CO 72.3 [Spring 1995], pp. 95-98: Update on Software Directory for the Classics; Athena, History Through Art: Greece/Rome, World History Illustrated: Greece/Rome, Rome, Iter Romanum; Nestor: Perseus support tools; FTP discussed; Lingua Latina, Scriba, JACT Reading Greek Stacks
By the time you read this, the latest edition of the ACL's Software Directory
for the Classics will have hit the streets! The 1995 update includes over
100 pages of detailed information about all kinds of software with educational
applications in the Classics. There are descriptive reviews of over 60 instructional
software programs for Latin, Greek, etymology, and classical civilization,
along with brief listings for research and productivity software tools,
such as text-search programs and wordprocessor fonts. New entries cover
the expanding world of CD-ROM software and Internet resources. The new edition
will still cost $10 (20% discount to ACL members) and is available from
the ACL Teaching & Materials Resource Center, Miami Univ., Oxford, OH
45056; tel. 513-529-7741.
If you are on any of the major software companies' mailing lists, you
will undoubtedly have noticed the veritable tidal wave of CD-ROM offerings
to hit their pages. There are whole catalogs now devoted only to CD-ROM
listings. Many home computer sales these days are in the form of multimedia
PCs (or MPC, for short) and Apple AV (audiovisual) Macintoshes with built-in
CD-ROM drives. The new MPC standard generally requires a sound device ("card"
and speakers or both built-in), a 14" (or larger) color monitor, and
a respectable amount of RAM (8MB+) and hard drive space (200-500MB, to hold
more than just a few programs!). These setups are trying to prepare us for
the coming days of interactive television and downloadable multimedia (movies,
databases, and games), all via the good old telephone and cable lines (or
rooftop satellite dish)--and each carrying a price tag of its very own.
Unfortunately, many of the hundreds of CD-ROM titles that have appeared recently demonstrate the age-old phenomenon of rushing a product to market just to cash in on a trend. Some of the things showing up on CD-ROM may look eerily familiar to experienced teachers; and that's because they may be recycled photos and audio from those nice, old filmstrips you used to show to your classes in the '60s and '70s, before they got put on to videotape, if they were really good. Some of these new recycled versions have, indeed, been turned into more challenging, interactive presentations that can truly engage a student (or a whole class, perhaps) with their expansive diversity of resources and periodic evaluation.
A program called Athena, published in 1994 by Macmillan, is a good example
of a CD-ROM program that just doesn't take full advantage of its medium.
The unique characteristic of CD-ROM is its immense amount of storage space,
making it suitable for memory-intensive tasks, such as slide-quality photos
and audio samples. Athena is largely text-based. It presents an impressive
amount of mythological information in appropriate hypertext style (push-button
connections between one story and another based on a common reference).
But there are no evocative, color illustrations of the characters or theatrical
readings of a story to be found--only a representative, black-and-white,
engraving-style depiction or family tree here and there. It is merely a
large, traditional, encyclopedic database for the searching.
The only advantage I can see to its simplicity is that it does not require all of the standard MPC hardware. The DOS version can be run on an IBM/286 with 2MB RAM; the Windows version requires 4MB RAM; and the Mac version 8MB RAM. Unfortunately, the pricing is not as "simple" (or accessible). A single-user copy costs $295, and a multi-user version runs $395. It comes in a large binder with just 12 pages of user manual. (The extra empty space is reserved for future newsletters.) For those who are looking for something like this, contact Macmillan Publishing Co., 100 Front St., Riverside, NJ 08075; tel. 800-257-5755.
Bringing Alive History Through Art
One CD-ROM series that does seem to offer a better "bang for the buck" is called "History Through Art," published by ZCI Publishing and Clearvue/eav. (Thanks to CO Associate Editor Ken Kitchell for the lead on this one.) This series includes a total of nine disks, with two of those entitled Ancient Greece and Rome. The shell program offers a wealth of accessibility buttons for movement and searches through the material. Each "chapter" presents photos of representative artworks with explanatory captions arranged in a sequence which highlights the unique contributions of that artist, piece, or style to the progression of artistic development. There is a glossary of names and terms available for reference and short quizzes for each section. One can either follow the consecutive presentation of material or jump around to find descriptions of particular artists or works. A surplus of buttons make it very easy to move around and find what you need. The size and quality of the photos is perhaps the only drawback to this series. It is more appropriate for a simple introduction to this topic and not for a serious analysis of art history.
