“Left to Their Own Devices” by Kate Whitehead about The App Generation (South China Morning Post, December 2, 2014)

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 9.35.47 PMindexThis summer I picked up Howard Gardner and Katie Davis’ book The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World (2013). As I read, I thought that this would be a thought-provoking way to start my “Service, Society, and the Sacred” class by studying how technology is impacting youth culture. The students responded to the three research-based chapters – on identity, intimacy, and imagination – with thoughtful analyses. We also did a debate about technology and the future. I wrote up a  summary of their reactions and sent their comments to the two authors. Howard wrote back immediately; he was quite pleased to have students, for the first time, provide their perspectives on the research findings rather than adults only. Continue reading

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Part I: Using Contemporary Memoirs to Teach Genocide


Humanities I in Action is a course that challenges students to deeply consider their place in the world, and, in the end, to contemplate action steps to bring healing. However, this noble pursuit requires traversing a dark path. During the first semester in Humanities I in Action our in-class study considers the dark side of the human condition through William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, various psychological and sociological experiments, and the study of genocide. Continue reading

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The Question for Hong Kong Protesters: Principle or Pragmatism

BN-DM986_hkprot_G_20140701220857Despite Occupy Central’s high profile threats to carry out an “era of civil disobedience,” Hong Kong protesters still have taken this city by surprise in the last 8 days, the largest student-led demonstrations on Chinese soil since 1989. The crucial question facing protesters now is what comes next. Continue reading

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Technology and Our Future Debate: “How Do We Separate the Gift from the Curse?”


Inventor Ray Kurzweil expects people to live forever. Such an application of technology has vast moral implications for the future. Kurzweil is one of the provocative thinkers that students encountered in this unit on the role of technology in society.  Continue reading

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Technology and Youth Disconnect: Perspectives from International School Students



This year in my “Service, Society, and the Sacred,” a junior-senior elective religion/social studies course at HKIS, I decided to start the semester with an attempt to better understand how the technology revolution is impacting youth culture. In order for students to make their school year and their lives in general more fulfilling, the course’s main goal, I felt that we first needed to come to a collective understanding of the challenges students are facing. This blog entry shares the first unit of the year in which students reflected on how youth culture has been affected by technology. Continue reading

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Is Ignorance Bliss? Teaching about Chocolate Slavery on Day 1


 When students reflect on their time in Humanities I in Action, they frequently recall the first day of class. Grade nine students are incredibly open to new impressions on their first day of high school, so our teaching team has tried a new opening day activity the last two years that is not only a valuable lesson on its own, but also represents in microcosm our approach to their learning and growth throughout the year.

For some years we have used the issue of slave-produced chocolate. Because many students are practically addicted to chocolate, this issue resonates with them. The shadow side of chocolate production encourages them to think more deeply about their consumption patterns. In moving this topic into the initial activity of the year, we designed an activity around a central question of our first semester of study, “Is ignorance bliss?” Continue reading

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“Inspired Choices” by Andrea Zavadszky about Humanities I in Action (South China Morning Post, August 4, 2014)

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.19.25 AMFollowing our TEDx talk in May a reporter from the South China Morning Post scheduled an interview with Mike and myself for an article, and now it has just been published. The article represents the course well. We are especially pleased that our two award winners from last year, Helena and Yash, spoke so articulately about their experience in Humanities I in Action last year. I’d also like to thank Andrea for taking such a personal and sustained interest in the topic. Continue reading

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