Stuart Chepey

My professional development goals for 2013-2014 will include implementing the following instructional and assessment strategies:
Instructional Strategies (2)
1)       Project Based Learning 
2)       Project Base Learning – Case Studies  
Assessment Strategies (1)  Formative Assessment

Experimental Course:  Both instructional and assessment strategies will be implemented in the senior Contemporary Religious Issues course entitled, “Religion and Technology.”

This is a PBL course in development.  The goal is to have an "ideal" one in place by the fall 2014;  this is a trimester course, fortunately, so I've essentially got three trimesters to "get it right."  At this stage, I’ve put together the basic components of the material over the summer, so I am working on the more student-centered PBL/Case Study aspects now.  This is requiring a real 180 in teaching methodology for me, and so I have chosen to make this my PGO project this year (I’m already doing several of the other options; this one will provide the greatest challenge and, hopefully, the most fruitful benefit in the long-run).
(From the course syllabus)
Course Topic and Objective:
The topic of this CRI course is “Religion and Technology.”  Working directly with the latest research by Noreen Herzfeld, St. John’s University, Minnesota (Technology and Religion:  Remaining Human in a Co-created World), it explores a variety of case studies involving modern technology and the effects those technologies have had and could potentially have on our society.  Moreover, it identifies the role religion can offer in assessing the value of those technological innovations, particularly by examining technology’s effects on relationships.  The three major types of innovations considered in this class include advances in medicine (e.g. genetic engineering, stem cell and therapeutic cloning), cybernetics and cyberspace (e.g., AI, robotic engineering, and social networking), and those allowing for the alteration of matter (e.g., nanotechnology and genetically modified crops).  By the end of the course, students will answer the following essential question:  How can religious notions of relationships (our understanding of human nature itself, how we relate to one another as individuals, and how we relate to one another as a community and to the broader world around us) be used to critically assess the potential benefits and hazards of a new technology.

Course Learning Approach:

Daily Class Structure:  This classroom is a collaborative workspace.  One-half of class time will comprise me talking with you about the topic of the day and guiding you in the process of research and learning.  The remaining half will comprise you working toward completing a final course project, sharing your findings, and presenting your project for public consideration to the entire class at the end of the trimester.

Project Workspace Objectives:  During the latter half of each class session, you will be working on a project that involves any topic related to the course that you find interesting and your answer to the essential course question.  As core objectives, you will design your own curriculum for learning and present a thesis for public consideration.   Observe the following steps.

First, select a topic within the overall framework of the subject matter of this course and one related case study, i.e. a real-world case that you read about online involving the application of a modern technology to solve a real-world problem (use your textbook as a starting point). 

Second, choose your own learning material in addition to the course textbook and other resources from my own curriculum by researching information online, information related to your chosen technology and case study.  Note: This process will be much more extensive than you think.

Third, critically assess what makes your resources for learning quality ones, justify them in writing, and build an annotated bibliography (you can make it as long and detailed as you think you need to in order to be successful in your presentation.  Record your bibliography in a google.doc and share it with me at schepey@parishepiscopal.org.  Note: Your curriculum for learning will continue to take shape as you progress in your research.  (And don’t be afraid to buy and read select chapters from books you find interesting on Amazon.  Branch out!  Learn!  You might surprise yourself!)

Fourth, present your technology of interest, your one case study, and your answer to the essential course question by presenting a thesis to the class for everyone, including me, to learn from you and offer constructive critical feedback.  Teach us something!  Finally, share you bibliography with the entire class.  Imagine the resources we’re all going to pull together when the course is complete. 

Summary:  By the end of this course, then, you will lay-out for us in a public presentation your topic and case study of interest, your bibliography of resources and why you chose those particular resources for learning, and your answer to the essential course question as it relates to your topic and specific case (i.e., How does technology affect relationships in this particular case study?).  I suggest you present your answers to the following three questions to help you simply and articulate your thesis:  How does technology in this case affect our understanding of human nature?  How does it affect how individuals relate to one another?  How does it affect the way people relate to one another as a community? Finally, is this a good use of technology in this case?

*Do be prepared to field questions and respond to disagreements after your presentation.


End of Year Artifacts and Teacher Reflections 5/19/2014

Some samples of student final projects and annotated bibliographies that exhibit self-learning, critical thinking, and other aspects of the targeted profile practices:

P.  Hughes - "Apple as Religion"

T. Wahid - "Medical Advancements of Marijuana" - see PowerPoint below


Final Reflections
After three consecutive trimesters of teaching this class, my end of trimester thoughts below remain standing.  Overall, however, the course seemed successful, particularly as evidenced by some of the samples/artifacts of student work presented above.  In class students exhibited the ability to
  • P1: Write and speak clearly for different purposes and diverse audiences by creating detailed annotated bibliographies and giving a public presentation of their final projects.

