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Archive for December 2006
Posted on Saturday, December 30, 2006 at 4:03 PM by Jason Barker
A great plan for 2007 - regardless of whether you make "New Year's resolutions" - is to read through the entire Bible in 365 days.
Bible Explorer - the free application I mentioned in the previous post - includes a "Bible Reading Planner" feature. The Evangelical Protestant website Crosswalk allows you to not only read several chapters of the Bible each day (including using the New King James Version), but also to chart your progress.
Orthodox Christians should also follow the daily New Testament readings of the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church in America enables you to follow the daily readings on their website. If you prefer to listen to the readings, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Akron, OH, gives the daily readings - as well as a biography of the saint(s) commemorated that day, including troparion and kontakion - in their Orthodox Word podcast.
Posted in Online Resources
Posted on Saturday, December 30, 2006 at 1:36 PM by Jason Barker
The free version of Bible Explorer contains Bible resources that are in the public domain: the King James Version, Smith's Bible Dictionary, etc. Some of these are not particularly useful to Orthodox Christians (such as Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional and Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary), and the study resources are often, of course, a bit out-of-date, but Bible Explorer is nonetheless an adequate application for users who want a free Bible study application and do not need to engage in study of the original languages.
Members of Teen SOYO and the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America should be aware that the New King James Version - the translation used in my Bible studies and the Orthodox Study Bible - is only available for Bible Explorer as a $30 dollar download.
Posted on Thursday, December 28, 2006 at 1:22 PM by Jason Barker
Over the next few days I will complete the revisions to the Orthodox Christian Bible Studies home page, and then will write and upload study questions for the Gospel according to St. Luke.
I will resume blogging sometime after New Year's Day (which is also the feast day of St. Basil the Great).Edited on: Thursday, December 28, 2006 1:32 PM
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 11:24 AM by Jason Barker
Related to my earlier post about broadband penetration, today's On the FastTrack makes a good point about how improvements in Internet access simply increases our expectations.
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 11:08 AM by Jason Barker
PC World has published an article claiming that the United States lags behind many other nations in the quality of U.S. broadband networks. As one paragraph states:
"We need real broadband," said Walter Mossberg, a product reviewer and technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal, speaking on a panel of tech industry observers at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. He described the broadband network in the U.S. as "pathetic" compared to what's available in other countries.
According to WebSiteOptimization.com, 76.33 percent of active American Internet users currently use broadband (the number is expected to rise to 80 percent by the end of 2006); this means that only 23.67 percent of active American Internet users access the Web through a dialup connection. The problem, according to PC World, is that U.S. broadband speeds are significantly slower than in other countries with high broadband penetration.
Statistics such as this have a significant impact on the development of online Orthodox Christian Bible studies. The relatively high penetration of broadband means that it is reasonable to develop multimedia Bible studies, which require a higher bandwidth than simple text-based articles alone. At the same time, a reasonable percentage of users continue to use dialup connections (even though that percentage is continually dropping). I address this issue by offering the majority of the textual content from our Bible studies in two formats: incorporated into the multimedia applications themselves for broadband users, and available separately as HTML documents for dialup users.
At the same time, there are limitations - excluding such previously referenced limitations as our lack of resources to create such materials - on the amount and quality of audio/video material I can incorporate into these studies. As broadband speeds increase, the amount and quality of audio/video materials online can increase.
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Tuesday, December 26, 2006 at 10:43 AM by Jason Barker
Posted in Orthodox News
Posted on Friday, December 22, 2006 at 10:20 PM by Jason Barker
“The question is always how do we create Bibles that people will pick up and use but that will not be too gimmicky,” said Tyndale House’s [Kevin] O’Brien. “If you get too trendy you’ve turned the Bible into a widget.”
Posted in Bible Studies
Posted on Friday, December 22, 2006 at 11:33 AM by Jason Barker
The New Yorker has published an article on study Bibles, The Good Book Business: Why publishers love the Bible. A large portion in the middle of the article provides a brief history of the proliferation of modern translations (with a notable statement by the influential translator Kenneth Barker - no relation - “We like to think that the motivation [for many modern translations] is all holy and pure, but finances do enter the picture, and publishers and Bible societies like to have their slice of the pie"), but the majority of the article focuses on the niche marketing of study Bibles.
