Thursday, November 19, 2009

How and Why the NT Gateway was Rebooted, Revitalized and Relaunched VI

This post continues the series on the changes at the NT Gateway (I, II, III, IV and V).

There are pedagogical and economical advantages, I think, in the kind of approach that I have been describing, of attempting to provide introductory materials for new students and flagging these up in the clearest way possible. These advantages relate to our reliance on a text book culture. Many students become over-dependent on the one text book that their lecturer or professor has recommended. Instead of seeing the Introduction to the New Testament as one person's survey, they take the author's views as gospel (even when the author is encouraging a critical approach to the gospels!). What the text book says, the student should believe. This is frustrating enough at secondary school level, but it really should not obtain in universities and colleges. But what is the alternative? To recommend ten text books?

And so we arrive at the problem of access to good secondary texts. The average student spends a fortune on text books (book costs, source: Jim Linville) and still the bright university student will need more. If you have a large class, even the multiple copies in the library will quickly vanish. Since moving to Duke, I have been moving more and more towards reliance on free internet resources in teaching. There are now so many of them, so many very good ones, that the job is becoming easier all the time. It occurred to me that what I do in my teaching I could do also on the NT Gateway, and to show people where to find strong academic materials for free online. No more complaints about the books missing from the library! No more complaints about the cost of the text books!

This kind of approach brings with it a huge advantage, that students can get used to hearing a range of voices on the range of topics in their curriculum. They can read across a range of resources both old and new. They won't be constrained to hearing just the text book's view on canon, or the Synoptic Problem, or the authorship of the deutero-Paulines. And the more interested they become in a topic in question, the more than can dig down deeper and find yet more resources.

I am not, of course, advocating the end of print resources in teaching but I am suggesting that sites like the NT Gateway can provide a means by which we can think differently about the text book culture. A range of voices, a range of topics, with guidance for the student about how to access them. There are, after all, things that you can do on the internet that you can never do in a text book, like listening to podcasts, watching videos and playing games. In the long run, when resources like this are attractive, free and easily accessible, what will be the impetus to stay focused on the single-authored-text book?

Perhaps this was what was wrong with the NT Gateway too. It was too strongly associated with just one person. Its best chance of continuing to develop, and of prospering in the future, was to break free from me and to begin new partnerships, to expand its team of contributors, and to change. Perhaps next time there is a talk on the NT Gateway at the SBL, someone else will be giving it!

1 comment:

Jason A. Staples said...

Okay, maybe I should have read this one before making my comment on part V. Obviously I completely agree about the advantages of this kind of "open source" approach to secondary scholarship at the introductory level. I also think this might be the only way to get away from the "very few in the field think of things this way anymore, but it's still the way we teach it at the introductory level" problem.