  • P4: Imagine alternatives and generate solutions for problems by presenting a thesis for class consideration involving real-life case studies.

  • P6: Connect and relate knowledge across disciplines by engaging in multiple fields of their interest, particularly religion and technology as a starting point.

  • P9: Act and reflect on global issues by critically assessing issues involving case studies from around the world. 

Regarding the impact of this approach on student learning, there seems to be both benefits and hazards as far as how students utilized the "class workspace" provided.  On the one hand, the approach enabled them to grow into a methodology that truly draws them into their work, work that engendered genuine interest and drive for learning and applying skills learned to real-life situations.  This was evident in the numerous discussions with the students in class and within the actual artifacts of their work.  On the other hand, it was challenging in that the instructor had to continually remind and galvanize the students to work in class rather than be constantly distracted by other web-based interests, particularly social media.  That part was tiresome and needs to be addressed more effectively in this course next year.  In summation, this is an approach worthy of maintaining and attempting to further implement to some degree (at least) in other religion courses - including the dual credit college courses.

Past Personal Reflections
End of Trimester One - Experimental Implementation
Student responses were fairly positive.  They knew they were the guinea pigs/"beta testers" for the course. They had an opportunity to complete a google-form evaluation survey, though only 5/22 took the time to complete it (despite frequent requests). They seemed to enjoy it overall, though there are some needed tweaks to be made.  Most importantly, a major flaw in the survey was that they didn't have a place to comment on the PBL format of the class.
Here is the google-form survey:


I've made quite a few changes/alterations already.  I've had to implement some type of assessment tool for grading student bibliographies.  This was an obvious need that I neglected at the start of the course.  As for positives so far, the use of student google.docs has been working well:  It's allowed me opportunity to work with the students in class quite effectively, e.g. monitor their progress and make comments on their progress online in real time.  Are they actually working or watching ESPN football videos?  With google.docs I know.

Re: some other details, I've required due dates for annotated bibliographies spread across a four week period.  By next Friday's class, they are to have a total of ten resources, in full annotated bib form, and to have chosen their one related case study.  Maybe this is too much time.

Today, select students stood at to the SmartBoard and shared their topics, case studies, bibliographies, etc. with the class informally.  It was a "business session" allotted for critical feedback from other students - a solid opportunity for students to learn from one another as they develop their projects.  Also, a student asked if a presenter would send him a link to an article.  This was a great segway for me to introduce Digo (a resource for sharing bibliographies that Dolores Gende showed me). Likely, I'll require Digo next trimester, so that by the end of the year, can collaborate by sharing resources. 


Teacher Demonstrations

One thing I've been doing that's proven fruitful is to actually demonstrate for the students, from time to time, how I do my own research, i.e. how I go about preparing this course and class discussions.  Last week I showed them how I went about choosing the course textbook itself.  (I googled "religion and technology," followed links to quality educational resources, looked them up on Amazon, etc.  Points I made: Look at the titles. Immediately look at the author bios.  University instructors or professors who have to uphold the school's tradition of excellence in research and integrity?  Have they written any other books or articles on related topic?  Look at the publisher info.  Is the book in a special series related to our topic?  Why is publisher info important? )

Another example --today, I demonstrated how to trace footnotes/endnotes to build a starting bibliography using just their course textbook.  The course textbook - what a great place to start.  "Open to page ____.  Look at Herzfeld's Ray Kurtzweil quotation.  From which of Kurtzweils's books does she get the quote?  Look at the endnote number, look for it in the author's bib at the back of the book, look up the book on Amazon, etc.  This might be another great resource for those of you interested on the progress of AI...etc."  Trace, trace, and keep tracing sources from one author to another.  Read, look for primary sources, and state your own opinion about a topic in relation to what others are saying. 
Discussion today was centered on social networking, in particular those aspects involving "authenticity" vis-a-vis "transparency."  I found that students led the discussion much more than I had anticipated.  Class was quite fluid.  I only needed to raise a few critical thinking queries, and the students engaged easily and very much with one another.  Some particulars: Instagram vs. Facebook made for an interesting discussion. Many felt that Instagram, because of its blog-like structure, enabled them to be "more honest and who I am."  Facebook has become more and more like Twitter, etc.. I also took time to discuss the phenomenon of "digital footprints" with them --as a way of demonstration, they googled me (they actually did this instinctively, without my initiating it). 



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