Character-izing my classes? A request for comment

Larry Croft and Deanna Jones can’t find the lost ark, no matter how many tombs they raid.I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of reskinning some of my assignments and classroom resources to feature fictional characters who would guide students through various activities. I “piloted” one such assignment  in my first-year Old Testament course, and it seemed to go over well. But I’m curious as to what Higgaion readers might think.

Religion 101. From the course number, this sounds like a “how to be religious” class, but it’s really a basic Old Testament course, usually structured in a survey or quasi-survey format. In other words, my colleagues and I all walk students through the Old Testament in a basically canonical order, usually shuffling the Latter Prophets around into chronological order and blending them with the chronology of the Former Prophets. Yes, there are problems and drawbacks to that technique, but these are mostly first-semester undergraduates, and many of them have only the barest inkling, if that, of how the Old Testament storyline fits together internally. For one assignment, I introduced a pair of biblical investigators (tourists, really) named Lawrence “Larry” Croft and Deanna Jones, who travel through time, space, and even into literary works in a small spaceship called a HARDIS (an acronym, of course, for Historical And Religious Dimensions In Scripture). This went over pretty well and I’m wondering if I should introduce these characters into more assignments. Please feel free to investigate part 1 and part 2 of the hastily-assembled pilot assignment, but realize that some paths lead to resources provided by our library and restricted to account holders.

Hebrew. Students in this class could range from lower-level undergraduates to students pursuing masters’ degrees (M.A. or M.Div.). I’m working on a series of online modules to reinforce the classroom activities and textbook lessons, and I’m considering introducing two fictional characters into these resources. The characters would be Doctor Dabbér (pronounce it like da bear, mimicking the Hebrew דַּבֵּר, “to speak”), who would focus on reinforcing the inductive learning and communicative activities students experience in class, and the Grammar Gibbôr (Hebrew גִּבּוֹר, “warrior, hero”), a soldier (because he follows rules and orders, get it?) who would peel back the curtain and show students how the language is working under the hood (or behind the scenes, or whatever metaphor you wish to use).

So, what do you think? Is this worthwhile or just cheesy?

One thought on “Character-izing my classes? A request for comment

  1. anummabrooke

    _Really_ like Doctor Dabbér and the Grammar Gibbôr. I try to encourage learners to see the inductive and deductive aspects like a joystick in each hand that they throttle up or down at will (rather than as “learning styles” that each learner expects to identify with and choose once for all). I think having the Doctor and the Gibbôr could be a really great way for learners to conceptualize that.

    A few minutes of text-adventuring with Deanna and Larry makes me want more! I think it works well as a _motivator_ for the reading assignments. (I usually think of learning cycles as going “motivation > information > practice > application”.) That is, it helps a learner articulate reasons for entering into reading/viewing assignments.

    I may have told you before, I have sometimes employed a fictional persona, “Hananiah ben Ishbaal,” as a discussion-forum moderator in my online class. He is a 1000+ year old Israelite, whose memories embrace the span more or less from the Merneptah Stele to the victory of the Maccabees. The idea is that students can ask him anything about his life, his family, his occupations, and his perspectives on any biblical texts or historical events. In one course evaluation, a student joked that she liked Hananiah because, “unlike Dr. Lester, Hananiah will give you a straight answer to a straightforward question.” Frankly, I found the role-play as liberating as some of the students did. I can get tired of my habitual persona!

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