The series is marketed to schools by CLEARVUE/eav, 6465 N. Avondale Ave., Chicago, IL 60631; tel. 800-253-2788; the cost is $75 for a single-user copy and $225 for a lab pack (5 copies). You might find a single-user, home version available in discount software catalogs on occasion, but these listings are always changing.
One more CD-ROM series that I ran across recently seems to "take
the cake" as far as trying to become a full-feature, multimedia textbook.
This series is called "World History Illustrated," with separate
disks covering Ancient Greece and Rome. The disks offer a chapter-style
progression through history with photos of artwork and artifacts used to
illustrate each significant point or event. Audio narration of the captions
can be turned on or off. Instead of summary quizzes, a brief set of comprehension
questions arise after each short set of "pages."
What sets this series apart from others is its wealth of supplementary materials that are provided on disk for printout and use by the teacher for related activities and testing. The photos on these disks are also of much better size and quality, too. One extra surprise bonus is a section on the Celts which is based on Caesar and includes narrated passages in Latin!
Unfortunately, the cost may discourage large scale use and limit it to special research projects or enrichment. Single-user copies of each disk run $195, while lab packs can be had for $290 (Mac or IBM/DOS). It is published by Queue, Inc., 338 Commerce Dr., Fairfield, CT 06430; tel. 800-232-2224. Again, you may find better deals in discount catalogs with a little searching.
After I reviewed Wrath of the Gods in my last column, I discovered another
program with classical connections, simply called Rome, in the same publisher's
catalog. It purports to be a multimedia, interactive-fiction-style game,
along the same lines as Wrath of the Gods, but probably a "generation"
earlier on the software development timeline. This means that it will run
on older machines (to be exact: IBM/286, 640K RAM, VGA monitor, mouse, 5MB
hard drive space--and a sound card helps). A cursory look at the program
substantiates one's expectations: it uses a limited amount of cultural background
as setting for the typical, adventure-style video game. The setting is Herculaneum
at the time of Vesuvius' eruption, and the lead character is a slave in
the house of Habeas Corpus. One unique trait of this program is the fact
that it is available in French, Spanish, and German, as well as English.
The cost is reasonable ($29.95), and it can be ordered from Maxis, 2 Theatre
Sq., Orinda, CA 94563-3346; tel. 800-336-2947.
If you're still working with Apple IIs or older PCs (You are definitely not alone!), I want you to know that I have just received a copy of a fun program called Iter Romanum, which I first saw demonstrated by its co-author, Joanne Gascoyne, at the 1990 ACL Institute in Los Angeles, when it was still under development. The shell for this program, called Let's Go, has been used for other languages, and Joanne created a Latin version. It looks like a board game on-screen with some creative graphics. All instructions for movement must be given or chosen in Latin; and, in order to complete a move successfully, the player must answer a classical quiz question presented in Latin! The most valuable part is the editor module, which allows you to create your own questions and answers, providing an open-ended expansion of the program. Iter Romanum is available in both IBM and Apple II formats for $39.95 from Gessler Publishing Co., 55 W. 13th St., New York, NY 10011; tel. 212-627-0099.
Many of us have been overwhelmed with the wealth of resources for Greek
literature and culture available in the Perseus CD-ROM and videodisc from
Yale University Press (see CO 70.3 [Spring 1993]:106-7). After getting an
opportunity to play with it for a while, many teachers are often dumbstruck
by the sheer variety of materials available and the complexity of navigating
through them. Well, someone has now made a full-time job out of creating
teacher's guides and other instructional materials based on Perseus, as
well as offering hands-on workshops for more personalized instruction. Wendy
Owens has already conducted many such workshops for the Perseus Project
and the NEH. She is now making her experience and expertise available on
a broader basis, in the form of publications and presentations. If you are
looking for such assistance, you can contact her at Classical Technology
Systems, Inc., 50 Clark St., Medford, MA 02155-4474; tel. 617-396-7582.
