As part of a Catholic school, it's a major challenge to take religion out of the 'it's compulsory, so I hate it category'. Any ideas on how to move effectively to life-related, mind-engaging, content-robust religious education? The most effective units we have are for senior students "Ethics and ethical controversies" where a range of ethical theories are explored against a background of an ethical issue of the student's choice, and 'Science and the Bible' where various controversies and developments are used to explore different possible ways of Science and Religion relating.
I'm especially pondering good ways to Web 2.0-ise some of the thinking and submitting process.
[I shouldn't need to include a caveat in this area, but just in case. I'm not interested in doctrinaire responses. (I can go to answersingenesis and read Dawkins and Dennett quite happily myself.) I want my students to be thinking, not subscribing to an ideology and least of all someone else's ideology!]

Tags: critical thinking, religion, science

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You could create a Second Life world that presents participants with ethical dilemmas to solve - though that is a rather involved process. Sometimes, non-tech stuff is the best way to go.

I would recommend one book in particular that deals (obliquely) with the intersection of science and religion. The first chapter of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything discusses the Big Bang scientifically, but seems to ponder the spiritual side of it in a philosophical way.
Thanks indeed,
I must read Bryson's short history - one of my students recommended him in 2006 - but I'd run away from his style the last time I tried reading him. (My comment to the class was 'I can't stand people with ego.')
I love Karen Armstrong's History of the Bible especially her take on the Genesis stories and how science made literalistic approaches happen. Counterpoint: 'My Velvet Elvis' is a Christian evangelical work which I really think has something to say that is modern Christianity. A Short History of Nearly Everything - very good but it isn't about any faith debate - it's straight science, sometimes obscure little stories about the people who started Geology and Physics. Beautifully written but probably over-recommended because of the thickness!
Ian:

I'm going to introduce an idea that may be too simple, but I'm sure you'll forgive me...

It seems to me that Web 2.0-"ish" is about the ability to create content on the web, being active producers of content with a new audience. So if that is what is so significant, I'm wondering--whatever the topic--how you could put the students in a position to have their thoughts/work viewed and commented on by others? Meaning, whatever topic or book or idea they are studying, get someone outside of the school to engage in a dialog with them. Maybe it's a well-known author or religious figure. Maybe it's just Jewish or Islamic students, or Catholic students from another country or culture.

For me, Web 2.0 is about the dialog, so maybe the material doesn't have to be new, just the context in which the students create and respond.
Good,
Thanks for that. I may be projecting some of my own insularity here. On the other hand, in my own classroom, I'm sure at first blush that this group of students is in fact a fresh audience for topics, thoughts and ideas from their own classmates.
I'll ponder being more open. Maybe I should invite some special guests - perhaps from the Faraday Institute for one in in order to stay ad-free on ning, and avoiding the heavy open license fee for Sharepoint - so in 2008 we may have a thinker or two in virtual residence.
I agree - the material doesn't have to be new - but the engagement needs to be real.

Thanks, Steve
You make a private ning and include whatever learners you choose. We are all learners. Also remember Skype is a free download and excellent for bringing experts via video live into your classroom. If you have several computers at once, as in a lab, consider elluminate, free for a 25 seat room until wednesday. I'll email you the invite i got if you like.
Tons of ideas! Start with playing Christian Contemporary as the kids enter the room - ya know the kind of music you probably have to grit your teeth to play. Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, Barlow Girl. Remember it's about reaching them, not pleasing us.
Start each class with prayer. Start slowly if you don't do this - I have students lead and they can take no more than 5 prayer requests (or everyone wants to request something).
Have learners find relevant verses that state a response to the genocide in Dafur or possible genocide in Tibet or some current event. They can look up verses either in their Bibles(which they should have at all times) or on Biblegateway. Then they write about how the bible verse relates to our response on their blogs.
I do not teach Bible, btw, I teach computer specials and study skills.
Students and people love controversy. I think you have to find historical problems for the church and get kids thinking about both sides. Maybe you could have them prepare for a debate on complex issues, but not tell anyone which side they will be arguing for until the last minute. That's my second choice for getting them involved and excited about class.

My first choice would be to get them thinking actively about what it means to be Catholic (or protestant or whatever) and they need to be thinking about whether or not they believe in the religion. Then they need to be thinking about what that means to their lives.
In Scotland the subject is called 'Religious and Moral Education.' I've tried to put my extensive scientific and theological/philosophical/social scientific studies into the lesson preparation for 12-16 year olds for several years now. I've got it wrong more times than I care to mention! My most persistent mistake is to think that a 12 year old will engage with things I could not fathom until I was 19 or so. We have to do 12 year old things without being tedious, domineering or superficial - enter Moodle!

Would you like to have a look at collaboration on my Moodle development website, once it is ready?
To give you a flavour of it, this is part of my script for introducing my subject to 12 year olds.
(I'm going to upload it.)
Attachments:
Hi Ian, I am a Head of RE in an all boys school in Northern Ireland. I use web 2 tools quite a bit in my teaching which helps to raise the profile of the subject and the students level of interest. I do whole school surveys on religious views using Advanced Survey.com. I have used Comeeko to make a cartoon of the life of a famous religious leader such as Martin Luther King. When we are learning about church buildings we use a tool called Floorplanner.com to make our own churches with the objects correctly places and labelled. The key to such tools is to do the research first before the kids go loose on the tools otherwise they spend forever getting the project looking nice but give little thought to the content. The focus is on using the Internet as a tool to promote active learning rather than an electronic book to passively ingest.
I have created a directory of free web tools you may want to look at. The address is http://web2educationuk.wetpaint.com
Hope you find something of use.
Ian,
I teach at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio. We have the 1:1 laptop program and my classroom is now paperless. I use Moodle which allows the students to post their work on many different forms, chatrooms (which I control), forums, journals, surveys, wikis, movies that are uploaded for viewing by all students. I have also use programs such as Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Imovie, and ComicLife. We have made everything from Podcasts to documentaries to comic books. My students do not use books as all necessary information is online, Bible and Catechism. I have also found websites that allow the students to do research today's issues. I look forward to hearing form you. God bless.
hello! im a religion and values education teacher in colegio san agustin, makati, philippines. i'm teaching high school students. you may visit the sites i created for our online class and see what we are doing. http://www.jesusismybigbrother.multiply.com and http://www.faithtwopointzero.webs.com . i hope that will help you. tnx! godblez! more power!

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