The article has several paragraphs about "Biblezines," the popular tabloid-formatted publications marketed to teens (although, as some commentators have claimed, are probably largely chosen by parents for their teenaged children). Of particular note is a quotation of one of the ostensible "study notes" in the 2007 edition of the Revolve Biblezine:
Have you ever had a white stain appear underneath the arms of your favorite dark blouse? Don’t freak out. You can quickly give deodorant spots the boot. Just grab a spare toothbrush, dampen with a little water and liquid soap, and gently scrub until the stain fades away. As you wash away the stain, praise God for cleansing us from all the wrong things we have done. (1 John 1:9)
This quotation reminds me of a paragraph I wrote in my MA thesis (I've removed the paranthetical citations for this blog):
Interpreters and instructors must avoid the danger of trying to “fit” the biblical texts into adolescent interests. As an example of this danger, the Teen Devotional Bible describes the depiction in Genesis of the fracturing of human language at the Tower of Babel as “the result of a bunch of folks way back when who thought they were way too cool,” and similarly summarizes the Song of Songs as a dialogue between “Solomon and his love-muffin.” In another example, Revolve, a tabloid-styled Bible targeted to early adolescent girls, describes the role of Christ in the life of a Christian by comparing it to makeup: “You need a good, balanced foundation for the rest of your makeup, kinda how like Jesus is the strong foundation in our lives.” Rendering modern culture preeminent, and then adapting the biblical text to fit that culture - not to mention a consumer culture - ultimately trivializes the Bible; furthermore, many adolescents - particularly those who are not already active in the Evangelical Protestant circles which publish and promote these Bibles - will find such adaptations to be condescending and unsuccessful in meeting their needs.
I believe the last sentence summarizes the problem with these niche Bibles: they trivialize the Bible, and they are ultimately ineffective in their intended purpose. The most significant problem is that these niche study Bibles are in fact seldom truly study Bibles: they are simply the biblical text surrounded by - and too frequently, suffocated by - silly pop culture references and self-help snippets. These so-called study Bibles therefore fail, in the words of Phyllis Tickle in The New Yorker article, to "separate out the culturally transient and trashy from the eternal," and thus violate “something close to moral or spiritual barriers.”
Furthermore, even if these study Bibles were not too often simply culture-dictated fluff, they are often ineffective in their intended purpose: to repeat Mark Oppenheimer's claim from my thesis, non-Evangelical Protestants will find the Biblezines to be condescending and irrelevant. Since the stated purpose of the Biblezines is to attract individuals who do not currently read the Bible (see, for example, The New Yorker's description of the product proposal for Revolve), this is yet another significant failure of these products.
This is not to condemn the entire concept of study Bibles: my point is to criticize squeezing the Bible into a niche. The Orthodox Study Bible, for example, avoids the perils of the niche-targeted study Bibles by giving general study notes about the biblical text that are applicable to all Christians, rather than "helpful hints" that are at best only loosely related to the text (if at all related), and also are limiting the audience of the text to - for example - girls aged thirteen to sixteen in the year 2007 (and, in the Biblezine genre, literally only the year 2007).
I need to point out that there are significant differences between these so-called study Bibles and Bible studies like the studies I create. First, there is a significant difference between providing an external set of commentaries and application articles about the Bible (as the Department of Youth Ministry does with our Bible studies), and packaging a set of cultural ephemera with the biblical text in a single volume and calling it the Bible (as the Biblezines and niche study Bibles do).
Secondly, the focus of our Bible studies is always on the biblical text. The majority of the articles in each Bible study are on the text itself: textual commentary, explanations of biblical terminology, historical background, etc. In addition, the articles are grouped into three clearly-defined categories: the biblical text and commentaries; articles about life application and Orthodox faith and practice; and overview materials (summaries, handouts, and quizzes). Thus, as helpful as I hope my life application articles will be in assisting youth in applying the principles brought out in the biblical text to their lives, I never want the reader to believe that my application articles are in any way on a par with the biblical text, or believe that one of my life application articles is a complete summary of everything they need to know about the biblical text.
