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Open House in the Digital Lab – September 21, 2016

Posted on September 16, 2016

Come join us for an afternoon of exploration in the Digital Learning Lab of the Instructional Resource Center on the Richmond campus.  We’ve got gadgets (try out the Yeti microphone), we’ve got software (try your hand at creating an infographic in and we’ve got people (superstar student workers Amanda Hill and Bruce McVey and Jay McNeal and Ann Knox in the IRC).

Plus – we have some great door prizes (mouse pads, flash drives, external battery, Tile app, and a gift certificate to FRIDA’S) that will be given away every 15 minutes and FOOD.  Drop by any time between 2 – 5 pm on Wednesday, September 21, and see how the Lab can support you in your work at UPSem.

William Smith Morton Library – Room 203 (2nd floor, north end of the building)


Special exhibit : African Odyssey

Posted on August 5, 2016

Now closed

The Morton Library is hosting a visiting exhibit of photographs taken by Dr. Joanne M. Braxton during a visit to Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Senegal.  Dr. Braxton is a professor at the College of William & Mary, and Director of the Middle Passage Project.

“I took the photos to support my written notes when I would later sit down to write a play about the survival of African people in the New World,” said Dr. Braxton.

“And when I saw the pictures, I realized that they tell a story, a very personal story that explores the problem of memory in a way that I had neither anticipated nor expected. I want to share that story through the collection of photographs and hand-lettered captions that I now call African Odyssey.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public, and will be available in the Library Atrium, 15 February – 13 May 2016. There was a very interesting gallery talk by Dr. Braxton on 29 March 2016.

“This exhibit raises timely ethical and theological questions related to conversations about race and justice in today’s America.  Union welcomes the opportunity to engage in those important conversations,” says Christopher Richardson, Director of the Morton Library.

Come by to see and consider these moving and thought-provoking images. Kiosk Now Open for Business

Posted on April 13, 2016

The Library’s Digital Learning Lab has recently purchased a subscription to – an  video-based online training resource that offers self-paced instruction for all sorts of business, creative and technology related needs.  From learning video editing to brushing up on Blackboard skills, learning how to create a Prezi presentation to fine-tuning your Excel knowledge, offers more than 4,000 courses that can help students, faculty and staff become more comfortable with a variety of tools.  To explore everything you can learn, go to and click on “Library”.

We purchased a kiosk subscription which means that we have one dedicated computer in the Lab that is available from 8 – 5 pm Monday-Friday for anyone who wants to use it without a specific login.  (If you want to make sure the kiosk is available when you want it, you might want to make an appointment by calling (804)278-4324.)  Although the ideal way to spread the word about is to provide a campus-wide subscription, we’re trying this approach first.

We’ll have a Open House in the Lab from 1 pm – 5 pm every day next week (April 18 – 22), as well as between 10 am – noon on Tuesday and Wednesday (April 19 – 20).  Come by and let us show you how can help you.

TED Talks for Parents

Posted on October 13, 2015

For several years St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Suffolk, Virginia has offered a parenting class as part of its mid-week evening of learning opportunities and activities for all ages.  Known as Who Moved the Owner’s Manual?, this class has looked at church-y books, secular books, and dvd-based how-to studies.  Through it all, the main rules have been: 1) keep it real, and 2) don’t expect us to read anything ahead of time.

This fall we’re trying something entirely new for us: we’re using TED Talks as our curriculum, and we’re looking at these videos through the bifocal lenses of parenting and faith.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a non-profit secular organization committed to spreading interesting ideas through short (usually 18 minutes or less) talks by fascinating speakers on every subject imaginable.  TED Talks are available free online  and can be searched by subject or by speaker.  Our eleven-week series will include talks by a professor of social work, a science journalist, a psychologist, and an author, among others.

Here’s an example of the way one recent class went as we looked at neuroscientist Sarah-Jane Blakemore’s TED Talk entitled The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain .

Annie Murphy Paul, a science journalist who specializes in research about how humans learn, recorded a TED Talk on the relatively new science of fetal origins in 2011.  In this talk, What We Learn Before We’re Born , Murphy Paul speaks of research which shows that newborn babies come into the world with a preference for their mothers’ voices, the food that their mothers ate while the babies were in utero, and even evidence of PTSD when their mothers had been through trauma while pregnant.

Murphy Paul’s TED lecture is completely secular, cast in the language of biology.  For people of faith, however, scripture is an easy conversation partner to bring into the discussion. We looked first at Psalm 100: 3: “Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”  After the film, here are some of the questions we talked about:

As a final example of the TED Talks we are using in our parenting class this fall, we turn to Brené Brown’s phenomenally popular talk, The Power of Vulnerability. Brown, a professor of social work, has spent over a decade studying the effects of shame on connectedness in human life.  To her own surprise, she discovered that a sense of vulnerability is both the core of shame and fear and also the birthplace of joy, love, and connectedness.

Our scriptural starting points for Brown’s talk were an interesting duo: Psalm 139, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up …” and the story of Jesus calling Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10.  We spent some time talking about God’s recognition of who we are at our core and unconditional love for that person, no matter what we look like or act like on the outside, before listening to Brown’s narrative of her own “street fight” with vulnerability.

Again, here are some of the questions we pondered:

The four marks of wholehearted people that Brown lists are courage (to be imperfect), compassion (willingness to be kind to themselves and to others), connection (as a result of a willingness to let go of who they thought they should be and be who they are), and vulnerability (willingness to do things where there are no guarantees). Can you imagine living this way?  What would it look like?

