CO 70.3 [Spring 1993], pp. 106-109: Greek instructional programs; Perseus, Greek Tools, HyperGreek, Greek Practice, MacLang, Aristotle's Greek Tragedy Construction Kit, ScriptureFonts, Multilingual PC Guide; Update on Latin Skills; CLASSICS e-mail discussion group
I know that teachers of Greek have been getting a little frustrated with
the fact that the ACL's Committee for Educational Computer Applications
has so far only published a Survey of Latin Instructional Programs for the
Microcomputer. For a while this was due to the fact that there were absolutely
no instructional programs available for Greek, which in turn was largely
due to the smaller enrollments for Greek in the high schools, where instructional
software use has been strongest in the last ten years. But it is also due
to the complexities of getting a modern American computer to be physically
capable of printing and displaying the ancient Greek alphabet. (For a detailed
discussion of the technicalities involved, see CO 69 [Spring 1991]: 102-104.)
Now and then I have snuck into this column an announcement for a new Greek program when I discovered one, but it has finally come time to expand the full Survey booklet to include Greek. Therefore, with the release of the January 1993 update, the software survey will now be called A Survey of Instructional Software for the Classics. It will also include non-language programs for classical studies in general.
Any discussion of software for Greek should probably begin with Perseus,
which has been under development since before I started writing this column.
During the 1990-91 academic year a number of schools and colleges were able
to participate in "beta-testing," the last stage of development
before publication. ("Alpha-testing" is done by the developer's
Perseus was publicly released by Yale University Press in April 1992, but the development process continues for two more expected updates in the next few years before the end of the project. The currently available Perseus 1.0 contains roughly one-third of the texts planned for Perseus 3.0, and the same is true of the number of slides included on disk.
The drum roll that has accompanied the development of Perseus has made it very difficult for the first public release of the software to live up to exaggerated expectations, but the significance of its accomplishments should not be underrated. Perseus is a unique creation which experiments boldly with the broad range of opportunities offered by the new technologies of hypermedia. It is an extremely powerful piece of software, and it is now realistically accessible to a wide spectrum of users, be they students, teachers, or researchers.
The best way I know of to test out the userfriendliness and applicability of any new program is to just pop in the disk and give it a whirl. Like most powerful programs today, though, there is an installation process required to put certain parts of the program onto your computer's hard disk for speedier and simpler usage. Perseus makes use of HyperCard, the standard Macintosh database program, and so HyperCard (along with its accompanying "Home stack") must be present in the Perseus "folder" in order to run properly.
There are two different ways to deal with the video graphics of Perseus. You can purchase just the CD-ROM package ($150) and have digitized images presented on the computer's monitor, or you can buy the videodisc package ($350, including the CD-ROM disk) and have slide-quality images presented on a separate TV/VCR monitor. The latter option is good for class presentations, but the former can be sufficient for an individual user. The minimum system configuration to run Perseus is a Macintosh Classic with 2Mb-RAM and a CD-ROM drive, but in order to run any video images you need an 8-bit graphics card and a Mac II or LC is highly recommended.
The Greek font issue does indeed come up with Perseus, too; if you want to be able to do more with Greek than just view the literature provided, you will need to have a Greek font such as GreekKeys installed on your computer.
Once you have all the hardware and software needed, it is really quite easy to move around within Perseus. When you first start using it, you may be asked by the program to specify where the Perseus data files are. Usually you will be running the program from the hard disk, but the data files are all generally stored on the CD-ROM disk. Once you have told the program where the data files are, it will make a note of it and not ask again; however, there are several different types of data files, and the question will arise each time you use a different type. Most of this hassle can be avoided by addressing the "Settings" option as soon as you start up the program. Much of the Perseus "menu bar" at the top of the screen will be familiar to those who have used HyperCard. The significant additions are the "Links" and "Perseus" menus. The "Perseus" menu is most useful to the student who is using the program to follow a teacher's preset "path" and taking notes. The "Links" menu lists all the resource categories available and provides a research-oriented user with the means to jump from a literary search to an archaeological site plan (Figure 1). Other menus may become available for special applications, such as the Atlas.
The ability to create "paths" is one of the chief applications for Perseus in the classroom. Teachers can plan ahead, gathering and marking a sequence of materials provided by Perseus (such as maps, vase photos, and literary references) and then use that sequential path in a class presentation or assign students to review the path outside of class in the computer lab (Figure 2). Once students become familiar enough with Perseus, they can be asked to create their own path sequences to coordinate with a paper topic.