Posted on Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 2:09 PM by Jason Barker
In two earlier posts I commented on current trends in media usage, and some of the effects these trends are having on online publications. In this post I'd like to briefly examine some of the ways in which our online Bible studies address these trends.
In the post on comprehension issues, I discussed two effects that media usage trends are having on online publications: online publications are incorporating shorter articles with simple sentences, and they are increasingly relying upon audio and video in place of text.
Regarding the second publication trend - audio/video - one of the areas in which I hope to develop the Bible studies I create is in incorporating audio and video. While I have spent most of my career working in Christian education and publishing, I have a background in television production, and therefore greatly appreciate the advantages that audio and video can give as one of a variety of educational tools. There is one primary obstacle preventing us from incorporating quality audio/video: a lack of funds for equipment. Quality audio/video - and, as an educational tool, only high quality audio/video is effective - is very expensive to produce, and the Department of Youth Ministry does not have the resources to afford such production. If you would like to help us with this work, click here to make a donation.
Another way audio and video could be created is through submissions from Orthodox youth groups. If youth groups create videos enacting scenes from biblical books, or demonstrating situations in which youth can live out their Orthodox faith, these videos could be incorporated into our studies. These videos have three benefits:
- First, they would not stretch the resources of the Youth Department to create. Not only would the Youth Department not be forced to finance the production of these videos, but also because these videos would be user-submitted, there would not be the expectation that the production standards would meet those of professional productions.
- Second, they would allow Orthodox youth greater participation in both their parishes and in the creation of these Bible studies (plus, seeing videos of Orthodox youth in these studies would inspire other Orthodox youth groups to engage in similar activities, which would benefit everyone).
- Third, seeing Orthodox youth in action may inspire uninvolved youth to become involved in Orthodox activities.
If your youth group would like to produce videos for use in the upcoming study of the Gospel according to St. Luke, or a later study, please send me email at the link at the bottom of the left sidebar.
Returning to the main point of this post, notice how I said audio and video would be used in our Bible studies: as one of a variety of educational tools. At no time would audio or video become the exclusive educational tool used in these studies. The reason for this brings us back to the first publishing trend addressed earlier: increasingly short and simple articles.
The Bible studies I create for the Youth Department always incorporate a simple overview (e.g., "Fast Facts" in Mark and Romans, "Fast Track" in Acts, and "Quick Trip" in the upcoming study of Luke) that allows users to gain a basic understanding of the biblical chapter being studied. This is useful for study in groups, quick reviews during personal Bible study, as well as serving as a needed tool for individuals who simply would not engage in a lengthy, detailed study of the biblical chapter. A basic audio and/or video segment providing an overview of the chapter would serve a similar function.
A key difference between our Bible studies and many other youth Bible studies is that these overviews are simply one element of our Bible studies (and, notably, not the primary element). Many youth Bible studies are limited to very simple overviews of the text consisting of only a few paragraphs, much of which tends to focus on popular culture and then ends with a simple moral message or a reminder that Jesus loves you. Even worse, one video-based youth Bible study I examined while researching my MA thesis consisted almost entirely - to use one unit as an example - of youth skateboarding to a screeching rock soundtrack. At the end of the video, the youth gave their spiritual message: "We do this, cuz, like, you can be a Christian and still be cool" (that isn't an exact quote, but is very close; as you can see, the source video is not worth finding and re-watching). Such "studies" are in fact not Bible studies at all, and thus not only fail to transmit any substantial biblical knowledge and understanding, but also fail to lead to any significant transformation of the Christians involved.
In contrast, the focus of our Orthodox Christian Bible Studies is on longer commentaries, articles about the background of the text, and articles about life application and Orthodox faith and practice. The Bible is a substantial collection of texts: it is long, it can be difficult, but it is also vital and transformative. It is the written word of God to His people. The biblical text not only cannot be understood with a cursory reading or video-viewing, and thus the Christian cannot be transformed through such an approach, but such an approach is an affront to the God Who gave us the Bible, and His people who through the centuries faithfully wrote, translated, taught, and learned these vital books.
