“Teaching Naked” in the Church, Idea #1: Using Technology to Provide Content to Prepare for Active Learning in Your Bible Study Group

A few months ago I wrote about José Bowen’s seminar and his book, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2012). I shared that his main thrust was for teachers to use technology to deliver content outside of class sessions, and shift the use of class time to processing that information, promoting critical thinking and the application of knowledge to real life situations. There are three ideas from Bowen’s work that I think have the potential of deepening the impact of our teaching in the church. Over the next few months I’ll be writing a brief blog on each of the three ideas, beginning with ways of using technology to get students into the content of the Bible lesson/study before you meet, preparing them for a more active and deeper learning experience together.

Bowen’s basic concept is as follows:

Technology, largely used outside the classroom to deliver content, can be an important tool to prepare students for classroom discussions and to increase the class time available for those discussions and other active learning … but it will require some curricular and structural changes to make this happen. (p. 21)

In our church teaching situations, I suspect most of us are not using a lot of technology to teach Bible content, but we rely on reading the Bible together as the foundation for our lessons. Then we may take some time to explore the backgrounds on the passage that help us understand it more fully, which then limits the time we have left for reflecting on the significance of the passage and implications for our lives. Our time together is short, and we end up using a lot of it just to get to the point of understanding the text.

What would it look like for us to use technology to get students into the Bible content and prepared for a deeper learning experience together when we meet? In the past, some of us have tried giving some “homework” to prepare for the next session together, only to be disappointed when so few people completed it. We know that we could go deeper into our study together if people came prepared, but the challenges have seemed insurmountable. How might technology be used to achieve greater success with this than in the past? Here are three ideas to consider, and maybe try out with your Bible study group.

  1. Promoting interaction on a group Facebook page: Setting up a group Facebook page is simple, and it can become a place for sharing prayer requests, reflections on what you have been studying together, and also for helping people prepare for your next study time together. You could post Scripture passages or references for people to read during the week, share some background information to help make the meaning of the text clearer, and some reflection questions to prepare for the interaction together in the group. As things are added to the page, group members could receive notifications of new messages there to check. If the page becomes a meaningful place for interaction, it can help people come to the group sessions prepared for deeper learning.
  2. Tweeting, texting, and/or e-mailing passages with reflection questions: A Facebook page requires people to take the initiative to access it. As the teacher or Bible study leader, you can take the initiative of sending messages directly to your group members during the week through Twitter (and other social media), or simply by texting or e-mailing, depending on the technological resources of your group members. A few times a week you can send out short messages with a passage of Scripture to read, some information about the passage, and/or some reflection questions to prepare their hearts and minds for the interaction together when you meet next. People need to have the freedom to opt in or out of this, but with some encouragement, it can become a way of helping group members prepare for a richer interaction when you are together.
  3. Google scavenger hunts to find information to help understand the passage of study for the coming week: With so much information available on the Internet that is relevant to Bible study, including many commentaries, maps, images, and other Bible study tools, you can challenge your group members to search for information and images to answer particular questions, or to find and share links to relevant sites that focus on some key aspects of the upcoming Bible study. “Who was Nebuchadnezzer?” “Where was Ephesus?” “How much would a denarius be worth today?” “What is Gnosticism?” “Find and bring an image of an Ashtoreth idol.” Making it a game may motivate some in your group, and they can share what they found when you get together.

Some of you may already be doing some of these things, or something similar. If so, feel free to share your experiences and insights in response to this blog. This is just a start, and as social media continues to evolve, more options will be available. The goal is to get your group members into the content of the study before you gather, so you can more quickly move into reflecting on the implications of the passage and how you might respond to it in faithful ways. I’ll write more about this in the next blog. I pray that your teaching will be fruitful!