From the Perspectives of Teachers

A few years back, OliveTree and others showed very well that while they might not always be the preferred tool for creating sermons and studies, they were no less capable than “full” software packages commonly found on pastor’s desktops and laptops. This year’s SBL Bible Software Shootout reintroduces the mobile component – especially because of the popularity of the iPad – and gets an additional curveball in some responses towards using this software not from a company’s perspective, but from an instructor’s perspective.

From this year’s SBL Bible Software Shootout 2: Revenge of the Teachers, Biblical Studies and Technological Tools offers some commentary towards these presentations:

Logos: Two professors from Calvin College, Dean Deppe and Carl Bosma, presented on their use of Logos in their classrooms. Calvin College has a 2 week gateway course that is a required part of the curriculum to introduce Logos to the students. An important aspect of the instruction is both learning how to use the program and to start the process of using it to take notes.

  • A 1 hour introduction
  • Four 2 hour sessions explaining features with MDiv students
  • Three 3 hours sessions with MA students.

Deppe showed examples of how he has used Logos. (Cf. Deppe’s All Roads Lead to the Text: Eight Methods of Inquiry into the Bible for his work on using Logos for exegetical examples. I have now acquired the book and will provide a review here, hopefully before the new year.) He demonstrated how he thinks in terms of various lenses for viewing the texts using various Logos tools: Personal Book Builder to collect notes, Collections for searching, Passage Analysis, highlighting, layouts, visual filters including sympathetic highlighting, tools that can be used for students who don’t know Greek or Hebrew, etc. He showed an interesting example of highlighting of verb tenses in Romans 7 along with quite a number of layouts he has created for working with grammatical, exegetical, background, related texts (e.g., DSS, Josephus, Pseudepigrapha).

Bosma showed how he used Logos for notetaking and linking to local and web resources.

Again, there’s nothing radically new here, unless you look a bit deeper into what’s happening. The SBL Shootout is usually composed of companies skilled to develop towards the tnedencies of academics, not necessarly the most mobile-friendly audiences, and definitley one with a different paradigm towards teaching emthods. There was a heavier emphasis on the presenters here to be led towards applying the text of Scripture, but also demonstrating their methods towards dissecting and interpreting the meaning of the text based on what’s worked in instructor-led settings (languages, cultures, etc.). If you will, you are getting an opinion out of the actual use of the product, not simply the features that the developer wants to most demonstrate (biased towards their marketing/compitence). When you get the presentation of the capability of the software from the perspective of the teacher, you begin to see a bit more how this is used in such settings (wealth and warts) and can start to discern a bit more contexually the strengths of the software versus the stregths of the teacher.

What’s not clear from the commentary is how the reception was from students who engaged instructors that prepared these materials. Were the classes better managed? Or, where there additional challenges getting (some/most) students information in a manner that didn’t just work best for teaching the concepts, but also their devices? Clearly, the software is in a better place. And now hearing the academicly-tuned Biblical/religious community share their lessons-learned is great. The question is how can these persectives be rolled up into something of a working document for best practices for others who wish to have some insight or clarity towards instructing to this depth from a mobile device, connected software, and theological perspective.

I like some of the discussion here about the utilization of Apple’s iCloud. In some conversations with ministers recently, iCloud has come up as something they very much liked because it meant that they were better able to take what they needed from a laptop setting and have that on their mobile or tablet as they went. Again, this isn’t a radical change from what we’ve demonstrated and talked about here (its really syncing, though more than just calendar/contact data as many of you have done via Exchange, PalmSync, etc., without the fun of pushing a button to say so), but the acceptance of the behavior to prepare and be ready to teach a lesson is something to note. On our end, products such as Dropbox and Idea Flight have been quite useful towards instructor-led engagements. Though, simply putting your items on a server and then provoking interaction from that point has also been quite demonstrative.

Read the rest of the commentary about the SBL Shootout 2 from Biblical Studies and Technological Tools and then consider how you are leveraging these technologies to teach clearer or better. It might be that you create something similar to a traditional lecture-based course, or, that you might make something more along the lines of the Cybermission’s Mobile Ministry Training Course which goes towards a different direction of technical competence for instructors. In either respect, going mobile isn’t an excuse for not being able to handle teaching a lesson – the tools are there, are your teaching chops and students up for the rest?