Concessions must be made to the learning levels and styles of youth who are not currently adept at extensive reading, and we make these concessions by providing the "Fast" overviews. We must not, however, leave Bible study at this rudimentary level. We must fully delve into the Bible with our commentaries and other articles, both for those Christian youth who are currently able and willing to immerse themselves in the Bible, and to provide resources for youth who will do so in the future. While it is conceivable that in the future there will be a more effective medium than text to engage in such extensive and transformative study, at this time text (supplemented, when possible, with other media) remains the primary vehicle for communication, and thus extended articles remain the best way for us to communicate the transformative truth of the Bible to youth.
Therefore, even if only a handful of youth are currently willing to engage in extensive Bible study - and even if in the future still fewer have developed the literacy skills necessary for textual study - you and I have an obligation to these youth to provide them with the best Bible studies of which we are capable.
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Wednesday, December 20, 2006 at 10:58 AM by Jason Barker
I've been afflicted for two days with completely baffling computer problems (more specifically, OS problems). Each time I would click any shortcut or button on the Windows taskbar - including the "Start" button itself - Windows would experience a variety of memory errors and would crash.
I spent much of Monday afternoon and evening simply wrestling with Windows so that I could identify the problem. After testing everything of which I could think yesterday, I determined that the problem was probably the result of upgrading Opera (which, as I said in a post on the old blog, is my favorite browser).
I upgraded from Opera 9.02 to the just released 9.10. In trying to find the source of my problems I discovered that, when I upgraded from Opera 9.01 to 9.02, the new version did not completely replace the previous version, but left some of it in the system (most problematically, in the registry). Furthermore, 9.l0 changed some of the installation functions, which when combined with the remaining traces of 9.01, created a horrific number of system problems.
After a great deal of work, I finally have everything up and running properly. I'm going to catch up on work on which I've fallen behind, and should continue tomorrow my brief examination of media use and user comprehension.
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Friday, December 15, 2006 at 8:53 PM by Jason Barker
As I noted in my previous post, there is a general move in online publishing away from extended text documents to reduced text and increased audio-visual media. In other words:
- Online publications are increasingly avoiding long, detailed articles about a subject, and instead provide shorter pieces with less-complicated sentence and paragraph structure, and correspondingly less detail.
- Online publications are increasingly relying upon audio and video elements to not only support their articles, but instead as a primary content medium.
Regarding the first point, readers approach online text as a medium to be scanned rather than read. As Steve Krug explains in his book Don't Make Me Think,
What [readers] actually do most of the time (if we’re lucky) is glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing they’re looking for. There are usually large parts of the page that they don’t even look at.
For example, a study by Stanford University and the Poynter Institute found that, in a typical 34-minute session of reading online news, readers chose to read three times as many news briefs as full articles, chose articles from 24 different categories of news, and read material from an average of six different - and as many as 19 - publications. In other words, online readers tend to read widely, but shallowly.
In a vicious circle, such quick, shallow reading is provoking online publishers (and, increasingly, print publishers) to publish simple and informal documents using a very limited vocabulary. The problem, as Jonathan Follett states, is
There’s no doubt that the writing that forms the core of our conversations and relationships has changed. The long missives and artful correspondence of letter writing have given way to new forms. Short pieces of informal writing are now the norm in both the professional and personal areas of our lives: e-mail, instant messaging, blogging, and others. The rules that govern this new writing style have developed quickly, in a rapidly changing technological environment. In the process of accommodating these new conventions, we’ve learned to abandon detail in our writing, and to celebrate brevity. We’re more connected in some ways—commerce is quick and easy, and transactions are lightning fast. But we may actually be communicating and understanding less, just skimming along the surface.
Additionally affecting the publication of online text publications is the second point: the increasing online use of audio and video. For example, Online video viewing increased 18 percent from October 2005 - March 2006. According to comScore, American Internet users started 3.7 billion video content streams in March 2006, with each user watching an average of 100 minutes of video content during the month. Similarly, the Consumer Internet Barometer found that 10 percent of American Internet users watch television programs online.
