Back in December of 2011, before the Great Higgaion Reboot of May 2012, I wrote glowingly about an iOS app called Unicode Maps, by Žiga Kranjec. Unicode Maps still exists as a free iPhone app, but has been superseded by Žiga’s Unicode Pad, which costs only $1.99. Unicode Pad provides easier access to the entire Unicode spectrum. If you have either app and you’d like to type in Hebrew, but you don’t want to go to the trouble of setting up your own keyboard, you can use mine. Just download the linked file, e-mail it to yourself, check your e-mail on your iPad, try to open the attachment, and go from there.
This post takes its name from the title of my presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, coming up November 23–26 in Baltimore. I will present in the Academic Teaching and Biblical Studies section in the 9:00 AM session on Monday, November 25 (Hilton Baltimore, Key 1). Here’s the abstract:
In many colleges and universities, we have already reached the point where a student’s (or professor’s!) first impulse when confronted with a desire for new information is to “Google it.” With the increasing power of small mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets, students are rarely more than a few taps away from whatever online information sources they choose to access. The ubiquity of Google searches poses at least two specific challenges for biblical studies courses: (i) it enables students to rely more heavily than ever on secondary sources rather than primary sources, and (ii) it conditions students to rely less on memory and more on quick access to indexed information. Using a digital Bible instead of a paper Bible can accommodate and even “redeem” the second challenge while somewhat counterbalancing the first. In this presentation, I will describe how I have leveraged the ubiquity of smart devices to teach and test digital Bible search skills in “Religion 101: The History and Religion of Israel.” I will share specific apps and exercises used to help students climb the “scaffold” from Bible search novices to more skilled navigators of digital Bibles.
Ian Bogost, professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, made waves a couple of years ago by bluntly characterizing gamification as bovine excrement. (That’s as profane as it gets here, folks. Deal.) Bogost had actually made the same points, in more detail but without the splashy hook, several months earlier in a column for Gamasutra.
In that May 2011 column, Bogost characterized “gamification” as “exploitationware.” Bogost’s chief target in the essay is gamification as a marketing gimmick, but some of his criticisms may have application to higher ed as well. Indeed, he begins the column with an anecdote from a higher ed conference:
Despite the ubiquity of Unicode and the support for right-to-left processing built into Mac OS X, previous versions of Apple’s iWork suite supported Hebrew rather poorly. The cursor remained “stuck” on the right-hand side of the text, selecting individual letters ranged from difficult to impossible, and animating Hebrew text in Keynote resulted in large blank spaces on the screen. Moreover, the iWork suite couldn’t handle the complex font information embedded in the SBL Hebrew font, so you’d get misplaced vowels, accents, and so forth if you were using them.
Those days are over.
Here’s the elevator pitch: My Religion 101 course, also known as “World of Biblecraft,” functions like a cross between Farmville, Minecraft, and the World of Warcraft, where students earn XP and level up by exploring the Bible.