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CO 83.1 [Fall 2005], pp. 26-28: 2005 ACL Institute pre-Institute workshop: Micheal Posey, "Online Exercises & Quizzes"; European Latin Conference in Cambridge, England; Swiss & Danish software for Latin; Cambridge Online Latin Project (COLP) update; 20th anniversary edition of ACL Software Directory for the Classics released.
A Summer Full of Classical Computing
This proved to be a very busy summer for me when it came to workshops on classical computing. It started at the ACL Institute in Albuquerque and continued a month later at the European Latin Conference in Cambridge, England.
Micheal Posey kicked things off with the pre-Institute workshop on “Making the Internet Work for You: Putting Exercises and Quizzes Online.” Micheal kept people both busy and amused, as he led them around to some of the more popular and lesser known web sites which provide easy-to use templates for creating your own interactive online materials, as well as offering those made by others. Some sites are free, while others will charge a subscription fee for regular use and more support services, such as maintaining student records and providing e-mail discussion lists.
First, Posey talked about some of the sites for basic tools and services that a teacher can find handy, such as blogs, grade books, and web-based discussion groups. Most people think of bloggers as people who keep online journals and commentaries, which have become a source of amusement for some and a source of incisive, investigative journalism for others. But Posey pointed out how he uses a blog site for posting syllabi and everyday announcements to his students. The most popular site for this purpose is Blogger (www.blogger.com), which is now part of the Google empire. Once you set up a free blog site of your own, using their template, it becomes a sub-site of Blogspot.com.
Another way to keep students informed is to set up a discussion group at Yahoo Groups. They, too, provide a very easy-to-use template for groups of all kinds to have a web site with photo albums, link lists, and a group calendar, along with e-mail services, such as a postings archive, scheduled reminders, and an automatic distribution of all e-mail submitted by the group members (www.groups.yahoo.com).
For record-keeping, you can find assistance from Gradekeeper (www.gradekeeper.com) and “The Homework Site” (www.thehomeworksite.com), among others. The former uses a downloadable program which communicates with the web site, while the latter is all web-based. They both depend on subscription fees for support ($20-25 per year per class).
Playing with Hot Potatoes at Institute
When it comes to online exercises and quizzes, there are a wealth of templates available. Some are free, others are not. There are PowerPoint templates for some of the most popular TV game shows, such as Jeopardy, The Weakest Link, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (188.8.131.52/tutorials/PPT-games/). Quia is a popular site with templates for 12 different quiz and game formats, including flashcards, “Concentration,” and “Hangman” (www.quia.com). If you sign up for class use of the site ($50 per year), you can set up your own teacher home page with extra record-keeping facilities. Try a free 30-day trial, and look for the many Latin exercises there, including those from fellow ACL members, like Alana Lukes (pvilatin2) and Virginia Baird (voc2), who happened to be in the workshop.
Other popular sites that you might want to investigate are: Puzzlemaker, EclipseCrossword, Spellmaster, QuizStar, Flashcard Exchange, and EasyTestMaker. Try the usual dot-com URL, or just Google their name to track down their respective web sites.
Finally, Posey spend much of the morning session demonstrating and letting attendees experiment with Hot Potatoes, a downloadable program which creates web-based exercises in six common formats: multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled sentence, crossword, matching/ordering, and gap-filling. The program is free for academic applications, if they are made publicly available online. It is published by Half-Baked Software and available from the Univ. of Victoria site in Canada (hotpot.uvic.ca). A couple of good examples of classical exercises created with Hot Potatoes are: Robert Cape’s Internet Workbook for the Oxford Latin Course (Figure 1, artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/cml/rcape/latin/) and Jim Johnson’s Supplementary Exercises for Athenaze (artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/cml/jjohnson/athenaze/instructions.html).
European Classical League in the Making?
While the Cambridge Latin Conference was ostensibly concentrating on European perspectives toward the teaching of Latin in the 21st century, there were actually 9 out of 90 attendees there from the U.S. I was very appreciative of the opportunity to learn about the diversity of attitudes toward Latin’s place in the curriculum from country to country, especially in relation to history, native language, and other modern languages. The varying methods of integration all make sense in their own national contexts but make it very difficult to come up with a collective European approach to their assessment and possible revision. Nevertheless, the European attendees seemed enthusiastic in their support of a more united front in fighting the general decline in Latin enrollments across their continent.
One area that they have certainly been working hard in, of course, is that of technological applications. This was an excellent chance for them to show each other what they have been up to in their home countries, and I was happy to hear about it all myself, so that I could spread the word “across the pond.” I went to the entire series of workshops in the Cambridge Classics Department’s excellent computer lab, and this is what I learned--and what you can try out for yourself.
Swiss & Danish Electronic Textbooks
First in the line-up was Latinum Electronicum, which its creators, Irene Burch, Simone Hiltscher, and Rudolph Wachter, are calling “a playful online Latin course for university beginners.” This project is based at the University of Basel, but it is supported by a consortium of three Swiss universities, all of whom use different Latin textbooks, but are looking for more practice with the language outside the classroom. Hence, the online materials are designed as a completely separate textbook and workbook which uses mostly the vocabulary which is common to all three printed texts. They have used very creative means to animate grammatical explanations, to which they hope to add audio in the future, and there is a wealth of exercises using several interesting formats, such as moving urns around to catch forms falling from the sky and matching verb forms of different tenses in a “Concentration”-style game (Figure 2).
