Center for Academic Technology

James McGrath

James McGrath is an Associate Professor in the Religion and Philosophy department and has taught at Butler University since the fall of 2002. His main area of expertise is the New Testament/Bible, but he is also an expert in religion and science fiction, religion and science, and Mandaeism. In addition to these qualifications, he is also the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature. He teaches many courses, including a course on the Bible every semester, a First Year Seminar on Faith, Doubt, and Reason, and different courses on religion and science fiction.

As an author of academic works, McGrath became interested in using technology as a gateway for conveying the class text to the students. He says, "I took an idea from my childhood... Some people will remember those [Choose Your Own Adventure books]. And I found myself asking, [with] the technology we have currently available, why can't we have a Choose Your Own Adventure textbook? Essentially have the text ask students questions about what they already know, what they think they know, what their assumptions are, what their impressions are." McGrath created an online version of his text and began implementing it into his classes. However, students' impressions were that reading amounts had increased since the text went below the screen, so it was not as well received as expected.

Now McGrath is beginning to revisit this revolutionary idea in his course on the Bible because of recent strides in the technological world on behalf of the Apple Corporation. He says, "…the reason why I'm returning to it now is that… this online textbook that is basically text… doesn't look so bad on an iPad. And so that inspired me to go back to it. So I thought with a little updating this could be worth revisiting."

So, with eReader technology on the rise, Associate Professor James McGrath is throwing his hat into the ring once more with his Choose Your Own Adventure textbook. This textbook could potentially be available on other items, such as a net book or a Smartphone. His hopes to make the students realize that the technology they use and take for granted everyday for personal networking can also be used in ways that are academically useful.