The other major application for Perseus is the facilitation of research, and that research can range anywhere from a brief literature search in a survey course to a detailed review of a certain topical allusion throughout a large body of Greek art, architecture, and literature. Until the full database of materials is further developed, it is not possible to do an exhaustive search; but, for the purposes of most student projects, there is more than enough to work with now.
Within the context of Greek language courses the support tools provided by Perseus are extremely impressive: an electronic parser and the complete "middle Liddell" lexicon are both available on-line, so that students could in fact do reading assignments with Perseus and receive a substantial amount of tutorial assistance. Literary texts can be viewed in Greek, English, or both languages. The authors included in Perseus 1.0 are Aeschylus, Apollodorus, Herodotus, Hesiod, Homer, Pausanias, Pindar, Plutarch, Sophocles, and Thucydides. (Most are taken from the Loeb Library editions.)
A few cautionary notes are in order for those first trying out Perseus. When following or creating a path, you will generally be using the Navigator "palette" to move forward and backward and move through the sequence of images. The Navigator is a sort of movable control panel. The help option is signified by a question mark icon, but there is no help yet available in this version of Perseus, so don't waste your time trying it out persistently (like I did). Another icon on the Navigator is a Greek key or maze with arrows pointing right and left. This single symbol actually contains three different option buttons which allow you to move forward (right arrow) and backward (left arrow) in a preset path or to add a new piece to a path (center of maze), depending on what part of the icon you click on. These matters are explained in the user manual, but I wish they were dealt with more clearly on screen.
All things considered, I think that Perseus is a truly valuable new tool for the profession, and I look forward to the further development of its databank. For more discussion about the development of the artistic and archaeological resources provided by Perseus, see CO 67 [Winter 1989-90]: 42-48. For further information on the current release of Perseus 1.0, contact Mary Coleman, Yale University Press, 92A Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520; tel. 203-432-0912.
In the past I have pointed out that I considered Perseus to be an educational
tool, but not specifically a piece of instructional software, which takes
a more active, directional hand in its presentation. Now it is evident to
me that, by using the path creation facility within Perseus, a teacher can
certainly prepare instructional sessions for students, though the level
of interactivity during those sessions is still limited. Perseus is not
intended for elementary language instruction.
A couple of years ago I wrote about Swanson's Paidagogos (IBM), Wooley's reVerberations (IBM), and Erickson's Koine Greek (Macintosh), as the only programs I knew of for Greek language instruction (see CO 68 [Spring 1991]: 101). There are now a few more options available (but still none for Apple II that I am aware of). Many of them have grown out of New Testament study, so their vocabulary and grammar tend to be based on Koine Greek.
Greek Tools is an IBM-compatible program that provides a large flashcard "lexicon" which can be easily edited and used for drilling either on-screen or by means of the printed flashcards that it can create. Paradigm charts of declensions and conjugations are available for reference but not for drilling. The program also provides a number of tools that are specially designed for biblical text analysis, including a built-in Greek-Hebrew wordprocessor for note-taking. Greek Tools is very fast and easy to use but takes up over a megabyte of memory on a hard disk (cost: $41). For more info, contact Parsons Technology, P.O. Box 100, Hiawatha, IA 52233; tel. 800-223-6925.
HyperGreek is a HyperCard-based program for Macintosh that covers most of the elementary basics: first and second declensions; articles and prepositions; personal, demonstrative, and reflexive pronouns; and most indicative verb forms. There are ten chapters of material, each including a vocabulary list of about a dozen words. The vocabulary is not correlated to a specific textbook but is fairly common, so that the paradigm chart drills and translation exercises could be useful in many elementary courses. Unique options available from HyperGreek include the printing of vocabulary flashcards (which requires the installation of a Greek font) and computer vocalization of almost any Greek word, letter, or phrase in the program (which requires the installation of the MacinTalk utility). There are still some bugs to be worked out of the program, but these do not prevent it from being a useful program for beginning Greek students (single copy: $45; lab pack: $180). The program was written by Don Wilkins of Biola University. For more info, contact Intellimation, P.O. Box 1922, Santa Barbara, CA 93116; tel. 800-346-8355.
Greek Practice, also HyperCard-based, is designed more as a review for intermediate to advanced students. It provides a vocabulary list of over a thousand Greek words (listed by frequency of usage in the New Testament) which can be added to by the user. Flash cards of any kind can be printed out if the appropriate font software has been installed. Otherwise, on-screen drilling may be sufficient.
