CO 67.3 [Spring 1990], pp. 88-90: Terms Defined (instructional, educational, drill-and-practice, tutorial, simulation); Simulations discussed; Annals of Rome, Escape from Pompeii, Saltus Teutoburgiensis
As I proceed into this column's regular discussion of computer-related
issues in the Classics, I find a need to set down some basic working definitions
which were not included in the classical computing "primers" referred
to in my last column (CO 67 , 22). I gladly solicit your input in
One particular point of delineation that I find significant is that between instructional and educational software. Instructional software generally tries to take active control of the learning process and allows the student to make a limited number of choices along the way. Both the goal and the method of evaluation are determined by the program (or, ultimately, the program designers). On the other hand, educational software covers a much broader range of programs, including those labeled instructional by my definition. Anything that could in any way be legitimately applied to the educational process might gain the educational label. A list of such software might include word processors and authoring systems, as well as spreadsheet and database programs. Some programs merely provide access to large databases of information and the ability to make use of that information as part of the learning process--a more passive, but no less powerful, style of computer assistance.
Thus, we have an ACL Committee on Educational Computer Applications which has recently developed an Instructional Software Evaluation Form. The precinct of the committee is much larger than that of the form.
The most basic classification of instructional software with which I
am familiar is tripartite: drill-and-practice, tutorial, and simulation.
Drill-and-practice includes all of the most "objective," right-or-wrong types of programming which follow a set sequence for every user, with as much assistance provided as may be feasible (help screens, hints, etc.).
Tutorial software automatically reorders the sequence according to the user's varying degree of success and may attempt a more complex form of evaluation than simple percentage or point scoring.
Simulation puts the interaction in an artificially created, cultural context, with some of the parameters and events in that context dictated by the user and others by the program or the randomized power of "fate" which it can create.
If you have familiarized yourself with the classical computing "primers" referred to in my last column (see citation above), you will have noticed that our field has no shortage of drill-and-practice programs for Latin (Greek is another story!). Such programs can be very useful for remedial work on declensions, conjugations, vocabulary, and the like. But the other modes of programming generally make more extensive use of the ability of the computer to adjust quantifiable parameters in a carefully structured process. This flexibility provides for the creation of a large variety of potential sequences--not only of simple questions and answers (tutorials), but also of episodic events (simulations).
The simulation category includes game-style programs which many teachers
fear are just a step away from the infamous video arcade games that they
compete against regularly for time and attention. Where do we draw this
line between entertainment and educational games?
The consensus I find has accepted a large amount of overlap here-- perhaps in the tradition of Homer and the Greek tragedians. Why can't education be fun? And can it often be more effective when it is fun? This, of course, is not to suggest that all games and simulations are educational. There's still plenty of need for critical judgement here.
When our committee first started surveying the range of software available
to our field, teachers noted the lack of any culture-based simulations.
Mystery House has often been named as a common example used by French teachers.
Some of you may have heard students refer to the more generic and widely
popular simulations like Zork, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego ?.
Since that time there have been at least two programs published for our field which address this need, and I am anxious for readers to extend this short list if at all possible.
Annals of Rome is one such program which follows in the tradition of community survival simulations and "wargames." These types of games can be adapted to all kinds of different contexts. They put players in control of a varying number of elements, such as the tax rate, army salaries, and troop movement, and allow them to rewrite history. Over the simulated passage of time, various groups of neighboring peoples may attack or be attacked, and responsive decisions must be coordinated with their practical consequences.
While this game does allow for broad contortion of history during the period covered (273 B.C.-1075 A.D.), it provides an opportunity to become familiar with the groups of people involved and their respective homelands, as well as their actual migration/invasion routes during particular centuries. A color map which covers a third of the screen changes constantly to reflect each people's control of territory. The names of Senate leaders, who are selected by the player for army leadership positions, are decidedly Roman but are made up of bits and pieces of common and historical names.
The complexity of Annals of Rome may seem unwieldy to the uninitiated wargame players, but it is largely unwoven by a detailed 30-page manual. Though the reading level of the manual would seem to limit usage to high school or above, it has been picked up with enthusiasm by students at the middle school level. According to Aaron Benjamin of the Baker Demonstration School in Evanston, IL, "It's easy to learn, but real hard to win!"
