go deeper into this community?

I have, for most of my life, been someone trying to organize community, bringing people together, and building connections. For a lot of that time, I put emphasis on showing up for one another: presence is key I would say.

I got a monumental lesson in presence twelve years ago. When my step-father committed suicide in 2003, those who were the most helpful during that crisis, were the people who showed up. Those who came and sat with us. Brought the ministry of cookies and casseroles. They offered no grand theories. No trite explanations. What they offered were silent bodies, sitting in prayerful support. Like a silent cloud of witnesses visible to the naked eye. It was here that I learned how presence is the roots and the ligaments of community. It was faithful presence that got us through that dark night. Continue reading Moving Deeper Still: Three Roots of Community

The Imagined Rebellion – Kierkegaard


A revolutionary age is an age of action; ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere. In the present age a rebellion is, of all things, the most unthinkable. Such an expression of strength would seem ridiculous to the calculating intelligence of our times. On the other hand a political virtuoso might bring off a feat almost as remarkable. He might write a manifesto suggesting a general assembly at which people should decide upon a rebellion, and it would be so carefully worded that even the censor would let it pass. At the meeting itself he would be able to create the impression that his audience had rebelled, after which they would all go quietly home – having spent a very pleasant evening. -Soren Kierkegaard (The present Age, p. 35)

Continue reading The Imagined Rebellion – Kierkegaard

On Solitude and Sabbath


“…there was silence in heaven for about a half hour” (Rev. 8:1).

Solitude and Sabbath are two realities that overlap and depend upon each other. There is an interdependent relationship between solitude and Sabbath. In order to practice one, we need the other as a part of our lives.

Solitude is learning how to be disarmed inwardly in the midst of even the most dramatic outward movement: the self-surrendering motion of a tireless companion finally laying their head down to rest. Solitude is learning how to practice inner sanctuary. Solitude is like nails on the chalkboard to a multi-tasking, “relevant,” productivity oriented life. Solitude and authenticity know one another intimately and are in a committed relationship.

Whereas solitude happens in the midst of motion, Sabbath is a full stop. It is the period to solitude’s coma. However, Sabbath is more than rest, it is intention to re-root oneself in the soil of God’s love and the compost of our spiritual mothers, fathers, prophets and poets. It is the moment when I recognize that I am not the world and the world is not me. Sabbath is the practice of knowing “where I end and you begin.”

If we do not learn to value both solitude and Sabbath, if silence inwardly and outwardly is something to fear and flee, we will not only wear ourselves thin and hollow, we will lose something far more tragic: the centered-self that is able to remain in relationship with others while remaining distinct from them. The poet Rilke puts it like this:

“Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.”

To practice solitude and Sabbath is to learn how to be together in community, while remaining independent from one another, protecting, bordering and saluting one another. In Quaker silence, we learn how to hold a bordering and protective space for one another, allowing one another to be who they are in communion with Jesus without any pretense on our part. What a beautiful way to honor one another. And yet, isn’t this is why so many of us fear the silence? It requires us to let go of distraction, domination, and productivity. Who are we without those modern attributes?

On the seventh day God stopped. Observed. Saluted. Sitting back, God let the movement of the creation unfold. Sabbath is the practice of remembering it is God who was the first to protect, border and salute creation. And like God we can do the same. On the seventh day God embraced silence and rest, reminding us that for relationships to flourish we must learn how to be together in silence and independent in rest.


Do I practice silence as a form of both solitude and Sabbath, protecting, bordering, and saluting all of creation?


Flickr: Ferran Jordà

Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong?

A powerful essay on the “co-opting” of minority cultures by Parul Sehgal. This is something I am deeply interested in understanding and observing within “participatory culture,” which often takes part in remixing texts of many kinds. Sehgal’s points are a clear and necessary check on the “fast and loose” nature of those borrowing culture to create culture.

Calling out the co-opting of minority cultures to seem cool has become a public ritual. But where is the line between borrowing and theft?

…Questions about the right to your creation and labor, the right to your identity, emerge out of old wounds in America, and they provoke familiar battle stances. The same arguments are trotted out (It’s just hair! Stop being so sensitive! It’s not always about race!) to be met by the same quotes from Bell Hooks [sic], whose essays from the early ’90s on pop culture, and specifically on Madonna, have been a template for discussions of how white people ‘‘colonize’’ black identity to feel transgressive: ‘‘Ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.’’ It’s a seasonal contro­versy that attends awards shows, music festivals, Halloween: In a country whose beginnings are so bound up in theft, conversations about appropriation are like a ceremonial staging of the nation’s original sins.

…In an essay in the magazine Guernica, the Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie called for more, not less, imaginative engagement with her country: ‘‘The moment you say a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying: As an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. She is enigmatic, inscrutable, unknowable. She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness. Write them out of your history.’’

Source: Is Cultural Appropriation Always Wrong?

Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph

In ‘63 Life Magazine ran a feature article on A. Philip Randolph and Rustin about the March on Washington (8/28/63) which they organized. King and others were worried about Rustin, who was gay, being in the spotlight because he was too much of a “vulnerability.” The “Big Six” chose to make A. Philip Randolph the director of the march. Randolph in turn accepted only on the grounds that he could determine his own staff and made Rustin his deputy. John Lewis said of Rustin during this time, “This is going to be a massively complex undertaking, and there was no one more able to pull it together than Bayard Rustin.” (Time on Two Crosses, XXIX). In reading more about Rustin’s life, I am intrigued by the ways he as a Quaker maneuvered both a racist and homophobic society, while remaining very politically active.

Source: Today’s Activists Have Much to Learn