Teaching Augustine on Twitter

38678-augustine-of-hippoChad Pecknold of the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. is leading a “class” on St. Augustine that takes place entirely on Twitter.

Here is a taste of a post on Pecknold’s experiment at the Catholic Herald:

Students in professor Chad Pecknold’s newest class come from Canada, Uruguay, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and all across the United States, but two things unite them all – a printed copy of St Augustine’s “City of God” and their Twitter accounts.

Pecknold teaches a doctoral seminar on what is one of the saint’s greatest theological works at The Catholic University of America in Washington. On a whim, he decided at the beginning of this semester to post the seminar reading schedule on his personal Twitter account, and invite people to read along and have an occasional discussion.

Expecting about a dozen people to respond, Pecknold was shocked to find thousands of people showed interest in doing this online study of Augustine.

About 120,000 people viewed his invitation shortly after he posted it; more than 2,000 committed to buying the book and reading along. Pecknold had to quickly figure out how to accommodate such a large volume of people, and decided to dedicate a two-hour period on Thursday evenings to the study of “City of God.”

During his first class on January 12, Pecknold sat down with several different translations of the book, which had all of his handwritten marginal notes from about a decade of teaching the text. He tweeted out his commentary on book one through the Twitter app on his iPhone, and since Book 1 is 33 chapters, he wrote about 150 tweets in two hours.

His students either replied to his tweets or composed their own, using the class’s hash tag #CivDei to add their commentary to the discussion. The hash tag is taken from the original Latin title of the text, “De Civitate Dei.”

Read the rest here.

I like this idea. Though what Pecknold is doing should never replace an actual face-to-face course, I think this is a really good way to reach the larger public with good ideas and content.

What do you think?