In the evaluation surveys of students who had used the program, it gained high scores for usefulness, even though 25% never used it and only 25% used it more than 5 hours in a term. The other half still relied mainly on their printed text and found it difficult to motivate themselves to spend the extra time in the computer lab. Since the entire system is hosted by WebCT, it is only accessible to students with passwords, but they expect to have a public demo online by the time you read this (www.unibas.ch/latinum-electronicum/).
Another workshop was led by the amazing Hans Orberg, whom some of you may recognize as the author of the Lingua Latina textbook series, the only elementary Latin text to instruct in an all-Latin environment, using graphics to build vocabulary and explain grammatical points. It turns out that Orberg recently teamed up with a computer programmer to transfer all of the textbook material onto CD and add interactive exercises, maintaining the same rigorous standards—buttons and menus are all in Latin, too! It’s quite impressive to behold and experiment with. Both print and electronic versions are being published in the U.S. by Focus Publishing (www.pullins.com), and you can find out more (in several languages) from Orberg’s own site (www.lingua-latina.dk). Apparently, his text series is quite popular in Asia and other places that do not have Latin texts available in their own languages.
Reading Support from Cambridge & Denmark
Alongside the two electronic Latin textbooks demonstrated, there were two online programs designed to support the reading process which is taught in more advanced Latin courses. First, Jo Hermann of Denmark explained how she had taken on the tedious chore of creating a complete gloss of the all the required Latin passages which her students read. This is a diverse selection from a wide variety of authors, including some medieval Danes. Every word in the texts is hyperlinked to its respective paradigm chart to help students parse a form, and the gloss sits beside the passage, as it would in a printed text. The meanings, of course, are all in Danish, but the hypertext grammar might be useful to students in other countries. The site is completely free to the public, if you’d like to see it for yourself (Figure 3, www.e-latin.dk).
I wrote once before about the CATR (Computer-Assisted Text Reading) Project, when they were looking for more test sites for their materials a couple of years ago (CO 81.3 Spring 2004, p. 114). It is based at Cambridge University and is working with Cambridge University Press (CUP) to create full hypertext versions of many titles in the Cambridge Greek and Latin Commentaries text series. Margaretha Debrunner Hall gave a thorough explanation of how it works and an update on where they are at. Every word in the texts is linked to a parser/dictionary, and many words have hyperlinked notes, replacing foot and end notes. Eventually, these hypertexts should be available for licensing from CUP. In the meantime, most of them are restricted to student-password access, but anyone can try out a few sample texts (www.classics.cam.ac.uk/catr/).
Cambridge Online Tries Plans ‘myCLC’
The Cambridge Online Latin Project (COLP, www.cambridgescp.org), which I’ve already written about twice in the recent past (CO 81.3 Spring 2004, p. 115, and CO 82.1 Fall 2004, p. 27), has not been resting on its laurels. Martin Hodges and Tony Smith gave a tantalizing presentation at this European conference, describing their plans to offer an extremely thorough customization option for the online Cambridge Latin Course (CLC) materials, tentatively known as “myCLC.” This will allow both teachers and students to set a wide variety of preferences and parameters, which the site will automatically load as soon as they sign in with their username and password. Concomitant with the release of this desirable new embellishment will be the charging of a nominal subscription fee for use of the materials. This new source of funding may, in turn, spur further developments in their web-based services.
Greek Lexicon & Word Empire on CD
While all of these exciting developments were unfolding at the summer conferences, there was no dearth of new software being released on CD. First, the Hellenists in the crowd may be thrilled to hear that there is now a CD-version of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (LSJ)—that’s the complete ninth edition with the 1996 supplement fully integrated into it. This coup was accomplished by Logos Bible Software, working with Oxford University Press, and the list price is $145. I will write more about this next time, when I have had a chance to test it out more myself and have more room to write. In the meantime, I should mention that they are doing a “pre-pub” promotion to drum up support for putting the complete Oxford Latin Dictionary (OLD) on CD. For more info, contact them at Logos Bible Software, 1313 Commercial St., Bellingham WA 98225; tel. 800-875-6467; web: www.logos.com.
Another new release is a program called Word Empire by Brett Brunner, a Latin teacher from Scottsville, VA (Figure 4). Brunner has created a graphically organized word list of etymological derivatives from Greek and Latin roots, using over a thousand different word “trees,” each based on a classical “root,” with the branches and leaves of the tree filled with English derivatives, which are color-coded by level of difficulty and tagged when they are specific to a particular field of study. Each tree fills a page of a PDF document, which can be read and searched with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software. Looking up one word will lead the user to many other related words, and the color-coding and tagging are meant to help her focus her attention on those most relevant to her level and area of interest. Word Empire (single $45; site $295) is available from the ACL’s TMRC and its publisher: Star Nemeton, 154 Warren Ferry Rd., Scottsville VA 24590; tel. 434-960-9657; web: www.wordempire.com.
2005 Software Directory Hits the Street
Just a quick confirmation that the 20th anniversary edition of the ACL Software Directory for the Classics is now available from the ACL’s TMRC, as promised ($15). The abridged online version has also been updated (www.centaursystems.com/soft_dir.html).
I would like to add a special thank you to the ACL’s Scholarship Committee for providing the financial assistance which made it possible for me to attend the Cambridge Latin Conference. And to everyone else out there: be sure to keep the ACL scholarships in mind when you are looking at those enticing opportunities for professional development, both at home and abroad!
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