Computers and electronic communication break down barriers - distance fades away, and mutual understanding grows. This is why any idea that religion and the computer are somehow incompatible is actually the reverse of the truth. It is this message that the Professional Council for Religious Education (PCFRE) will put forward at its BETT seminar - "Why Religious Education (RE) Needs Computers" - on Saturday January 15.
One of the strongest ways of using computers in RE is to investigate different faiths, using CD-Roms to look at texts, images, buildings and symbols. This is particularly helpful for schools which find it difficult to find real examples, or where families have reservations about their children visiting other places of worship.
A number of products are available including a new version of the popular teacher resource Aspects of Religions, and one for younger pupils, Exploring World Religions from Granada LearningSEMERC. Their products cover a wide range between them from primary to sixth form.
Similarity of titles is a problem to watch for in this area - therefore World Religions, for primary, is published by Open Minds at pound;49.50 plus VAT and will be available on the EM stand (Rickitt Educational Media).
I-SEEK has Living Religions for secondary, which has been well received by the RE community. It covers the six main religions, and a seventh, Living Without God, looks at atheism and humanism. You can see this on the Schools Direct stand.
Most of the currently available material, says Paul Hopkins of PCFRE, is starting to move away from a purely factual approach. "The tendency is towards learning from religion rather than just learning about it - how does this affect me, rather than just what do Sikhs do on a Saturday."
He sees this as taking religion back to its roots. "When you think about it," he says, "Religion started as stories to make you think." There are still some gaps though, he says. "There is not a single company that produces a GCSE revision package for RE, though almost 250,000 candidates sat a GCSE in RE in 1999 ."
Granada Learning Stand F40www.granada-learning.comproductsreligionsI-SEEK Stand: E72www.I-seek.orgREM Stand:B40www.r-e-m.co.ukRevision aidwww.paulhopkins.co.ukrevisionThe Professional Council for Religious Educationwww.refit.ucsm.ac.ukGCSE RE revision on the netwww.hopkins.ndirect.co.ukrevision