Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Good Day for Theological Education

Tonight I'm in downtown Nairobi teaching my Research Methodology class (it's actually more interesting than you might think) to eight new Masters of Theology students.  After several weeks of trying, I finally was able to arrange with Bosco our IT guy for my class to come to the computer lab so I could show them the wonders of online academic databases and search engines.  We had to displace a class to do it, but we are currently in the computer lab, and my students are simply astonished.

Our great (academic) problem on this continent is access to (academic) resources.  But the internet has done much to level the playing field, and with the development of powerful academic search engines, one can find just about anything that anyone has written, at least.  Some journals make their articles available online, and some books can be had in e-book format.  At the very least, one has access to the bibliographic information that will enable one to find it in a library somewhere.

Anyway, my job tonight was to teach my students how to find their way around all the academic search engines and publisher search engines.  When they typed in their first searches and discovered there were 20,000 articles on their too broad topic, they were amazed.  They had no idea that there was so much information out there.  So after giving them an overview, I've set them loose and now they are ransacking the web for articles and books on their areas of research interest, and finding really cool stuff, and even downloading pdf files and ebooks.  They were a hundred questions a minute for the first half of class, but now they are doing it all themselves.  Hence I'm sitting in the back of the lab working on a blog post!

A new universe of information has dawned on these students.  They had no idea what was about to hit them when they came to class.  They won't be the same when they leave.  This is one of the best things about teaching - midwifing this sort of revelation.