Religious Education in a Virtual World 6
There is still a great deal of uncertainty about what parish life will look like this fall because of the pandemic. Most likely you will offer an on-line religious education program, perhaps with some in-person gatherings, depending on the local situation. As you plan your on-line religious education sessions, you will need resources for students. Here are some ideas.
Learning Requires Engaging with a Text
Most of us carried a set of books to school, used them in our classes, with a teacher guiding us through their contents. We’d take them home to read another section, answer questions, complete worksheets, and more, all with the goal of mastering the contents. Eventually there would be a quiz or test.
Learning and study require engagement with a “text.” Texts, of course, are books and documents – the written word, but we can also study a piece of art, music, a film, and the like. Good “texts” (to be very inclusive) are often the “third thing” in the classroom (after teachers and students) that can foster learning. For example, reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address can spark a great discussion of the words themselves, their historical context, and the ideas that they convey about American democracy and society at the time of the Civil War. While we might ask a student to memorize the Gettysburg Address (and I’ll bet many of us did), we wouldn’t expect them to study the Address without a copy and the necessary texts to understand it.
In the on-line school settings that many of our children are attending these days, they still use books and other resources. Schools are finding ways to distribute resources to students (based on local guidelines). When they are online together in class, they work through the material in those books with their teachers.
We can do the same in our religious education classes. Engaging our students with the topics of our Faith requires the use of many resources. Books, Bibles, handouts, icons, hymns, liturgical objects are the “texts” that should be available for a class session. We wouldn’t imagine holding a Bible study without each participant having a Bible to read from and to focus the discussion. “Show and tell” lessons that involve icons and liturgical items can work virtually. There are many companion books that a student can read as well about those items. Questions – whether posted on a screen or in a handout – to answer questions about a Bible passage or story can still be done as it would in person. The key question when using any of these in a virtual setting is how to get every student active with the material, not just let them be passive observers.
Here’s a list of some of the many producers of Orthodox Christian religious education materials:
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Religious Education https://www.orthodoxmarketplace.com/esss/default.aspx
The Orthodox Christian Education Commission, an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States http://orthodoxchristianed.com/
The Orthodox Church in America Department of Christian Education https://www.oca.org/about/departments/christian-education
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation
The Serbian Orthodox Church in North, Central and South America https://serborth.org/christianeducation
Once you obtain your resources, you will have to determine how best and safest to distribute them: Can people pick up packages from the parish either when they attend services or at another time? Can you mail the packages to each student? Some handouts in Teachers Guides can easily be scanned and e-mailed.
But, in the end, religious education is about learning the content of our faith. Textbooks and other resources contain that content and should be utilized in your on-line classes.