Category Archives: Adult Learning

Best Practices for Presentation Appearance

Teach the WordDr. Sue Holtz is the author of our feature article this month. Dr. Holtz serves as the Director of Technology Integration and Support at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. She received her doctorate in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University in 2004. The topic of her dissertation was Nurturing Cooperative Learning Online. Her background is in teaching business communications at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also taught technology courses at various colleges.

“Just because you can does not mean you should.” That phrase does not just apply to our children—it applies to our presentations as well. Presentation software makes it very easy to fall into the trap of adding way too many “bells and whistles.” In this post, we will talk about best practices that guide presentation appearance.

Let’s start with a little background on the way we process what we see on the screen. In our Western culture, we read from left to right and top to bottom. When we are reading a book and turn a page, our eyes automatically head to the upper-left corner of the page. The same is true of a slide, only on a much larger scale. When we look at a slide, our eyes tend to start on the left and then sweep to the right, most often down, but sometimes up, depending on the layout of the slide. When a graphic is thrown into the mix, it becomes another step for our brains to process and can be a virtual speed bump. Add to that the fact that our “page” is most likely at least six feet wide, that can be a lot for our brains to process! Slides should be designed to minimize this “eye sweep.”
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Keep It Simple With Backgrounds and Fonts

Teach the WordDr. Sue Holtz is the author of our feature article this month. Dr. Holtz serves as the Director of Technology Integration and Support at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. She received her doctorate in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University in 2004. The topic of her dissertation was Nurturing Cooperative Learning Online. Her background is in teaching business communications at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also taught technology courses at various colleges.

Keep it simple. Less is more. How often have we heard these words? They are especially important to remember when we plan and design presentation slides. As we have discussed in previous articles, your goal is to have your audience focus on you and your message–your slides are there to support that goal.

In this article we are going to talk about using backgrounds and fonts appropriately to keep your slides simple. Continue reading

Stewardship Emphasis: 364 Days of Thanksgiving

At its February meeting, the Conference of Presidents adopted 364 Days of Thanksgiving as the synod’s stewardship emphasis for 2016. The stewardship emphasis is based on a book and corresponding Bible study by Pastor Andy Schroer.

In our world, sin, and the effects of sin, seem to be more “in our face” each day. Our daily interactions and confrontations with the effects of sin can be demoralizing, Daily struggles with our own sinful natures discourage us even more. After a while, fear or negativity can shape with way we think about things.

364 days of Thanksgiving challenges us to think differently. It reminds us that even in this imperfect world, God heaps blessings beyond blessings in our lives. One of the greatest skills we could wish for is the ability to recognize these blessings. 364 Days of Thanksgiving helps develop that skill by taking readers into God’s word and aiding them in identifying God’s blessings.

The stewardship committee in one congregation decided to use the Bible study and the sermons included in the Bible study kit. The committee also decided to purchase 100 of the books and to encourage the members to purchase them and use them over the course of a year. Something interesting happened when they announced the program to the congregation. Every time an announcement was made about the program, an anonymous donor would step forward and offer a gift to help cover the cost of the books. By the time the program actually began, the final cost of the book for each participant was $3.00. (Regular cost is $12.99.)

The stewardship chairman said, “I don’t remember ever sensing this kind of enthusiasm for a stewardship program. How blessed we will be if God uses this to help us see more clearly the good things he has placed into our lives.

We all know deep down that God has richly blessed us. But if we take the time, each day, to count our blessings, we can’t help but be filled with overwhelming gratitude.”

To learn more about the worship planning resources WELS Ministry of Christian Giving has developed for this program, click here.

4 Tips for Creating Great Slides With Titles & Bullets

Teach the WordDr. Sue Holtz is our feature article author this month. Dr. Holtz serves as the director of technology integration and support at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. She received her doctorate in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University in 2004. The topic of her dissertation was Nurturing Cooperative Learning Online. Her background is in teaching business communications at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also taught technology courses at various colleges.

