December 2007 Archives

No Monsters

Chloe: No Monsters

Lately, we have had a monster problem in our house. Chloe has been very concerned about monsters, particularly the possibility that one or more live in one of her closets. Checking the closets before bed each night did not seem to allay her concerns.

Now, however, she has hit upon an excellent solution. As we brainstormed ideas about how best to deter monsters from entering our house in the first place, Chloe came up with the idea of an unequivocal, definitive sign. She dictated it to Val, drew some scary pictures on it and posted it in the window next to our front door. The sign reads:

And I mean it, monsters.

Chloe used her most powerful I-mean-it voice in dictating this sign and the monsters seem to have received the message loud and clear.

Blogging in the Philosophy Classroom

Christopher Long

One of the many great privileges of teaching here at Penn State is the opportunity I have to work closely with faculty and staff committed to thinking creatively about teaching and learning. One place where there is a vibrant and exciting community of people dedicated to thinking creatively about innovative teaching techniques is the office of Education Technology Services (ETS). Cole Camplese, the Director of ETS, has cultivated a culture of creative experimentation that is transforming the pedagogical use of technology here at Penn State.

As part of the Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) unit, ETS supports faculty willing to try new technologies to determine what does and does not work in the classroom. For the past two years, I have been using blogging and podcasting in my philosophy courses to encourage students to articulate and disseminate their ideas in ways that relate the philosophical content we discuss in class to a wider community. I will present some of my experiences at the Spring 2008 Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology here at Penn State.

To hear more about my approach, see the story about my use of blogging in my philosophy courses posted on the TLT Symposium Website at:

To view my course blogs, with links to blogs written by my students, see:

Phil & Sophia


Two boxes of old slides had been sitting in my closet for years. My mother gave them to me long ago with the thought that maybe we might look at them sometime. Over Thanksgiving this year, we decided to have the slides transfered to a CD ROM.

I have posted some of the results on my .Mac account at:

The pictures resonate with me not only because they are images of my most immediate ancestors, but also because my maternal grandparents were themselves parents of two daughters. There is a certain repetition here: the moments of the family seen in these pictures amplify the importance of the moments we now spend with Hannah and Chloe. What pictures of ours will be unearthed by their children, what memories will last, what stores told?

Phil, my Grandpa Filing, died when I was five, so I never really knew him. I knew, however, the stories, told always with laughter. My mother and Aunt Barb can hardly mention their father without breaking into joyful laughter. The stories live on, the laughter lasts. You can hear it in these pictures if you look with attentive ears.

Sophia, Nan as we called her, died just after I graduated from college, so I knew her well. She taught me to be loyal and to love my work. She always had a deep love for us, grounded firmly in a stoic strength that only now am I beginning to truly appreciate. This love and strength too can be felt in these pictures if you look with a sensitive heart.

To Phil and Sophia, for the stories, the laughter and your love, thank you.

Web 3.0

After hearing the Education Technology Services (ETS) Talk, number 35 in which issues were raised about the limits of Facebook and other aspects of Web 2.0 social networking that were feeling a bit cumbersome, I have been thinking about what Web 3.0 will be like and what we might anticipate for its impact on pedagogy.

My sense is that the sort of control over content that the next version of Moveable Type will offer to the Blogs @ PSU program points in the direction of Web 3.0. I imagine that Web 3.0 will bring an increased capacity for us to have complete control over our own on-line identity and digital expression regardless of whether we belong to a proprietary social network like Facebook or or Flickr. Rather, I will be able to develop and customize a digital space accessible to anyone willing to subscribe to the feeds -- Twitters, Pictures, Blog Posts, etc. -- that I am publishing about myself, my work, my life. My students, family, friends will have access to my information on a variety of platforms, again, regardless of whether or not they belong to a common social network. They will engage with my content both passively and actively using cell phones, laptops, desktops and new devices like the Kindle throughout the course of their day, not limited by wires or walls. It seems to me that a number of interesting pedagogical possibilities would open up in such a world.

I imagine too that I am vastly underestimating the new creative possibilities that the technologies on the horizon will bring to us. I probably have described something that belongs more to Web 2.1 than Web 3.0. But, it would be very interesting to hear any speculation you might have about what Web 3.0 will look like. In three years, say, what new pedagogical possibilities will be open to me as a faculty member committed to weaving technology into my courses in order to teach students how to articulate themselves and critically engage the world in and through the digital medium?

The Reach of Campaign Rhetoric

With the campaigns for the US Presidency fully underway, the attack ads are really heating up. The intense rhetoric seems to have filtered down into the heart of at least one long standing battle in the history of philosophy.

Kant Attack Ad

The Dazzle of the Light

ChloeMoment.jpg Upon passing a cemetery on the way to play group yesterday, Chloe was prompted to a line of questioning that led to the question of death: not only her death but also the death of me and Val. Val was alone in the car with the girls and did her best to avoid retelling those tempting stories we mortals tend to tell ourselves to assuage the ineluctable burden of our finitude.

Yet, what does one tell a three and a half year old asking about the limit of her own existence? Her humanity presses in upon her and she responds with a natural wonder that must be nourished, however much it challenges the securities we have won over the course of a lifetime of living in the shadow of the limit.

Whitman helps me here, although the help is hard to hear:

You are asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.
Sit a while dear [daughter],
Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,
But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you
with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence.
Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every
moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout,
and laughingly dash with your hair.

-From Leaves of Grass, 46 ("son" changed to "daughter" by cpl)

To invite and hear the questions, to admit the impossibility of answers, to nourish our children and to empower them to be bold swimmers are the true gifts we parents have to offer. In return, there is a nod, a shout, a laughing dash of hair: the dazzle of the light. Let us habit ourselves to every moment of our lives.



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CpL Books

Aristotle on the Nature of Truth   The Ethics of Ontology


The Digital Dialogue

CpL Videos

Christopher Long's bibliography