Annals of Rome is published by Datasoft; there are versions compatible with the IBM-PC, Amiga, Atari ST ($34.95) and Commodore 64 ($24.95) microcomputers with basic graphics capabilities (color helpful, but not necessary). For more information, contact: The Software Toolworks, 19808 Nordhoff Place, Chatsworth, CA 91311, (818)885-9000.
You may have already noticed another simulation program, Escape from Pompeii, as a recent addition to the catalog listing of materials available from the ACL's Teaching Materials and Resource Center. This program puts the user in Pompeii on the day of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and gives them the chance to roleplay one of eight characters. Each character has a different set of goals to accomplish, such as rescuing others or gathering valuables, as well as merely getting out of town alive.
The activity is set against a computer-graphic map of the city, with special icons signifying different people and objects on the map. Hazards, like falling ash and clouds of sulfur gas, are randomly generated with increasing intensity. A student's growing familiarity with the layout of the city and its environs, including major landmarks, will increase the chances of success.
This program was written by Paul Tatarsky and is published by Centaur Systems. It runs on most Apple IIs (e/c/GS with 64K) and works best with color monitors, but they're not required. For more information, contact: ACL-TMRC, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056 or Centaur Systems, P.O. Box 3220, Madison, WI 53704.
Several years ago I was introduced to another simulation called Odysseus and the Golden Fleece, which combined graphics and text to create an interactive fiction adventure mimicking the archetypal, heroic sojourn, obviously mixing mythological details in the process. This program is definitely geared toward the middle school level; the graphics are well done, and the minimal text is very easy to follow. Unfortunately, Sierra On-Line sold the publishing rights, and it doesn't seem to have been reissued.
If anyone has further comments about these programs or, better yet, knows of other simulations for the Classics, please let me know about them. I did note the listing of a program called Return of Heracles in a recent issue of Prima (,19) and would appreciate hearing from anyone who has used it.
In 1983 Gerald Culley of the University of Delaware published Latin Skills,
a five-program package for grammatical instruction keyed to several major
textbooks. Since that time Professor Culley has taken on the somewhat monumental
task of applying the new principles of "artificial intelligence"
to simulation programming. The result of his labor is an interactive fiction
program which converses entirely in Latin! Now he just has to figure out
a way to squeeze the program down to a form that will run on common microcomputers
so we can all try it. Right now it is running on Sun 3 workstations at his
campus, and there are intentions of getting it onto IBM-PS/2s (model 80)
as soon as possible.
Saltus Teutoburgiensis places the user in the camp of Varus in the Teutoburg Forest, where he or she is free to respond to and request information about surrounding conditions and events. A powerful Latin parser is built into the program to make it capable of interpreting input and carrying its side of the conversation. In order to accomplish this with sufficient success, the vocabulary must be limited to a certain degree. A list of allowable verbs can be requested at any time.
I will let you know when this exciting new program is available for distribution, but I thought it was important enough to provide a progress report now. By the way, programmers are currently in the process of converting the original Apple II version of Latin Skills for IBM-compatibles. For more information, contact: Office of Instructional Technology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.
Yes, the Barbie controversy continues. It was a lawyer friend of mine
who had first brought the Barbie issue to my attention. When I conveyed
to him the comments made recently in the Facetiae column about Barbie's
TV script and other Latin excerpta in advertising (,129-130;,
31), he came up with yet another explanation, based on his own professional
perspective. The use of Latin text, he suggested, was most likely based
on a desire to avoid copyright infringement. Since copyrights generally
expire 50 years after the author's death, all of ancient literature would
lie safely within the "public domain."
Others with whom I've spoken have pointed that this fact does not preclude the copyrights of those who publish unique editions of ancient texts. Indeed, this is an issue that has been raised in the area of creating and disseminating "machine-readable text" for computers. It also probably explains the reason why the text samples which we have found in advertising always seem to be "cropped" to make them inexact and unintelligible copies.