  1. Brown says that this notion of shame infects our parenting, too. Instead of concentrating on loving our children for who they are, we are intent on holding onto a sense that they are perfect.  Does saying “you are worthy of love” necessarily mean that you overlook mistakes or give up on discipline?  Think back on the scripture for today.  God says, “I made you.  I love you.”  Does that necessarily mean that God is not saddened by our sins?
  2. Brown also says that we’ve gone from a belief in faith and mystery in religion to a belief in certainty: “This is Truth. I’m right and you’re wrong.”  This, too, is a way of masking our vulnerability in the face of Mystery.  Thoughts?

We post links to the films in follow-up emails to the class members, so that anyone who has to miss a class (or anyone who just wants to watch the film again) has access to the material.  Film links could also be posted to a CE website or to the church’s website with questions included, turning this class into a distance learning opportunity for those who cannot attend in person.

Adult learners are especially interested in making connections between the world outside themselves and their own lives and families.  With short films, excellent content, and brilliant speakers, TED Talks seem tailor-made to serve as curriculum for faith formation in the church.

Beth Lyon-Suhring, Director of Christian Education at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Suffolk, VA, created these sessions for parents in her church and we asked her to share some of them with you here. Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Picture courtesy of Lawrence Wang and shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Streaming Subscription for 2015-16

Posted on September 1, 2015

The Instructional Resource Center has secured streaming licenses from for use during the 2015-16 academic year.  Although these titles were curated for use in particular pastoral care classes, anyone may watch these titles by click on THIS LINK.  If you are on campus, you will be taken directly to our page with the titles you can watch.  If you are off campus, you will be taken to the EZProxy authenitication login screen where you will enter your network credentials.

VoiceThread Tutorial for Students

Posted on June 30, 2015

This video tutorial introduces students the basics of logging in, viewing, commenting on, and creating threads on VoiceThread for online and hybrid classes. VoiceThread is an online learning platform where students can interact with one another and with course material using text, audio, and video media.

Creating Infographics as Teaching Tools

Posted on June 26, 2015

Update: has now released an iPad version of its product: Go to the App in iTunes

Infographics have been used for centuries to help present data and information in interesting and striking ways, from early diagrams of the rotation of the sun to casualty statistics from the Crimean war in an effort to improve hospital conditions. With the proliferation of the internet and accessible graphic-creating software, infographics have become popular for presenting information on any number of topics in ways that can be shared online. – Scroll down to see the one we created for the liturgical year!

Infographics are especially helpful as educational tools. The ability to display data and information visually and spatially targets a variety of learning styles and may aid in the retention of material. Here are several types of infographics  and how they might be used in an academic or church setting (Types and descriptions come from

While graphics software like Photoshop will give you the most flexibility to create your own infographics, they are expensive and have a steep learning curve. We’ve been using a free (with pro options) online service called Easelly to make our infographics. Easelly already has tons of templates to use and customize for your own data. When you’re finished, you can print out the graphic as a poster, put it on your website, and share it online.

Here’s one the IRC staff made that’s a timeline of the liturgical year. Notice how the size of the circles corresponds to the length of the period of time.

Parallel Bible :: Mobile App

Posted on June 16, 2015

Parallel Bible is a social and visual Bible available as a mobile app. In addition to reading scripture, Parallel Bible invites you to take photos of your life and relate them to passages of scripture. The app’s social capability allows you to follow other’s photos and share your own. It’s really powerful to see how others relate scripture to their own lives and their communities. Parallel Bible helps us do that digitally. Check out the video below and give Parallel Bible a try!

Find the app on iTunes


Digital Learning Lab Class :: VoiceThread

Posted on March 16, 2015

VoiceThread is an online education platform that allows teachers and students to engage one another and teaching documents via voice, video, and text. This platform is used in hundreds of undergraduate and graduate classrooms and is an effective tool in hybrid/online learning environments; it may be useful in church settings as well.

The problem VoiceThread addresses: Online learning platforms, like BlackBoard and Moodle, are helpful for delivering content–powerpoints, text documents, and video–to students, but there is hardly a way to actively engage the material apart from writing long text responses in a separate document. VoiceThread allows teachers to upload documents and facilitate an active conversation with students using voice, video, and text, all without requiring everyone to be online at the same time. VoiceThreads can be embedded within Blackboard, enriching what is otherwise a more passive teaching tool.

The Class: The IRC’s Digital Learning Lab is offering an introduction to this VoiceThread where we will demonstrate what all you can do with the platform, and also give you an opportunity to try it out for yourself using the free version. This is a very useful tool for online learning!

Check out or watch the video below!

[button color=”blue” link=”” size=”default” target=”_self” block=”false”]Register for April 2, 3:30-5 PM[/button]

Digital Learning Lab Classes : Canva

Posted on February 4, 2015

Visual and graphical elements are an essential way that we are able to communicate over the internet. Whole social networking sites like Instagram and Pinterest are centered around images. Still others like Facebook and virtually every blog depend on graphics to convey information and the personality of the user.

Creating effective visuals often requires expensive software like Photoshop with a formidable learning curve. If only there were something free and simple to use…

Enter Canva

Canva is a super simple graphic design application that can be used to “create designs for Web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and so much more”.

This 1.5 hour hands on class will help you learn the basics of using Canva and you’ll leave having created at least one design. We’ll be focusing on ways in which these graphics could be used in ministry, but this tool may be just as helpful for your own blog or project.

[button color=”blue” link=”″ size=”default” target=”_self” block=”false”]Register for the Class[/button]


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