Last month we talked about planning your presentation. This month we are going to talk about bringing that presentation to the screen. A recent trend in presentations is to move away from slides with a title and a bullet list, to slides that contain a graphic image in the background and a word, phrase, or number that the presenter wants to emphasize. Presentations like this can be very powerful because they allow the audience to focus all its attention on listening to the presenter, rather than reading bullet points while trying to listen. This type of slide is often used in TED talks. I had the opportunity to be in attendance for a presentation that followed this model. It was amazing how much easier it was to listen to the presenter! To learn more about this model read, or research, Weissman’s Presenting to Win![1]

If you are not ready to make that drastic of a change to your presentation style, the next few paragraphs will provide some tips for creating great slides with titles and bullets. Continue reading

How to Avoid the Five Cardinal Sins of Presentations

Teach the WordThis is the first article in a series by Dr. Sue Holtz, who serves as the director of technology integration and support at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Dr. Holtz’s background is in teaching business communications at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also taught technology courses at various colleges.

“What’s the point?”

”How long is this presentation going to last?”

“Man, is it hard to read the tiny words on his slides; thankfully, he is reading the slides to us.”

“And what about those dancing bears and flying bullet points?”

Have you ever had these thoughts while watching a PowerPoint presentation? Do you wonder if anyone has ever had these thoughts while you were presenting?

Over the next few months, we are going to talk about some of the dos and don’ts of using slides in presentations and sharing tools to help you create and use your slides well. We will also talk about ways to get the members of your audience involved and hold their attention. The tips will be valuable to you whether you use PowerPoint, KeyNote, or Prezi. Continue reading

Teach With This Trait in Mind: Immediate Application

Teach the WordThis is the final article in a five-part series by Prof. Stephen Geiger, who teaches education and New Testament at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Why study the Bible?

The Apostle Paul gives a great answer to Timothy:

“From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Note one word in that answer. The saving Scriptures are useful. Scripture is not mere theory.  Scripture is not just something we contemplate with deep thoughts. God’s revelation directly addresses our lives. It’s helpful. It’s beneficial. It is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. Continue reading

“No One Believes in Sin Anymore”

8715936880_8bec919b3c_oIf you have ever wondered why anyone would have wanted a nice man like Jesus dead, your answer can be heard, furious and shout­ing, in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 23. We call this scene the Seven Woes of Jesus.

Savor the bitter words. Read the pathos and pain between the lines when Love got up and told the truth in the temple courts at Jerusalem. The truth that those who thought themselves good people doing well were sinners living a split second from hell.

“How will you escape?” Christ bellowed. For God is holy. God is unalter­ably just. And there is such a thing as sin. So the solemn quiet of the tem­ple courts was pierced by the seven bitter shrieks of desperate, good grief. “Woe to you!” That is to say: “Oh, be careful. If you only knew the holiness of God!”

Then, as suddenly as it began, the mighty thunder of Jesus turned to sorrowful rain. “Jerusa­lem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together . . .” He wanted the sin­ners anyway, even though they were what they were. The woes were wounds from a friend, the kind they could have trusted. They had lived to hear the Lion of Judah roaring in their temple courts on a holy weekday, setting dreadful things in motion, pushing the buttons that would get him killed, orchestrating his own death to occur on the Jewish Day of Preparation. That means Christ was calling out words like Father and forgive and finished even as ten thousand Passover lambs were crying in the holy city and in the temple courts, even as sheep blood flowed like a river down the jagged grooves of Mount Zion. For the Lion became “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

(Please read Matthew 23:1-39.)

I entered the work force as a seventh grader, earning peanuts at a garden nursery. One day I was carrying a wooden tray of carefully separated seedlings—cucumbers on one side, watermelons on the other. I managed to spill them all over the floor of the greenhouse. When I tried to reor­ganize the seedlings, they looked identical. I thought for half a second of telling my boss what I had done, but there was no way I saw that conversation going well. Before I knew it, a farmer’s wife was asking for cucumber seedlings. And . . . well . . . I sort of guessed.

I’ve thought about those little seedlings many times over the years, reflecting deeply on the fact that watermelon seedlings inevitably grow up into the surprise of full-grown watermelons, no matter what anyone says or thinks about them. They become what they have to become, ignoring and denying all other beliefs to the contrary.