Besides the topics covered by HyperGreek, Greek Practice includes comparatives and superlatives, contract and irregular verbs, participles, numbers, and passive and middle voices. The format employed in most of the drills is standard parsing by means of checklists. A score is kept but not recorded. The user has complete control over progress through the drill. She can move forward in the set order or ask for a randomly chosen word at any time. When she decides that she has had enough practice, she can choose another word set or another topic to work on. There is very little competitive pressure, just an abundance of options for unhurried practice--for which the program aptly received its name. This abundance of material fills up five disks ($89.95) and really needs to be loaded onto a hard disk for easy running. For more info, contact William C. Brown Publishers, P.O. Box 539, Dubuque, IA 52001; tel. 800-351-7671.
If you are looking for an authoring system to use to create your own exercises for Greek, I would point once again to the MacLang program, created by Prof. Judith Frommer (Harvard). It provides very easy means to type Greek exercises (as well as Russian, Japanese, Latin, and most European languages) on-screen with no extra font software. Format options include simple vocabulary drilling, fill-in-the-blanks, paragraphs (cloze), multiple choice, and "jumbles" (scrambled sentences). Version 4 now makes it possible to tie in multimedia resources, such as audiotapes and videodiscs (single copy: $99; lab pack $396). For more info, contact Intellimation (above).
The way Aristotle methodically picks apart dramatic ingredients in his
Poetics, it should come as no surprise that someone has created a program
called Aristotle's Greek Tragedy Construction Kit. James Bierman (Univ.
of Cal.-Santa Cruz) decided to use HyperCard to make it easier for students
to get a comprehensive view of the main elements in Aristotle's discourse
and apply those to the tragedy of their choice. Excerpts from the Poetics
are used along with illustrative examples to clarify the meaning of the
major ingredients: character, plot, verbal expression, thought, song composition,
and staging. Each topic has anywhere from two to twenty pages of expository
information embellished with button-click choices and graphic displays.
The program includes a built-in notebook and an analytical quiz utility
with a sample set of questions. The application of this program may be limited,
but it is a good example of a complete lesson module (single copy: $45;
lab pack: $180; also from Intellimation, above).
Two people have written to help me fill out my recent discussion of Greek
fonts and wordprocessing (see CO 69 [Spring 1992]: 102-4), both of them
using WordPerfect, probably the most popular standard wordprocessor for
Bette Ruellan is very happy with a font program called ScriptureFonts, which includes both Greek and Hebrew fonts for screen and printer. It is memory-resident and allows you to toggle easily between Greek, Hebrew, and English at any time. She purchased it a few years ago for under $100 from Zondervan Publishing, 1415 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506; tel. 616-698-6900.
Winthrop Dahl has found several options for producing Greek with WordPerfect, all of which he obtained from a handy book called The Multilingual PC Guide (Intext Systems, P.O. Box 3068, Stamford, CT 06905). He speaks highly of the Greek module that WordPerfect Corp. itself now offers for $90. (WordPerfect Corp., 1555 N. Technology Way, Orem, UT 84057; tel. 801-225-5000) Ruellan cautions that you make sure it will work with your particular printer before purchasing--and this is probably good advice for any font software.
Gerry Culley's "Latin Skills" software package has now been
completely converted for IBM and also has a new distributor. The IBM version
is quite fast and makes good (optional) use of the mouse for quick selections
on menus and parsing checklists. The format and pricing on the IBM version
has changed slightly from the Apple II version. The individual program disks
are priced at $95 each ($75 for Apple II), but they now include the datafiles
for all five textbook versions. (Note: The Apple-Jenney version was for
the 1984 edition, while the IBM-Jenney is for the 1990 edition. The Ecce
text version is only available for Apple, while a new Moreland & Fleischer
version is now published for IBM.) The original Apple package of five programs
is still priced at $295 for the first set and $195 for additional sets.
There are two separate IBM packages priced at $250 each. "Latin Skills
I" includes the first three original programs (Verb Factory, Cursus
Honorum, and Mare Nostrum), and "Latin Skills II" includes the
other two (Translat and Artifex Verborum) and the later published Lector
program (which is also available separately for Apple). For more information,
contact Falcon Software, P.O. Box 200, Wentworth, NH 03282; tel. 603-764-5788.
Since the demise of the APA's Classics bulletin board system on HumaNet
several years ago, there has been a growing interest in recreating its networking
capability. A new opportunity arose last summer, and interactivity has been
steadily increasing during this academic year.
It was the students at the University of Washington who established CLASSICS, an electronic discussion group for topics in Greek and Latin. The group is unmoderated, and a background in ancient Greek and Latin is assumed.
The Bitnet and Internet addresses of the group and the list server are:
To subscribe, send an Email message to the list server address containing the single line:
subscribe classics "your name"
with your own name (not your Email address) and no quotes. For more info, contact Linda Wright (email@example.com).
My parting question is: Have you or your students run into any convincing mythological characters in cyberspace yet?