Category Archives: thinking out loud

The Best $26 I Have Ever Spent

I enjoy playing computer games. I recently reinstalled Township on my iPad. And it wasn’t long before I was reminded why I had deleted it the last time. At some point, in order to really advance in the game, the player is encouraged to spend some money. Maybe just a dollar or two or three or maybe more. It can happen quickly and sometimes too easily. I have found that, eventually, the game gets a little repetitive as, despite perks as you move through the levels, you are mostly asked to complete similar kinds of tasks required by the game.

This time, as I went to press the pay button a little too quickly, I was reminded that I could be building and harvesting and exploring almost for free in Minecraft. Since I don’t play on my iPad, Minecraft seems like more of a commitment, requiring a laptop and even a mouse. But even that is good as it makes game playing more intentional, not just something else to do because it’s easy and available.

I paid for Minecraft many years ago at a time when most education-focused websites and software was free. So, twenty six dollars seemed like a lot of money, particularly if you weren’t sure you would stick with it. I play about four times a year and have easily played for ten years: that’s less than a dollar a game. And, I can start and restart to my heart’s content so when I get tired of a particular simulation, I can start a new one, or move from game to game, maybe building something grand in creative mode or battling creepers in survival mode. And, ultimately, it remains interesting as I am the decision maker. There are rules to follow but they don’t dictate what I have to do as much as what I should or could do within the context of the game.

As I type this, I am downloading the iPad version and plan to try it out this evening. If I am going to “waste time” playing a game, at least I can do it mostly for free.

Local News

One of my graduate students was a sport writer focusing specifically on high school sports in a small town. So, I had to share the news about Gannett Newspapers pulling back from their use of AI to write their news stories. Gannett, of course, is not loved by small newspapers and local journalists as they take over and big layoff usually follow. What suffers when that happens is the local news, and it is local news that led to the pull back.

The Columbus Dispatch‘s story about a local soccer match opened with this grabber of a lede:

The Worthington Christian [[WINNING_TEAM_MASCOT]] defeated the Westerville North [[LOSING_TEAM_MASCOT]] 2-1 in an Ohio boys soccer game on Saturday.

Opinion: High schoolers can do what ai can’t, Scott simon, npr

It was, not surprisingly, written by AI.

Scott Simon, who penned the NPR editorial, suggests that the news organization could hire high school students to cover what is, and my grad student backed him up on this, a crucial part of small town life. As I wrote recently, local communities are an essential part in many people’s lives and AI has not yet, at least, found it niche.

On a side note, I introduced my students to the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine last week. The offending news story from The Columbus Dispatch had been taken down but CNN was able to link to the archived version. At least, Gannett had given credit to LedeAI, the bot that wrote what is on its way to being a classic of sports writing.

Not Everyone is Excited About AI, IBM

I am a tennis fan and have been watching the US Open. IBM is a major sponsor and has several commercials about AI on rotation, including one that begins by stating that people are excited at what AI can do for them. Are they? That Pew data I wrote about last week would suggest otherwise: a lot of people don’t know anything about it and those that do are concerned.

Today, I attended my second university-sponsored AI workshop. It was an interesting conversation with very smart people, but at the end of the day, we simply don’t know what the impact of AI is going to be on teaching, learning as well as life and work in general. And, while IBM and today’s panelists expressed optimism, audience questions during today’s Q & A showed real skepticism about this technology. The biggest concern seemed to echo Jonathan Zimmerman’s recent Washington Post editorial: struggling with assignments is what learning is all about. The bot doesn’t just create your product; it does your thinking for you.

From the panelists, there was talk of transforming the curriculum to take advantage of AI and creating AI-aware assignments. Meanwhile, an audience member who was an arts professor expressed fear at what will be lost as AI moves into the fields of visual and musical arts. The answer–that different kinds of jobs will be created for those that are lost–was not reassuring.

Bottom line message: AI is here and, unlike previous technologies, cannot be banned or ignored.

Renegotiating the Bible

The Southern Baptist Convention upheld its decision to expel several churches from its fellowship because they had women pastors, specifically women pastors who were preaching to men, something they believe is explicitly forbidden in the Bible. This isn’t surprising at all, really, since the SBC has historically been against diversity. They only apologized for their outspoken support of segregation in 1995.

The Pew Research Center has some fascinating details about this church that I would encourage you to explore, including breakouts of the beliefs of the membership by gender.

I have read and studied the Bible all my life. I used to joke that I am an evangelical’s worst nightmare: a liberal who knew her Bible. But, I quickly learned that once someone has decided that the Bible is the ineffable word of God, you can quote all you want, and they will just quote right back at you. Lately, it occured to me that the Bible and Walmart have a lot in common: there is something for everyone in both of them. And, just to be clear, we *ALL* pick and choose where to place our attention on the Bible; I’ve decided to go for the love and joy like that found in 1 Corinthians 13, the passage often read at weddings that encourages readers to pursue love before all things as it is the only thing that will last.

Dr. Dan McClellan, a Biblical scholar, has become my go-to source for all things Biblical. He takes on the various tik-tokkers, including at least one who would prefer not to hear women preach, and calls out both their errors in translation but also their out and out lies. His main message is, as I said above, that we all “cherry pick” or, as he prefers to say, “renegotiate” the Bible for our own ideas, times, needs and culture. He is the only reason I finally gave in and made a Tik Tok account. Here is his response to one content creator who laments the lack of men in the pulpit:


#maklelan1381 Responding to @Ryan Foley (Do not harass this creator or comment on their appearance or speech)

♬ original sound – Dan McClellan