Call it the inexorable law of the farm. “God cannot be mocked,” the Scriptures declare. “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.” We reap what we sow. People who deny the reality of sin do not exempt them­selves from sin’s natural consequences. If you don’t know sin by a sensitive conscience anymore or by the dos and don’ts that were clear enough when you were small, then recognize sin by its results. Sow criticism into a marriage, anger into a childhood, lies into a friendship, sexual immorality into a life, and stand back to learn the law of the farm. Neglect to do good things that you know are yours to do—recall the words left unspoken, the hand that wasn’t held, all the gifts never surrendered—and reap what you sow. The critics wind up condemned. The merciless fall and are not forgiven. The selfish wake up alone. The violent lie in pools of blood. Not all the time, and the price paid is not always quite so obvious. But these things certainly happen predictably enough to detect the pattern. You can recognize the sinful seeds by their fruit.
Tragically, however, there’s more in view here than just the deserts that might come to us during our lifetimes. The verse above talked about “destruction.” God’s Word states that death, physical death that seals eternal separation from God, is the very thing sin insists on growing into. And while Sigmund Freud commented that “no one really believes in his own death,” disbelieving won’t keep you from dying anymore than denying gravity can help you when you’re falling.

A nagging conscience does not just make stuff up. Sin is what it is nagging about. For a blunt biblical definition, “sin is lawlessness.” Sin means neither following the good will of God nor even wanting to. To use the Bible’s own pic­tures, sin is failing to hit the target of goodness, it is will­fully wandering from the right path and it is being bad enough to step across a good line. Sin is a hard heart, a stiff neck, a beast crouching at the door. We don’t merely break commandments; something ugly stirs within that breaking. We declare our insane independence from God, our life; we show him that we don’t need him, don’t want him, and are not going to follow him anymore. Thus sin is irrational. Though it makes a certain kind of sense to the sinner, sin is ultimately self-destructive. Our very natures are filled up with deep hostility, rebellion, pride, and selfish desire, therefore, every human endeavor is tragically flawed from the start. It sticks in my ear, the ominous sound of the Hebrew words tohoo vavohoo, which mean “formless and void.” These ancient words of Genesis describe the chaos at the beginning of time before God began his ordering words, “Let there be light.” Significantly, this phrase is used one other time in the Old Testament. God intoned through the prophet Jeremiah “tohoo vavohoo” about the sinful condition of the world . . . as if human sin had ushered back in a kind of deathly chaos, a sickening spiritual entropy.

It’s the nature of the beast that we, being the sinners in question, don’t detect anything quite as bad as all that. Ultimately, sin isn’t measured by how we happen to feel about it. Sin gets its gravity not only from its inherent bad­ness but also from the infinite greatness of the one it offends. Guilt looms precisely as large as the One who says, “Do not,” yet we do. Even “little” sins are a “big deal” because God is. Sin is the history-long tragedy of humankind’s hostility toward God. Can’t you tell that something happened?

You see, humanity itself is implicated in a terrible primal crime. Humankind has “a past.” Spiritual death came to our first parents when they sinned the original sin, when they met with God face-to-face in the Garden of Eden and slapped the original slap. And what happened to them also happened to us, hiding, as we were, in their bodies. Indeed, the human race, as one thing in Adam and Eve, fell away from God when it rebelled against him. The very skies seemed to crack like a mirror. The great human ship ran aground. A once beautiful world just fell apart in cer­tain ways, and we are living in the wreckage, daily stum­bling through sin’s consequences. That is to say, we aren’t in the garden anymore. We live “East of Eden,” where we hear the screams of childbirth and feel thorns tearing at our ankles.

So you may call sin the great No Wonder. It is not a pleas­ant thing to confront, but at least we have a perfectly con­sistent explanation for the way things are. No wonder it’s so hard to keep a family together, make life work out to ten minutes of pristine happiness, or change ourselves in even little ways. Sin is the reason. Existence itself, as we now know it, is out of sync with its good Creator. There’s some­thing wrong, terribly wrong, with everything. Please don’t say you hadn’t noticed.