The problem is not online video itself: many studies have shown that curricula which combines textual and audio-video elements are more effective in enhancing learner comprehension than either medium alone. The problem is that online users, when engaging in shallow reading and/or watching short video clips, are too frequently deriving the benefits of neither medium.
In my next post I'll examine some of the ways in which I develop our Bible studies to address the problems and possibilities of current media usage trends.
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Friday, December 15, 2006 at 10:39 AM by Jason Barker
The Associated Press is reporting a new survey by the Census Bureau of average yearly and daily usage of various media by Americans.
According to the survey, the average American spends nine hours interacting in some way with media each day; nearly half of this is spent watching television. The forms of media whose use increased over the last year are (in average hours used per year):
- 1,555 watching television, up from 1,467 in 2000.
- 974 listening to the radio, up from 942 in 2000.
- 195 using the Internet, up from 104.
- 86 playing video games, up from 64.
Printed media (newspapers, magazines, and books) all experienced declines in use: newspaper readership declined approximately 13 percent, magazine readership declined approximately 10 percent, and book readership declined approximately one percent.
While there is little new in these general trends, they nonetheless generate some important areas of thought regarding online publications like our interactive Bible studies.
The time spent on Internet usage experienced the greatest increase of all media: approximately 43 percent. Thus, while reading of printed media has decreased, use of the Internet - which, for all its audio and video elements, is still overwhelmingly a text-based medium - has increased dramatically.
This means that the most promising future growth area for publishing is online (a fact heavily studied by scholars such as those affiliated with the Institute for the Future of the Book). Furthermore, as I examined in my MA thesis, hypermedia is particularly well suited for Bible studies. Therefore, current work in online multimedia Bible studies is building a foundation for later online Orthodox publications in a medium that the current generation of youth - and their descendents - are most likely to utilize.
At the same time, however, online publishing suffers from a significant problem afflicting all text-based media: the general move away from extended text documents to reduced text and increased audio-visual media. In my next post I'll briefly talk about some of the implications this trend has for online Bible study, and how I believe we should respond.Edited on: Friday, December 15, 2006 7:30 PM
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006 at 10:56 AM by Jason Barker
I strongly recommend a free Bible study tool by Michael Stead for Microsoft Word called InsertBible. To quote the website:
InsertBible is a series of MS Word macros for biblical scholars to use to insert original language texts into a word document. It uses unicode fonts, and works best with MS Word 2003. It may also run on Word 2002 (i.e. Office XP), but may require an extra step to get Hebrew fonts displaying correctly. As yet, there is no version for Mac.
Particularly useful for Orthodox Christian Bible study is the fact that InsertBible includes the LXX.
InsertBible is free, but requires faxing a signed Center for Computer Analysis of Texts (CCAT) form as registration in order to download the tool.
Posted in Online Resources
Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2006 at 9:31 AM by Jason Barker
A post on Dynamis, a daily scriptural reading and devotional from St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Wichita, KS, provides a good conclusion to yesterday's post on developing credibility for our online Bible studies:
Let each of us, in whatever station we find ourselves, remember that we are teachers. May our lives instruct in the “wholesome words...of our Lord Jesus Christ, and...the doctrine which accords with godliness” (vs. 3). Otherwise, we betray Christ. To live the Faith is not right words and pious gestures. Rather it has to do with determining when to “flee... [all kinds of evil] and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (vs. 11).
In case you have not read Dynamis before, I strongly recommend subscribing. You can receive a free email subscription by sending a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2006 at 7:53 PM by Jason Barker
In yesterday's post I briefly discussed some of the ways in which online Bible study applications are particularly useful for youth, who are frequently (if not typically) "digital natives." The blog Spotlight: Blogging the Field of Digital Media and Learning recently pointed out a significant factor with which I also concluded yesterday's post: youth will not interact with an educational resource which they believe lacks credibility.
