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3 Ways to Teach with Technology and Visualize History

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Adapted from a “Teach with Tech” article written by Seth M. Ehorn and originally published in Didaktikos Journal. 

With the right apps and technology, Bible study teachers, pastors, or professors can help students understand lived experiences from different moments in history. In this article, Professor Ehorn recounts a moving visit to Paris and the innovative ways he was able to incorporate teaching with technology to enable students to travel to another era in time through visualization. 

EXPERIENCING A PHYSICAL SITE

Journal Entry, 2011

There it was—the most beautiful cathedral I had ever seen. But not just beautiful. Enormous! It was the summer of 2011, and I was spending the month of July studying French in Paris. As part of my experience, I decided to visit Cathedral Notre Dame and attend one of its daily mass services. The exterior of the building was massive. The interior, somehow, seemed even larger than the outside—a bit like the Tardis of Doctor Who fame. 

What was reinforced for me during this visit was that the experience of visiting a location (including getting to know how a site functions) had a profound effect on me. It was easy to think of it as an important church without having any real sense of its significance, scale, or functions. 

THE IMPACT OF MATERIAL CULTURE

After visiting Notre Dame, I could not help but think about the site differently. That sense of profundity has not left me. Indeed, that experience has caused me to reflect on how I interact with material culture and how it shapes my understanding of current events, history, and even literature. 

Fast-forward several years, and now I find myself in a classroom teaching undergraduate students in a course on “New Testament Literature and Interpretation.” I remain fascinated by the material world of early Christians (e.g., manuscripts, archaeology), and I try to bring this aspect into my teaching whenever possible. But how do I bring my students to “Notre Dame” along with me?

In my quest to help students understand the material world of early Judaism and early Christianity better, I developed an exercise to help them visualize the Herodian Temple and understand how it might have functioned for typical Jewish visitors. The exercise draws on several resources and involves a few steps. 

3 Steps to Visualize History Using Technology

1. Acquire pertinent technology

In this example, students download the application “Virtual New Testament” on their compatible electronic devices. 

This application, developed by Brigham Young University, is a virtual model of the Herodian Temple that allows users to walk through the temple in first-person style, much like a video game. At first, students are invited to simply explore and discover. 

2. Read relevant texts

Next, students are asked to read a recent article (2016) that appeared on the Biblical Archaeology Society’s (BAS) website that describes the floor of the Temple Mount. Here the students continue to visualize and now actually see some of the beautiful features of the temple. Students are also learning that websites like BAS exist, and they tend to spend time exploring its content.

Then, they read a selection from E. P. Sanders’s Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE (London: SCM Press, 1992). The reading helps students understand some of the lived experiences of ancient Jews in relation to the material reality of the temple. Within the text of the reading, annotations coach them about various locations they should stop and find in the Virtual New Testament app as they make their way through the reading.

Read more: 7 Tech Hacks To Engage With Scripture More In The New Year

3. Reflect

Finally, after exploring the temple, learning a little about archaeology, and reading from Sanders, students are asked to reflect on what they have learned. They are invited to share their responses (“What surprised you?”) and to consider how they might think differently about the New Testament in light of their exploration. 

Teachers, professors and pastors can transport students to another place and time by teaching with tech resources. Increase student mastery of concepts when they are invited to explore and discover in (almost) real-life settings.  Click To Tweet

TEACHING WITH TECH

These steps, which give students the foundation for visualizing the Herodian Temple, form the basis for a class session in which the role of the temple in Second Temple Judaism is discussed.

Furthermore, this specific example can be applied to other teaching opportunities where technology can help students engage in new ways. 

When Bible study teachers, pastors, or professors utilize technology and find apps and programs to expand learning, and then build time for additional study and reflection, students can understand the lived experiences of people from important moments in history. 

In addition, these “brushes” with history can have a lasting impact on students’ faith. We hope this example will inspire you to utilize technology in your teaching or preaching.

Learn more about using technology to teach the Scriptures when you discover our 5 Best Bible Study Software Options.

Original author, Seth M. Ehorn, (PhD, University of Edinburgh, UK) currently teaches Greek language and linguistics in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Wheaton College, USA. He has published articles in the Journal for Theological Studies, Currents in Biblical Research and is a contributor to the Encyclopaedia of Biblical Reception.

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Virtual 3D Ancient Jerusalem App

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