By: Ronald A. Simkins and Nicolae Roddy, Creighton University
There is nothing quite like teaching at an archaeological site, where ancient remains almost speak out to students as witnesses of the past. Both authors have led study tours in Israel, taking students to archaeological sites like Tel Dan, Bethsaida, Megiddo, Arad, Beer-sheba, and others, lecturing there among the stones on archaeology, history, and the Bible. As we would walk through the architectural remains, our students would experience the ancient world first hand; issues of daily life, social structure, urbanism, ecology, and industry were given a material context that the students readily grasped. Because students learn in multiple ways—there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners—teaching on site is able to maximize the students’ learning through these multiple ways.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to replicate this experience back home in the traditional university classroom. Archaeological materials are readily available for course use but much of it is difficult and not-easily accessible for undergraduate students. Archaeological field reports are often too technical and contain too much data for students. Synthetic and popular studies offer greater accessibility, but the spatial context of the ancient archaeological site remains elusive. Photographs and slides may give a good representation of the features of a site, but for the student who has no personal experience, putting the images together into a single, holistic context is nearly impossible. The images remain at best fragmented, two-dimensional representations that lack the orientation, scale, and spatial context that one gains from first-hand experience. The Virtual World Project was created to overcome these shortcomings by bridging the gap between the traditional classroom and the immediate experience one gains from touring an archaeological site. (more…)