The black hole of living an invisible life

A few weeks back I wrote about starting a online bible study, called Pursuing God, with Margaret Feinberg. I was going to write last week about the first week of the study, but quite frankly language school was whooping my behind and I just didn’t get to it, so I apologize for that. At the end of week 1 we looked at the story about Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well and something stood out to me that i wanted to share with you all. I am sure most of you are well familiar with this story, but I will sum it up just in case.

  • Jesus goes to Samaria (big no-no for Jews)
  • Jesus talks to a woman who is getting water during the heat of the day (big no-no for men to talk to women without witnesses and for Jews to talk to Samaritans and oh by the way, getting water at that time was totally not normal)
  • Jesus asks for water and the woman asked Him why He would ask her for water (since He was a Jew) and then Jesus totally threw her a curveball and said “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.
  • The woman was confused and continued to talk about the water in the well and He said drink the water I offer and you won’t be thirsty again.
  • Then she asked for the water and Jesus said get your husband (ouch! That was rough seeing as she had had five husbands and wasn’t currently married to the guy she was shacking up with).
  • She changes the topic and then Jesus says He is the messiah, she believes and tells everyone in the village, many become believers.

I have heard this story many times before but something Margaret said in the video stood out to me. She said, “When you are invisible you can only get hurt on your terms, not theirs.”

This Samaritan women came to the well when no one else would normally be there. She wanted to remain invisible. After her first few divorces, people probably steered clear of her. She was no longer the talk of the town, because it was normal for her to get married and then divorced. No one cared…and she liked it that way.

I too, have liked invisibility at times. Times when I know I am not good at something, I shrink to the back. Times when I am embarrassed by my actions, I go and take some “me time.” Times when I can’t imagine that a girl would be interested in me, I create something wrong with her so I don’t have to be seen. Times when I’m afraid of failure, I act like I’m disinterested or don’t have an ideas.

I’m sure you have felt the same way at times, but what does this mean for our lives?

  • Could we miss out on some amazing opportunities ?
    • Absolutely!
  • Could we get so concerned with remaining invisible that it consumes our lives and we essentially do nothing?
    • It’s sad and scary to think so, but yes.

It is easy to get sucked into being invisible. It’s easy to never want to be seen, because as Margaret said, if we aren’t seen then we can’t be hurt by those that see us.

That doesn’t have to be the end of the story though. Once we stop caring about what others think or what may happen and step out in faith just like the Samaritan women did, then we can achieve many glorious things in His name. Look at what she did, she went into town and talked to a whole bunch of people who probably didn’t even look her in the eye on a normal day and she brought them to Jesus.

How can you be visible today?

The Real Trouble With Online Learning

By now, if you have been reading my blog for a little while or you have checked out my about me section you know that I am going to be a full-time missionary in Europe designing online courses to spread Bible training to those who can’t afford it otherwise. Two and a half weeks ago I favorited a tweet from a friend of mine that had a link to an article titled “The Trouble With Online Learning.” The article was written by Mark Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia and was originally published in the New York Times. I agree with Dr. Edmundson that there is a problem with online education, but I am not completely in agreement about what that problem is.

Dr. Edmundson talks about the relationship between the professor and the students  and how both generally benefit from the relationship that is built during a face-to-face course, whether it be a large lecture or a small upper-level course. The professor benefits because they can immediately see what is and what is not working and make adjustments for that and future classes. The students benefit because they can get more help if needed or possibly less help when the concept comes quickly. I completely agree that in good face-to-face course this happens and it is extremely helpful.

My biggest issue with this article is when Dr. Edmundson says, “Online education is a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It tends to be a monologue and not a real dialogue.” In fact that statement bothers me quite a lot. For those of you who do not know, I completed my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Educational Technology through the University of Florida. I never once stepped on campus until commencement and yet I would say that my education there was impeccable. Did I have some courses that weren’t the best? Yes, but I can’t imagine anyone saying that every course they took for their undergraduate or graduate degrees were perfect. Some curriculum, whether they are online or face-to-face, are going to be poorly written. Some professors, whether they teach online or face-to-face aren’t going to be the best teachers. No matter where the course is taught, some courses are going to be poorly designed or taught.

The real problem with online education, in my opinion, comes with the fact that professors and instructional designers are not prepared to design online courses or teach them. Dr. Edmundson raises a good point when he talks about a course he saw that used a taped lecture as the medium for the course’s information. He says, “In fact there was nothing you could get from that course that you couldn’t get from a good book on the subject.” He is completely correct. That course will provide the information for students who learn well from lectures with no dialogue, while others could probably read the textbook from the course and get the same information. That is not a high quality online course. A high quality online course is designed by an instructional designer, who has been trained, based on the curriculum and assignments the professor would use in a face-to-face course. The professor should then be trained on how to encourage interaction between him/herself and the students as well as between the students. The relationship between the designer and professor before the class starts is vital as well as the relationship between the professor and students during the course. Too often the professors are left to design their own course and teach it online without being properly trained. That is the real trouble with online learning.