7 Ways to Stop Students Texting in Class

The tell-tale body-language gives the game away:

  • The student’s head is down when every other head is up.
  • He’s typing when no one else is typing.
  • A little smirk appears on his face when looking at his screen (and you didn’t tell a joke).
  • He doesn’t laugh when you do tell a joke.
  • The glazed look when he “returns” to planet classroom.
  • He then leans across to copy his neighbor’s notes

All the classic signs of a student texting, tweeting, updating, or emailing in class. And now we have the statistics to confirm our suspicions:

  • 90 percent of students admit to using their devices for non-class activities during class times. Less than 8 percent said that they never do so.
  • Undergraduates reporting using their devices for non-class purposes 11 times a day, on average, compared to 4 times a day for graduate students.
  • Asked why they were using their devices in class, the top answer was texting (86 percent), followed by checking the time (79 percent), e-mail (68 percent), social networking (66 percent), web surfing (38 percent) and games (8 percent).

The problem is so huge and engrained you wonder if it is even worth fighting against it? Some teachers have resorted to banning all electronic devices in their classes. However this antagonizes students big time, with only 9% agreeing with this idea. And it’s not just those who want to keep texting; many students have got so used to typing their notes that they’ve forgotten how to write!

Other teachers publish a “Technology use” policy as part of their syllabus, and 54% of students think this is a reasonable step. However, to have any effect, these policies need to be enforced with sanctions and many teachers hate acting the part of the NSA in their classrooms.

Many teachers have decided to simply abandon the traditional lecture and to teach using more interactive and discussion type lessons. Some have tried “flipping” the classroom by putting most of their teaching online for accessing outside class hours and using the class time for exercises, assignments, labs, etc. Some students love this; others absolutely hate it.

I know some teachers whose answer is to make all class lectures “examinable,” which certainly increases attentive note-taking. However, that kind of “constant threat” takes away much of the joy of learning (and of teaching).

Instead of resorting to judicial or methodological remedies, maybe teachers should try appealing more to the moral sense of their students. Here are some good moral levers we can pull:

1. Respect: It’s basic good manners to listen to someone who is talking to you, especially if they have spent 10-20 hours preparing a lesson for your benefit.

2. Example: I sat at the back of a class once and watched as one student started checking email, followed by another close by, then another, then another. It was like watching dominoes fall. Your bad example can impact a whole class.

3. Distraction: Obviously emailing when you should be listening is going to limit your understanding and recall of the lecture. But your surfing and Facebooking is also distracting others beside you and behind you.

4. Discouraging: If your lecturer has any tech-savvy, he’s able to tell when you’re “in the class” and when you’re in the World Wide Web. It’s not exactly going to motivate him to prepare lessons and deliver them with passion if you’re continually in a digital daze.

5. Justice: It’s a strange thing, but life has the tendency to bite back. I’ve noticed that areas where I sinned against my teachers and pastors are biting back now that I’m in their roles. In the future, God may give you a bitter taste of your own medicine to teach you to be sorry for your past sins.

6. Habit-forming: School is the place to prepare for our working life. If you get into the habit of constantly checking social media in classes, you’ll do it in your future office, factory, etc., and in future work-related meetings. The longer your habit goes on, the more difficult it will be to change.

7. Damaging: Plenty research is confirming the damaging effects of digital distraction on the brain. It is harming our ability to think long, deep, and on one thing at a time.

At the end of the day though, maybe teachers should also take  more responsibility to make their teaching more interesting and stimulating. “What is the best way,” asked a young preacher of an older one, “to get the attention of the congregation?” “Give ’em something to attend to,” was the gruff reply.

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The Science of Posture
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Brain a Creativity Machine (if you use it right)
For years, neuroscientists looked for a “creativity spot” in the brain. But now they know it’s in lots of places, and certain practices can help make you think more creatively.

Your Smartphone Has Officially Hijacked Your Life
“We are all one-marshmallow OCD narcissists, granted by our devices the magic of comprehensive instant gratification, of self-reinforcing world views, of control over the daily minutia of our fates and fortunes. To not be irrevocably addicted to our smartphones would be senseless.”

