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Teaching Jewish Studies: Pedagogy and Archaeology Pedagogy and Archaeology: How Students "Dig" the Web Julye Bidmead Vanderbilt University 89 Can the Internet and computer technology play any role in teaching Biblical Studies? In this world of virtual reality students enrolled in Vanderbilt University's Religious Studies 106, "The Hebrew Bible and its Interpretations," excavated an ancient biblical city from behind their computer screens. Technology, archaeology, and biblical interpretation commingled in the cleverly entitled I Dig Gezer, the first interactive archaeological Web-based module to be used at Vanderbilt University. This paper will address some of the pedagogical issues involved in the development, design, and presentation of computer teaching modules, such as why and how this program was developed, the context in which it was taught, a brief overview of the module, and a summary of its results in an actual classroom situation. The initial conception ofthe project was based on the "choose your own adventure game." With that framework in mind we designed a unique Web project where students would work through a computer program which modeled an archaeological excavation. The assignment and computer project had several goals, namely for the students to understand archaeology, its tools and ambiguities, how history is "pieced" together from archaeological information, and archaeology's contribution to biblical studies and historical interpretation. From the module, which sought to simulate actual participation in an archaeological expedition, students experienced first hand how archaeologists go about adducing information from their finds and how these data are analyzed and interpreted. A final goal, which forms the basis for this paper, was to test this method of pedagogy in an undergraduate teaching environment. Creating Web pages is relatively simple-word processing with graphics and connected links. Finding the materials for the Web page and deciding how to structure the assignment was much more difficult. The main obstacle in developing the program was designing an interactive experience without too much complexity or requiring the student to possess detailed knowledge. Students were approaching the subject with little or no knowledge of critical biblical scholarship or archaeology. We also needed the module to be basic enough for an introduction but with data specific enough to allow comparison and conclusive results. The challenge of teaching archaeology as a tool for biblicallhistorical interpretation lies primarily in trying to express archaeology's 90 SHOFAR Summer 1999 Vol. 17, No.4 complex ideas and ambiguous theories with effective learning tools, and then applying its results to the Bible. Seeking to address this challenge and departing from the standard lecture format and assigned readings, this computer module emphasizes visual perception and critical evaluation of materials presented. The assignment exercise models active learning, "instructional strategies that involve students in doing things and reflecting about what they are doing.'" Students had the opportunity to create their own education; this exercise drew upon both their critical thinking skills and their creativity. Each section of the assignment involved visual and analytic learning. Students could work the project at their own pace, depending upon their individual interest. Asking them to measure the time involved on the project the class average was approximately 3--4 hours, though a few students did spend 9-10 hours on the project. These students' papers reflected greater detail as they most likely examined all the computer links and related web sites. Nevertheless, such detail was not necessary to complete the basic assignment. For effective use ofthis assignment, one must assume several factors. One critical presupposition is that the students were computer literate enough to handle the assignment . Another is the availability of Internet access and time. To compensate for any weakness in computer literary or unavailability of computer resources students were given the opportunity to work on the module with one of the instructors on a public terminal in the library. None of the students needed this extra guidance, reconfirming the necessity for using computer and Internet projects in contemporary college education. Students have easier access to their personal computers and prefer an exercise that can be completed without leaving their dorm rooms. This class was an introductory course taught in the Religious Studies Department of Vanderbilt University. The student demographics consisted of 29 undergraduate students, primarily sophomores...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 89-93
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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