Cornelius Plantinga’s chilling book Not the Way It’s Sup­posed to Be: A Breviary of Sin deals with that pregnant Hebrew word shalom. The word is translated “peace,” but “everything the way it’s supposed to be” comes a little closer to the meaning. Shalom is unspoiled harmony with yourself and with every sister and brother, with the whole universe, and with God from whom, for whom, and to whom are all things. And everyone gets loved. And no one dies. Shalom is perfect well being, such as you’ve never seen but privately ache for. I’m supposed to sing every morning a song that won’t be quiet. And you’re supposed to laugh every day from a full, full heart. We’re supposed to explore in perpetual discovery the landscape called his and stand together, beside ourselves, by some lake, on some green hill, in our sanctuary the size of the world, and robustly holler his name. The way it’s supposed to be.

I think of that shalom . . . and I step disgusted away from my own cowardice and meanness and deliberate, blissful ignorance of human need. I let awaken my sense of sin. Yes, sin. I say the embarrassing word out loud, because loving Jesus means being willing to use his words. The title of Plantinga’s book is not a bad working definition of sin: “Not the way it’s supposed to be.”

There is something terribly wrong with me! Dear reader, don’t think I’m talking (or writing) down to you. The truth is, I know why you sin. I know. Each of us is an intimate part of what’s wrong with everything. I cannot sit high above the world I criticize and not get splashed myself.

Only Jesus can criticize and not get splashed. Think of his gentle healings, his patient teachings, his bold confronta­tions, his persistent forgiveness. Think of all his words: “What God has joined together, let no one separate!” and “Let the little children come to me!” and “Little girl, get up!” See how his whole life sparkled with the way things were supposed to be.

No such thing as sin? In our own popular culture are hints of the things most of us really believe. How many novels fairly weep over that something that is wrong with everything? How many of our favorite films take their power from that vague modern hunger for redemption? In The Green Mile, for just one example, a black mountain of a man, a condemned man of perpetual tears, is cursed to always feel within himself the ethical horrors of the human race, like bits of glass grinding in his brain. He sees in his mind the vile act another man commits and murmurs, “It’s like that all over the world.” He looks deep into the soul of a woman wasted by a foul disease and whispers the stirring, hopeful thing, “I see it.” He sees what’s really wrong and is one who can reach for it and perform the awful miracle of taking the horrible stuff into himself. In the end, the miracle worker dies, blameless but blamed, in the place of the guilty. We walk out of movies like that thoughtfully, with a dull ache behind our eyes. But I have a story twice better. In my story of redemption, the hero returns alive. Oh, and mine is true.

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” His incarnation was a quiet echo of the ancient “Let there be light.” It is Christ who saw to the depth of you and me; it was sin that met his eyes. There was only one thing that would matter at all: his beautiful life given in exchange for ours, such as we were. Look at your own spiritual con­dition and be appalled; it is at this point that Christianity begins to speak its two languages of sin and grace. To hear the one is to be able, for the first time, to know the other. The paradox, as described by Paul Tournier, is that those who are most severe with themselves, calling sin by its name, are those who live in the most serene confidence in the mercy of God.

Awareness of sin and awareness of our Savior grow side by side. Christianity has always measured the weight of humankind’s actual guilt by the price that was required to atone for it. The very coming of Christ into the world can only mean that we were lost in the sight of God. The agony of God himself on Calvary and the urgency of the call to unite ourselves to him in faith tell us that the main human trouble was desperately difficult to fix, even for Divinity, and that sin is the longest-running of human emergencies. But don’t be afraid. If sin is the ugly man-made scratches on the human shore, grace is the smoothing, covering tide. The news is good.

God has taken away your sin. Because you are loved and because you are grateful, you mumble attempts at encouragement and fumble with small acts of kindness—new seeds you sow in hopes of what they will become.

As for me, I survey the faces of my loved ones and I see that the law of the farm has from time to time, more often than not, been set aside for me. In their presence and their kindness, I am reaping more than I have ever sown, grace upon grace.

The painting at the Christian bookstore holds me in its grip. It is a portrait of the face of Christ, yet his face is par­tially obscured by the person he embraces, by an anony­mous head that is turned away and covered by a cloth.

The fierceness of that hug. The warmth of that smile. The shine in his eyes . . . so happy. So happy. Yet a hint of the pain behind his costly joy remains in Jesus’ face. And with his loved one’s head all covered up like that . . . it could be anyone at all.