Introducing the Psalms
Short but full.

A lesbian lawmaker for religious liberty
Jo Jordan is a Democrat and a lesbian who opposes the Hawaii’s  marriage equality bill as currently written because in her view, it doesn’t protect religious liberty strongly enough. Note the hostile reaction she receives from the LGBT community.

Double Rainbow at Scottish “Veteran’s Day” Memorial Service
This is the island community my wife grew up in, and a few miles from where I pastored for seven wonderful years. Click on over for the double rainbow picture.

Memorial 2

5 Churchy Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennials

I must admit when I see Washington Post headlines like 5 Church Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennials, my first instinct is “Tell me what they are, so I make sure to use them all in my next sermon!”

I know, I know, that’s a perverse and twisted reaction; but it eventually passes, sanity and reason return, and I try to listen for the truth in the midst of all the over-sensitivity.

So let’s examine these terrorizing and terrifying words to see if we should drop them, modify them, or indeed say them more than ever!

1. “The Bible clearly says…”
Apparently the age of IT and social media has turned millions into Bible scholars who don’t need to hear about the Bible’s clarity and who don’t believe the Bible is clear on much at all. Millennials want a lot more hesitation, qualification, humility, and admissions of fallibility in pastors’ sermons. It’s claimed that this will build greater trust in the Bible!

I agree that where the Bible is not dogmatic, the preacher should not be dogmatic. I also agree that way too many pastors claim the Bible’s clear support for what are often just personal preferences and prejudices. However, there is plenty that the Bible is crystal clear on, no matter how much people try to muddy the waters or blunt the blade. In these areas we must insist on the clarity and authority of Scripture.

Verdict: Say it, and say it loudly and authoritatively, but reserve it only for areas that are indeed clear.

2. “God will never give you more than you can handle”
Millennials object to this because they say it implies that if you can’t handle life, if you need outside help (e.g. friendship, therapy, etc), then your faith is not strong enough.

If millennials understand the phrase in this way, then I can understand why they hate it.

I actually dislike this phrase too, but for different reasons. God often gives us more than we can handle, in order to make us feel our need of Him, His Church, His people, etc.

Verdict: Retire the phrase, but for Murray rather than millennial reasons.

3. Love on (e.g. “As youth group leaders, we’re just here to love on those kids.”
They find this creepy and and troubling. “We may understand that we need help, but we certainly don’t want to be anyone’s project or ministry…It may just be semantics, but being loved on feels very different than being simply loved. The former connotes a sudden flash of contrived kindness; the latter is simpler…but deeper.”

I’m with them on this, although I’m not sure I can reason it out as well as they do. It just gives me the creeps.

Verdict: Take it to the trash.

4. Black and white quantifiers of faith, such as “Believer, Unbeliever, Backsliding”
“Millennials are sick of rhetoric that centers around who’s in and who’s out. We know our own doubtful hearts enough to know that belief and unbelief so often coexist….We want to be accepted, not analyzed.”

There’s a lot of misunderstanding here. Of course, unbelief exists even in the strongest believer’s life. However, the Bible is very clear (Did I just write that? I think I hear millions of millennials stampeding to the hills)…Yes, the Bible and Jesus are very clear that there are only two gates, two roads, two destinations, and that we are to analyze or examine our selves to see if we are in the faith. Sermons help us to do that.

Verdict: We need more of this black and white clarity, not less. But preachers need to be skillful spiritual surgeons to ensure that they do not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax.

5. “God is in control . . . has a plan . . . works in mysterious ways”
Millennials believe this but don’t want to hear it, especially when things go wrong in their lives. “We are drawn to the Jesus who sits down with the down-and-out woman at the well. Who touches the leper, the sick, the hurting. Who cries when Lazarus is found dead…even though he is in control and has a plan to bring Lazarus back to life.”