This raises a significant issue: how can an educational resource establish its credibility so that its target audience will utilize the resource? In other words, even though our Bible studies are credible, how can youth be convinced of their credibility if they will not engage in the studies until they are assured of the credibility of the material?
For Orthodox Christian adults, the fact that the Bible studies on which I work are a ministry of the Youth Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is generally sufficient to establish their credibility. For youth, however, such an informal institutional imprimatur is not necessarily adequate to establish credibility with them.
Youth generally assess the credibility of a source according to its acceptance or rejection by their social networks, rather than engaging in completely independent, objective study and analysis. The problem is that these youth, both individually and collectively, usually lack the critical skills and experience needed to accurately assess the value of the material they are learning.
The solution to this situation is for knowledgeable Orthodox Christians to participate in social networks and promote Orthodox Christian Bible study.
Orthodox youth workers perform an essential role in this endeavor. Because Orthodox Bible study is never an exclusively individual and private activity, but instead is always conducted within the Orthodox community, our Bible study applications are designed to be used in conjunction with group Bible studies in local parishes (for example, the applications contain PDF handouts designed primarily for use in these group studies). By supporting and encouraging the use of these Bible studies to the youth with whom they have a personal relationship, youth workers can go a long ways toward establishing the credibility of these studies with Orthodox youth.
Orthodox youth themselves can perform a similar role with their friends, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox. By recommending these Bible studies to friends who know them and trust their judgment, Orthodox youth can establish the credibility of these studies within their social networks.
Finding ways to increase personal interactivity on our website itself is another way in which credibility can be established and enhanced. For example, one thing I am currently considering adding to the upcoming study on the Gospel according to St. Luke is a way for users to submit questions about the biblical book that would be answered on the OrthodoxYouth website (similar to the Ask Abouna feature Fr. Anthony Yazge ran on the Antiochian Archdiocese's website). This would provide at least some of the interaction that many youth believe is essential in a credible resource.
"Ask Abouna" also provides another possibility for interaction. "Ask Abouna" was at one time a chat room in which youth could ask questions that could be immediately answered and discussed. An online, chat-based Bible study could be conducted from the website, as could a Bible study listserv. Such features, while potentially quite useful, would necessitate having knowledgeable and committed Orthodox Christian adults to guide and monitor the discussions, as well as financial supporters to help provide any upgrades needed in our equipment to facilitate such resources.
Do you have any comments or suggestions? If so, you can contact me at the email address in the left sidebar.Edited on: Tuesday, December 12, 2006 8:09 PM
Posted on Monday, December 11, 2006 at 4:24 PM by Jason Barker
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is sponsoring, as part of their Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning initiative, a blog called Spotlight: Blogging the Field of Digital Media and Learning.
Each week the scholars involved with the blog write about a different issue. I found particularly relevant to my work in online biblical education to be the blog's week on credibility. In one post Miriam Metzger and Andrew Flanagin note:
Contemporary youth are a particularly interesting group to consider with regard to [issues involving the credibility of online resources]. On the one hand, those who have literally grown up in an environment saturated with digital media technologies can be seen as ”digital natives,” who may be highly skilled in their use of technologies to access, consume, and generate information. This view suggests that in light of their special relationship to digital technologies, youth are especially well-positioned to navigate the complex media environment successfully.
On the other hand, youth can be viewed as inhibited, in terms of their cognitive and emotional development, life experiences, and familiarity with the media apparatus. This view suggests that although youth are talented and comfortable users of technology, they may lack crucial tools that aid them to seek and consume information effectively.
Kate Wittenberg similarly points out:
While students clearly demonstrate a desire to explore freely the vast array of content and tools available through the Web, it is becoming equally clear that in many cases they do need some level of guidance concerning how to select and evaluate the information that they find.
This is very close to a point I made in my thesis for my MA in Applied Orthodox Theology (with the stultifying title, "A Foundation for Using Multimedia Software Applications as a Medium for Bible Studies for Orthodox Christian Adolescents"):
Learners with experience in hypertextual learning environments - which most adolescents now have through home and/or school Internet usage - are able to move as fluidly within the nonlinear structure as through a traditional linear educational structure; this fluidity is identical for both male and female users. This prior experience with hypertext creates within the learner a positive control belief regarding the potential for success in learning; combined with the fluid experience itself, this can often result in the learner experiencing flow (a state of intense concentration and enjoyment) while learning.
