Required Readings

Required Readings, 21 March 2013

Good morning, teachers and learners! I hope you enjoyed your day of equal light and dark yesterday. Let’s begin today’s required readings with a little more darkness…

Monsters and Dragons and Dinosaurs, Oh My: Creationist Interpretations of Beowulf – a completely thorough, and damning, analysis of creationist Bill Cooper’s bad linguistic interpretations of the classic story. Read through the whole article to see how Cooper’s creationist twist is being packaged for school-age children.

What Do Professors Really Think About Their Online Courses – online courses, particularly MOOCs, is a topic that I’ll be visiting soon here at the School of Doubt.

Peer Instruction 101 – old wine in a new bottle (old video on new blog post), but this oldie is still a goodie. Peer instruction and Just in Time Teaching is the first step towards the “flipped” classroom model.

Denmark to allow internet in exams – Teachers say the nature of the exams discourage cheating off the web. I’m skeptical…

Fred Rogers’ family recipe for corn pudding – OK, not QUITE educational, but in addition to being the Spring Equinox, yesterday was the birthday of Mr. Rodgers. It’s never too late to celebrate.

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Required Readings are a list of links that you might find interesting! Look for them to appear every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday morning.

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P.E. Robinson

P.E. Robinson

Professor P.E. Robinson teaches astronomy to non-science majors at a 2-year college in the United States. He has a decade of experience teaching science in higher education, and providing professional development experiences to astronomers and other educators. Skepticism and critical thinking are key components of everything he teaches.


  1. March 21, 2013 at 9:32 am —

    Oh no they did NOT. I am going to have to calm down before reading the Beowulf thing…I can’t even…BACK THE HELL UP OFF OF BEOWULF, creationists. For REAL, I will CUT you.

  2. March 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm —

    Beowulf and creationism, I did not see that one coming. While sadly uneducated on the topic (Though I hope to rectify that, possibly resulting in cartoon dragons. :3) I would have to agree with Dr Shell. Trying to bend early medieval mythology (sorry if that is an inaccurate term, rectifying!) as religious propaganda is just evil. O_O

    On an interesting note: I am Danish (yet not tasty. 🙁 ), and happen to be one of the students who will be taking the internet-allowed exams in a few months and just took a mock exam with it this Monday. I would actually have to agree that the way they work discourages cheating. The prime reason for this is that those folders they hand out does not involve any actual questions, that wording seems to be a translation convention of the BBC.
    The exams consist of writing a particular type of article (some are equivalent to English essays, while another is actually called essay and the third type is called kronik. It’s a bit confusing to translate. ^_^’) about a particular subject while using a particular text or video/recording. You pick the one among those in the folder that you want to do and write it, some will require the use of the internet while others merely recommend it.
    While you can technically cheat, the assignments are different each year and you have to send it to your teacher’s Urkund email, which checks for similarities with both student essays and a lot more from at least Sweden and Denmark, if not more of Scandinavia too. So, even if you write off someone else, it should be caught and getting past the measures against cheating seems like a lot more work than just writing an essay. : )

    Granted, I am a student and most certainly ignorant about most things seen from the teaching side of education. Please excuse any erroneous assumptions about anti-cheating success, the BBC and the amazing people at School of Thought in the above. 🙂

    • March 21, 2013 at 10:33 pm —

      Keveak, tak for det!

      Glad to have you here, doing your required readings 😉 I come from Danish heritage (family moved long ago from Randers to US), so that’s why this news item piqued my interest. I’m glad you brought your perspective to the discussion. I figured there was something the BBC was missing. I’m at a point in my teaching career where I know I must design assessments in such a way as to not only test the concepts and ideas I think are important, but also discourage cheating. I’ve designed take-home exams, essay-style, that are difficult to cheat on. Some students will still try, but it is so easy to spot. I like to tell my students that I’m “better at the Internet” than they are, and I can spot cheating right away.

      While I’m skeptical of the exams in the way the BBC presented it, I’m completely open to the possibility of the exams being designed to use the internet, but not be a test of rote “facts”. The BBC made it seem like students would take a traditional exam, but could also use the internet. You’ve described something different, which I think means the BBC should have delved a little deeper.

      ps…I’m taking 2nd level Danish language this semester, so please excuse any bad Danish I use on this blog!

      • March 22, 2013 at 9:52 am —

        Det var så lidt. : )

        Glad to be here and to be reading them.^_^
        We actually got told that a lot in earlier grades. Teachers can tell if you are suddenly using an entirely different vocabulary than normal, especially if a Google search turns up a suspiciously similar text. I’m sure plenty still tries, though. ^_^’
        As for traditional exams, it is currently only being tried in Danish language exams, which I think have apparently been in this style since my parents were in school and wrote it all by hand. I am not sure how they plan to expand it to classes that rely on rote learning, but we already have to do part of most exams without computers, notes or books (eg. grammar questions in English, some simple questions in mathematics, &c.), so that may simple be build on. As a fun note; the reason for allowing internet access at the exams were explained to us as an attempt to mimic reality. Most people will be using the internet to improve and research for their jobs, not rely on textbooks and memory. :3

        Don’t worry about bad Danish, I think it is neat enough that people all the way across the pond are trying to learn our old European gibberish. If you wish to explore the language spoken by your family a long time ago, feel free! Beowulf and its kind would be lost if people did not do that! : )

  3. March 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm —

    DrShell, I think we are friends.

    Beowulf is MY BOY. I own nine different translations and re-read them regularly. Hovind’s obviously never actually bothered to find out how poems work, what kennings are, or any of the things that actually make Beowulf awesome. I imagine he actually believes in cursed necklaces, too. I think if the article had further discussed what kennings actually are earlier on and discussed why and how they’re used in the poem (not only for poetry but for the meter and variety) it would have made it even more painfully evidential that Hovind is a big dummy. It does make me wonder if Hovind would also think is further evidence for the coexistence of living dinosaurs and people.

  4. March 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm —

    Here’s another question: How the hell does a dinosaur participate in blood feud? Hrothgar specifically calls out Grendel for refusing to pay wergild for the men he kills (something you wouldn’t bother to consider if he were merely a beast), and then he identifies Grendel’s mother’s killing of Aesher as avenging the death of her son. WHO WOULD ASSUME SUCH THINGS OF A FREAKING DINOSAUR?

    Keveak, thanks so much for sharing that information; it does throw a different light on things. But more important: Defend Hrothgar’s legacy from stupid creationists! He is a fellow Dane, after all! 😉

    • March 21, 2013 at 10:41 pm —

      To me, interpreting BEOWULF as a literal history of reality shows how many straws creationists are willing to grasp at. English teachers, want to “teach the controversy”? Well, HERE IT IS! I think this is a terrific example that COULD be used in a secular high school class of how apologetics go very, very wrong…

    • March 22, 2013 at 10:05 am —

      “For Hrothgar” would certainly be a neat battlecry in the fight against nonsense, but I am not sure if I should fight this person or worry about their safety in a world with so much fiction. O_O

  5. May 7, 2013 at 9:54 am —

    My wife and I have recently discussed getting a dog. She’s a big fan of little dogs like Pomeranians and Chihuahuas, but she does have a soft spot for harlequin Great Danes. If we go with the latter, I am absolutely naming it Scyld Scyfing. She did not find it particularly amusing, but I refuse to relent.

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