Taking seriously the open-source nature of information in the world of the Internet and the place of everyone in the educational enterprise as co-learners together, tomorrow I’m going to have my students engage in what I’m calling a “research/learning experience.” The topic for the day is “Women in the Early Church,” and I’ll be having the class split into groups of 3 or 4 that will be assigned a particular female figure in early Christianity. Each group will be given a sheet with the following instructions:
Women played an important role in the early Church. Though for a variety of factors their presence has often been obscured in the historical record, their lives and the stories told about them are important for us to recall, remember, study, and reflect upon. Though the traditional historical record has often been heavily tilted toward the Church fathers, continuing to ignore the contributions and spiritual lives of women in the growth and development of nascent Christianity would be to leave out a vital part of the picture.
In the following exercise, therefore, you will be asked to investigate a particular female figure in the early Church and engage in some in-class Internet research about her. During your work, please discerningly consider the following:
- Wikipedia or Other Online Encyclopedic Source: Often a first stop to “get your bearings,” but never a final resting place. Informationally helpful for pointing you deeper, but rarely useful as an academic source.
- Informational Websites: Those that contain helpful data about your subject. Note: Not all websites are of equal value for academic research, so you will have to evaluate how useful they might be and how much you can trust them. Be prepared to defend your choices based on authorship, provenance, etc. For the sake of this exercise, consider websites in two categories: 1) popular/shallow, unfactual, and/or overly biased and 2) scholarly, researched, and reliable.
- Primary Sources: Available ancient source materials in translation written by or about your subject.
- Journal Articles: Historical essays written in academic journals.
- Books: Academic resources relevant to your subject, either in our library or available on Amazon.com.
At the end of this “quick-and-dirty” research session, students will share their findings with the class, both in terms of identifying their subject and her importance and pointing to some helpful (and not-so-helpful) available resources.
That’s it for today. We’ll see how this goes tomorrow.