The longing for what this picture contains wakes up, sudden and unexpectedly intense. It matches the depth of human desire for the Agnus Dei. The Lamb of God. The Sar Shalom.

That is, the Prince of everything the way it’s supposed to be.

122022_morepreparedtoanswerFrom More Prepared To Answer, by Mark A. Paustian © 2004 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Image credit by Jim Champion and is licensed under CC0 2.0


Teach With This Trait in Mind: Task-Oriented

Teach the WordThis is the third article in a five-part series by Prof. Stephen Geiger, who teaches education and New Testament at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Sunday morning adult Bible class is not the time to teach people how to use a new computer program.

But if it were, you might insist that every class member bring a computer. Why? You can talk in theory about how to create a new document in Microsoft OneNote, but learners will better remember what you teach if they can try it out immediately. Putting learning to work promotes learning.

We are looking at five key characteristics of adult learners. Adult learners are self-directed, experienced, task-oriented, problem-solving, and interested in immediate application. Today’s focus? Adults are task-oriented. Said another way, adults benefit from active learning. While adults are certainly capable of acquiring information by sheer force of memorization, they appreciate putting a concept into practice as soon as possible. “Give me a truth. Then let me do something with it to ensure that I understand what you have just taught me.”

What kinds of activities can one do in a Bible study? “Task-oriented” makes sense when teaching someone how to use a computer program, but how could my teaching of a Sunday morning Bible class be different if I keep this particular trait in mind?

  • Make me practice: If brief lecture teaches how to open a new document in a computer program, sitting down and actually trying to do it solidifies that teaching. With Bible instruction, think about how a learner can “try out” a particular doctrine. Imagine that we are in Revelation chapter 2, having just learned how Ephesian Christians were gifted at distinguishing false apostles. Learners are now asked to read through three paragraphs from modern heterodox doctrinal statements. Their job is to identify the false doctrines.
  • Virtual role-play: Some outgoing individuals may be ready to do an actual role-play. But generally speaking, virtual role-play may be the safer choice. Allow your class to break up into smaller groups. Create a scenario to solve that requires understanding of a particular Bible teaching. For example, Numbers chapter 25 highlights the seriousness with which God handles sexual sin, as Phinehas drives a spear through an immoral couple. Have your various smaller groups work through this learning activity: Imagine reading this account through the eyes of a non-Christian friend who has never heard this story before. What questions might that friend ask, and what answers would you give to those questions?
  • Target learning styles: Some learners acquire significant quantities of information simply by listening. Others love to be active in some other way. You are studying Hebrews 6:19, which refers to our eternal hope as an anchor in the Most Holy Place of the temple. Give everyone a piece of paper. Invite them to draw what they understand Hebrews 6:19 to be picturing. (Then, if you have the ability to project live images to a screen from a mobile device, you can share with the entire group some of the images the artists—and nonartists—came up with.)
  • Count-down: The task-oriented nature of adults appreciates that sense of accomplishment that comes when a clearly defined task has been completed. How does one clearly define a task? One technique involves requesting a specific number of answers to a particular question. For example, Revelation 1:7-9 refers to opposition against Christianity. Rather than ask, “What are some threats Christianity faces today,” offer this: “Make a list of the top five threats to Christianity today.”
  • Question design – Encourage conversation: If one is learning how to operate a computer, there is quite naturally physical activity that is required. Bible teaching doesn’t lend itself as naturally to muscle movement. But one can appeal to the task-oriented nature of adults by promoting mental activity. What is one way a spiritual shepherd can help learners be mentally engaged? Give them opportunities to talk. Encouraging conversation within small subgroups in your class can be an efficient way to make this happen. The best kind of questions for small groups? Open-ended questions. What is an open-ended question? It’s a question that has multiple correct answers. After considering the physical poverty but spiritual wealth of Christians in Smyrna, small groups might consider this question: In what different ways have you found that having more earthly possessions can make it harder for you to live as a Christian?

Adults are eager to do something. It can be a challenge to satisfy that longing, but what a wonderful thing when that longing can be satisfied through active engagement with Bible truth.

In next month’s issue — Adults are . . . Problem-solving