Category Archives: Professional meetings

TALMID 2017

If you teach Biblical Hebrew in a seminary, university, or college, you might consider attending TALMID 2017, a workshop in communicative pedagogy for Biblical Hebrew. I would love to participate, but cannot for reasons of both cost and scheduling; however, I have previously attended two similar workshops, one by the CoHeLeT Project (with some of the same leadership team as TALMID) and one by the Biblical Language Center. Adopting communicative teaching/second language acquisition techniques has transformed my experience of teaching Biblical Hebrew, and all for the better (though not without growing pains). At any rate, I recommend the experience!

Character-izing gamification

For the convenience of anyone who wishes to follow along with my November 20, 2016 Society of Biblical Literature presentation entitled “Character-izing Gameful Learning: Using Student-Guided Narratives to Motivate, Engage, and Inform Learners,” here is the slideshow, presented as a PDF with one slide per page. The program book abstract reads as follows, though it’s no longer 100% accurate to the presentation:

Religion 101: Old Testament in Context is the first of three religion courses required of Pepperdine University undergraduates. For some time now, my students have encountered foundational course material (basic facts and orientation to key questions) in the form of 21 substantive homework assignments delivered within Pepperdine’s course management system. These lessons resemble a textbook in informal prose; students interact with the lessons by reading materials directly in the LMS, by following hyperlinks to other online readings and videos (mostly from Bible Odyssey, Oxford Biblical Studies Online, and educational YouTube channels), and completing reading quizzes in the LMS. Beginning in Fall 2010, I began to inject elements of gameful learning and teaching by introducing the “Worlds of Biblecraft” metaphor, switching to accrual grading, and introducing content-themed terminology to describe course activities (“learning tribes” instead of “small groups,” for example). Since then, “gamification of education” has gained steam worldwide. However, the blossoming literature on gamification can be hard to review, interpret, and apply. As Karl Kapp (2012) notes, “There are literally thousands of books, articles, and newspaper reports on the effectiveness of games and gamification. Some of the reporting is based on theoretical underpinnings, some of it is based on opinion, and some of it is based on wishful thinking.” In the Spring and Summer terms of 2016, I sought to contribute to the empirical research on the effects of gameful learning in biblical studies. Supported by a grant from Pepperdine University’s Technology and Learning department, I reframed one-third of the homework assignments as narrative “choose your own adventure” experiences using the fictional characters of Deanna Jones and Larry Croft as guides to help students explore the biblical stories of the creation of humanity, the exodus, the Israelite “judges,” the Assyrian domination of Israel and Judah, the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the edict of Cyrus, and the trials of Job. Core elements of the previous versions of the assignments—biblical readings, secondary readings and videos, and quizzes—remained fundamentally the same as in the discursive version. Learning gains were measures by comparing aggregate quiz and test scores in the control (pre-revision) and experimental (post-revision) groups. Additionally, student attitudes toward the two different types of assignments were measured self-report instruments.

Just a game?

jag-rbgFor the convenience of anyone who wishes to follow along with my November 19, 2016 Society of Biblical Literature presentation entitled “Just a Game? Exegesis, Theology, and Ethics in Five Recent Bible-Themed Board Games,” here is the slideshow, presented as a PDF with one slide per page. The program book abstract reads as follows, though it’s no longer 100% accurate to the presentation:

In both the introduction and the conclusion to their groundbreaking study Toying with God: The World of Religious Games and Dolls (Baylor University Press, 2010), Nikki Bado-Fralick and Rebecca Sachs Norris noted that “[m]ost religious board games are simply religious versions of familiar games like Monopoly or Risk, with churches and missions replacing railroads and hotels” (177–178; cf. 2). In the years since then, several new Bible-themed board games have appeared, including Genesis (Gigantoskop, 2010), Kingdom of Solomon (Minion Games, 2012), Kings of Israel (Funhill Games, 2014), and Commissioned (Chara Games, 2015). Each of these games seeks to provide a kind of religious edutainment in which players experience biblical narratives and themes by way of engaging game mechanics. In general, these games exhibit better game design and production values than previous attempts. Moreover, despite clear family resemblances to existing secular games, they depart from the trend noted by Bado-Fralick and Norris of reskinning prior exemplars. Like their forebears, however, these games are “expressions of religiosity growing out of contemporary modes of communication and exchange,” each with “layers of culture, relationship, and identity embedded in [it]” (Bado-Fralick and Norris, 175)—not to mention layers of exegesis, theology, and ethics. This presentation peels back some of those layers with respect to Genesis, Kingdom of Solomon, Kings of Israel, and Commissioned, and the presenter’s own work co-developing a fifth such game, Crossroads (Trivium Studios, 2016). Coherence and/or incoherence between the games’ implicit theologies and those held by the presumptively evangelical Christian audience, supportive and/or subversive approaches to the biblical source material, and representations of divinity, ethnicity, and gender in each game will receive special attention.

Genesis at the SBL 2014 Annual Meeting

John Anderson and I just got official notice today that our Society of Biblical Literature Genesis Consultation, whose three-year run ended at the 2013 SBL Annual Meeting in Baltimore, has been renewed as a Section for the next six years. This wonderful news presents us with a bit of a conundrum: we were not able to issue a call for papers in the normal way. Only today—the last day—did the system allow potential presenters to propose papers. Amazingly, we got a proposal within just a few minutes of the Section going live!

At any rate, if you are a biblical scholar working on Genesis, please consider submitting a proposal to our open session at the 2014 Annual Meeting in San Diego! The SBL’s standard system will only accept proposals up through midnight tonight (March 4, 2014), however, so either act fast or send a proposal to me via e-mail within the next few days. See you in San Diego!

Searching the scriptures (without Google’s help)

This post takes its name from the title of my presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, coming up November 23–26 in Baltimore. I will present in the Academic Teaching and Biblical Studies section in the 9:00 AM session on Monday, November 25 (Hilton Baltimore, Key 1). Here’s the abstract:

In many colleges and universities, we have already reached the point where a student’s (or professor’s!) first impulse when confronted with a desire for new information is to “Google it.” With the increasing power of small mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets, students are rarely more than a few taps away from whatever online information sources they choose to access. The ubiquity of Google searches poses at least two specific challenges for biblical studies courses: (i) it enables students to rely more heavily than ever on secondary sources rather than primary sources, and (ii) it conditions students to rely less on memory and more on quick access to indexed information. Using a digital Bible instead of a paper Bible can accommodate and even “redeem” the second challenge while somewhat counterbalancing the first. In this presentation, I will describe how I have leveraged the ubiquity of smart devices to teach and test digital Bible search skills in “Religion 101: The History and Religion of Israel.” I will share specific apps and exercises used to help students climb the “scaffold” from Bible search novices to more skilled navigators of digital Bibles.

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