They have a point here. The sovereignty of God is a glorious truth, but Christians often do toss it out way too quickly and tritely when they should be weeping with weepers. Cue the best line in the whole article: “The Jesus we read about enters into the pain of humanity where so often the church people seem to want to float above it.”

Ouch! Painful truth.

Verdict: Keep it, but delay the use of it.

So, thank you millennials for your honesty and your challenges. We want to learn from you and love you.

But we also hope you will learn how to learn from us; and even learn how to love us too. Cliches and all.

Read The Washington Post article here: 5 Churchy Phrases that are Scaring off Millennials.

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Why the Church Needs Business Principles
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18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing with my Husband
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Children’s Bible Reading Plan

With apologies for the delay (I was in Florida for a few days), here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament

How Not to Repent of a Lie: by President Obama

“If you like your health plan, you can keep you health plan. Period.”

It was a lie and was told 29 times with minor modifications.

“But all politicians lie!” say the defenders and spinners.

The President? 29 times? To the whole nation? About his signature policy achievement? Impacting the health of millions?

This was a whopper by any standards. However, when found out, it was also a huge opportunity to demonstrate how to say sorry, how to tell the truth, and how to put right what was wrong.

But, if the President’s lie was bad, his response to being found out was even worse – a perfect model of how not to repent of sin. Here are a few of the excuses we’ve heard from the President and his spokesperson over the past few weeks (I’m paraphrasing them).

1. “But I didn’t think it was a lie at the time.” Reports now indicate that President Obama and his inner circle knew it was untrue and debated whether to include the line in his speeches.

2. “But how was I to know that this would happen.” Obamacare documents reveal that the government not only expected this, but that they expected cancellations to run into the tens of millions. And why wait for 2-3 years to admit it? Why only admit it when forced to?

3. “But it only affects a small minority of Americans.” So when does a lie become a lie? When it affects 10% of the population? 20%? 50%?

4. “But the vast majority will be unaffected.” Oh, so you think that I think that if I’m alright that I don’t care about the impact of this on other families. And you also think that I am unaffected and untroubled by my President lying to millions of Americans?

5. “But what I meant was that you can keep your plan if it meets my standards.” If there’s one thing worse than lying, it’s lying about your lie.

6. “But these people will end up with better plans at better premiums.” Well that’s a relief. Because it’s not a lie if it results in benefits for those lied to, does it? The end always justifies the means, doesn’t it?

7. “It was too complicated to explain all the intricacies of the legislation.” I’d rather complicated truth than simple lies, please.

8. “It’s the insurance companies’ fault.” Oh, yes, the oldest trick in the book: ”The woman whom you gave to me…”

9. “Of course I’m sorry that people find themselves in this situation.” Not sorry for the lie itself? Only sorry for the consequences? If people had not been badly affected, would it not have been a lie then?

10. “The Republicans are simply trying to take advantage of this.” A lie is a lie, no matter how many try to politicize it.

It’s really a classic demonstration of how the human heart responds to sin: more lies, minimizing, rationalizing, blame-shifting, politicization, pragmatism, diversion, etc.

Let’s for a moment try to imagine what the President should have said.

“My fellow Americans, I lied to you. I promised that if you liked your health plan you could keep it. I repeated that lie almost 30 times in multiple venues. At the time I justified it to myself and to my advisers by saying that it was for the greater good, that it was vital in order to get Obamacare passed. I should not have done that. I was wrong and I am deeply sorry. I betrayed your trust in me.

I’ve known about this for a while, and I should have come cleaner sooner. For that too, I am sorry.

As it is only right that I try to make amends so that no one, and I repeat no one, suffers as a result of my lie, I have invited Congress to work with me to re-write the law so that all those I made that promise to, can keep their health plan. If that is not possible, then I am willing to let Obamacare fall rather than see one American suffer as a result of my lie.

I have also offered my resignation to the Secretary of State, but I know Americans are a forgiving people, and I hope you will give me opportunity to serve you further, beginning with me putting right my wrong.”

Reason says, “Madness! They’ll crucify him”

Faith says, “It’s the biblical way and God will bless it.”