At the same time, learners who require a high degree of extrinsic control and guided learning can experience disorientation in a nonlinear, open-task learning environment. For this reason, multimedia applications are most effective when they provide both non-linear and linear learning paths: flexible, non-linear learning paths allow experienced, confident users to follow multiple informational routes; linear learning paths, however, provide the fixed structure and instructional assistance necessary to maximize the learning experience for users who require guided learning.
To use the See the Vision study of Acts as an example, users who are comfortable with non-linear learning can study by following an array of information paths:
- Choosing from a selection of articles on each chapter's home page.
- Choosing a topic of interest from one of the subject indices available from the top navigational menu of each screen; and
- Following the hyperlinks in each article to another article of interest.
Users who require a more limited informational path (or who simply want an overview of the material), however, can choose one of the resources available in the "Fast Track" menu for each chapter (the biblical text, a handout quickly surveying the chapter, and/or a quiz on the biblical text).
I believe these Bible study applications provide an effective educational resource by enabling users to tailor their learning experience to their need for more-or-less linear informational paths. Thus, to use the terminology of Metzger and Flanagin, the Bible studies provide a useful "complex media environment" that can be successfully navigated by "digital natives."
What can be said, however, about the way in which youths perceive the credibility of these studies? Even if the content and navigational structures are in fact solid - as, of course, I say they are - how can potential users determine (at least to the initial extent that they will be willing to interact with the material) the credibility of the information found in the studies?
I'll briefly talk about that in my next post. A little preview: one way credibility can be established - at least for Orthodox youth (who are, of course, the primary audience for these studies) - by youth workers.
Posted on Saturday, December 09, 2006 at 6:48 PM by Jason Barker
A brief discussion on Mike Aquilina's blog points out some of the difficulties you will encounter if you are inclined to download the contents of the PG.
For those of you unfamiliar with the PG, you should know that the texts, of course, are in Greek.
Posted in Online Resources
Posted on Friday, December 08, 2006 at 12:01 AM by Jason Barker
A feature I've considered adding to my Bible study projects each year is a podcast. The basic idea is to give a daily Bible reading from the biblical book being studied, and perhaps a brief commentary.
One reason for doing this is the prevalence of MP3 players among teens (the target demographic for the resources created by the Department of Youth Ministry). For example, a recent study of 1,000 Americans aged 13 to 18 determined that 33 percent own an iPod (and this does not count all the other brands of MP3 players).
On the other hand, however, another recent survey found that only 12 percent of Americans have ever downloaded a podcast, and a mere one percent said that they would download a podcast on a typical day. Granted, this survey was taken from a wide range of ages, and thus the percentage of teens who listen to podcasts may be higher, but it is unlikely to be radically higher.
I download podcasts daily, and listen to them as I walk in the morning. I listen to the Orthodox Word podcast each day, and the weekly MP3 recording of the Come Receive the Light radio program; I download podcasts from other radio programs if I am interested in the topic they are discussing (a frequent weekly MP3 file on my player is this WEEK in TECH - yes, the capitalization is correct - and I download Steven Robinson and Bill Gould's Our Life in Christ program when new episodes are available).
Do you listen to podcasts, and would you be interested in a podcast of Orthodox Christian Bible studies? You can tell me by using the email link on the left sidebar.
Posted in Online Resources
Posted on Wednesday, December 06, 2006 at 11:57 AM by Jason Barker
The old blog for Orthodox Christian Bible Studies is again available. I had not posted to that blog since July, but you can learn about some of the decisions that went into developing "See the Vision: An Interactive Study of the Acts of the Apostles" (currently on hiatus until mid-2007).Edited on: Thursday, December 07, 2006 10:53 AM
Posted in Miscellaneous
Posted on Wednesday, December 06, 2006 at 8:53 AM by Jason Barker
Posted in Miscellaneous