This might be a good time to talk about the idea of downloading software
on the Internet. (Last time I talked about some of the basics of getting
started on the Internet; see CO [Fall 1994]: 33.) There is a growing body
of material for Classics that can be freely retrieved once you have access
to "the Information Superhighway:" worksheets, fonts, bibliographies,
and even instructional software.
The most long-standing method of downloading Internet files is called FTP, which stands for "File Transfer Protocol." To connect with an FTP site, just enter the first line of the command set (FTP address or %ftp.address, depending on your server). You will usually be asked for a "username" when you log in. Just type "anonymous" to get access to the "public" files. For a password you will be asked to type in your Email address. Then you will have to get yourself to the proper directory and find the right file, using IBM/DOS-style commands, like "cd" (change directory) and "dir" (list directory). First, get to the right directory by using the command "cd directory." (Some servers will let you include a whole "path" with several directories, separated by "/"; others will require you to "step down" one directory at a time.) Then enter "dir" to verify that the files you need are there. Finally, enter "get filename" in order to retrieve each file. If a file is marked as "binary," then you will need to enter that as a separate command before "getting" that file.
If you are communicating through a server, the software will be downloaded to your directory on your server (very quickly), and then you will have to download it from there to your computer. Be aware that the time it takes to download whole programs to your own computer will vary dramatically depending on the size of the file and the speed of your modem. (It can take 5-20 minutes or more, so be prepared for a wait!) Also, these files are generally stored in a compressed format in order to save storage space and downloading time. Macintosh files are usually compressed with Stuff-It (if they end in ".sit") and will decompress themselves automatically when they are started up. IBM files are usually compressed with PKZIP (if they end in ".zip") and will need to be decompressed with PKUNZIP, which is usually available from your own Internet server.
You should also be aware that there is a handy little FTP search program called Archie available on most servers. If you know the name of a file or a partial name, you can ask Archie to find it for you anywhere on the Internet by typing "Archie searchname." Sounds too easy doesn't it! Well, the easy parts are what sell people on the Internet, but there can be all kinds of little glitches sometimes--and it can take a little longer than you might expect, too. Of course, that pretty much comes with the territory when you're dealing with computers at all.
In order to give you a good chance to try the FTP transfer method out,
I would suggest a few of these new shareware and freeware programs for Latin
and Greek. First, there is set of basic paradigm chart drills for Latin,
developed by an English professor at the Univ. of Connecticut. Bill Hasenfus
has written an IBM/Windows-based program called Lingua Latina 4.1, which
is stored on the Internet as "WinLatin.zip." I used Archie to
find it residing at a site in Spain! (address: asterix.fi.upm.es, directory:
John Gruber-Miller of Cornell College has authored an IBM/DOS-based program for Latin which is correlated to the Oxford Latin Course. The program is called SCRIBA, and it was created using the CALIS authoring system from Duke University. The system provides a particularly nice facility for responding to expectable errors. You can FTP it from cornell-iowa.edu in its own directory (scriba); there are two text files (aareadme.1st, aareadme.txt) and the binary program file (scriba10.zip). If you don't have Internet access or the time to download it, you can send $5 for a disk copy to the author at the Dept. of Classical Languages, 600 First St. W, Mt. Vernon, IA 52314.
Finally, there is also a program for Greek, correlated to the JACT Reading Greek text and written in Mac/HyperCard format by Matt Neuberg of the Univ. of Canterbury in New Zealand. There are three programs files (jactgreekpt1.hqx, jactgreekpt2.hqx, gkvbhelp13.hqx) to be found in the /mac/classics directory at cantva.canterbury.ac.nz (address).
Downloading software from New Zealand has to one of the more exciting, cheap thrills of "surfing" the Internet.