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“Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible” exhibit in Milwaukee

Posted in Ancient, Bible, Judaism, Museums by Alex L. on January 21, 2010

The caves of Qumran (Wikipedia)Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel has reviewed a new exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum called “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible”. The reviewer applauds the installation, which features objects from Qumran but also many general artifacts from biblical times.

Looking through the photo slide-show attached to the review, I perceive that the exhibit is laid out according to a new style of exhibit display. When I visited the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL a few years ago, I noticed that the museum had chosen a fresh approach to museum design. Instead of overwhelming the viewer with a plethora of artifacts and informational plaques, the museum recreated historical environments in each of its varying rooms. One room was Lincoln’s childhood cabin. Another was his funeral visitation room. Each display was artfully lit, engaging, and informative without being overwhelming.

From what I can tell, this style has caught on and the “Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible” exhibit appears to be equally refreshing. Perhaps it’s time for me to visit Wisconsin again.

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Improv and teaching

Posted in Teaching by Alex L. on January 20, 2010

An ancient Greek statue of the slave Pedagogue (Wikipedia)While browsing through blogs about history a few days ago, I read an interesting post on Pedablogue, a blog about the scholarship of teaching, titled, “Whose Class is it Anyway? Presentation on Improv”. The author, Michael Arnzen, has posted the presentation slides from a lecture he delivered about using improvisational acting in the classroom.

The presentation describes a strong case for shaking up the traditional formalism of a classroom by creating an environment where intellectual play by both students and teacher is encouraged. My best experiences as a student have been in classrooms where teachers have had a sense for the drama of the classroom.

There are many benefits to improv in the classroom, as Mr. Arnzen points out. One interesting point he made was that improv allows for a temporary suspension of status roles: if the teacher can playfully relinquish the power role in the improv atmosphere he creates, then the students feel more comfortable participating in class.

Mr. Arnzen does not address whether improv in the classroom would be a formal event that the teacher plans (“Tomorrow, we will be acting in class…”) or whether he meant continuous and unannounced intention on the part of the teacher to make his or her classroom a more intellectually playful environment. I think the mark of a good teacher is if he can perform the latter role well.