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-relatedissues in the Classics, I find a need to set down some basic working definitionswhich were not included in the classical computing "primers" referredto in my last column (CO 67 , 22). I gladly solicit your input inrefining these.
One particular point of delineation that I find significant is that betweeninstructional and educational software. Instructional software generallytries to take active control of the learning process and allows the studentto make a limited number of choices along the way. Both the goal and themethod of evaluation are determined by the program (or, ultimately, theprogram designers). On the other hand, educational software covers a muchbroader range of programs, including those labeled instructional by my definition.Anything that could in any way be legitimately applied to the educationalprocess might gain the educational label. A list of such software mightinclude word processors and authoring systems, as well as spreadsheet anddatabase programs. Some programs merely provide access to large databasesof information and the ability to make use of that information as part ofthe learning process--a more passive, but no less powerful, style of computerassistance.
Thus, we have an ACL Committee on Educational Computer Applications whichhas recently developed an Instructional Software Evaluation Form. The precinctof the committee is much larger than that of the form.
The most basic classification of instructional software with which Iam familiar is tripartite: drill-and-practice, tutorial, and simulation.
Drill-and-practice includes all of the most "objective," right-or-wrongtypes of programming which follow a set sequence for every user, with asmuch assistance provided as may be feasible (help screens, hints, etc.).
Tutorial software automatically reorders the sequence according to the user'svarying degree of success and may attempt a more complex form of evaluationthan 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 userand others by the program or the randomized power of "fate" whichit can create.
If you have familiarized yourself with the classical computing "primers"referred to in my last column (see citation above), you will have noticedthat our field has no shortage of drill-and-practice programs for Latin(Greek is another story!). Such programs can be very useful for remedialwork on declensions, conjugations, vocabulary, and the like. But the othermodes of programming generally make more extensive use of the ability ofthe computer to adjust quantifiable parameters in a carefully structuredprocess. This flexibility provides for the creation of a large variety ofpotential sequences--not only of simple questions and answers (tutorials),but also of episodic events (simulations).
The simulation category includes game-style programs which many teachersfear are just a step away from the infamous video arcade games that theycompete against regularly for time and attention. Where do we draw thisline between entertainment and educational games?
The consensus I find has accepted a large amount of overlap here-- perhapsin the tradition of Homer and the Greek tragedians. Why can't educationbe 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'sstill plenty of need for critical judgement here.
When our committee first started surveying the range of software availableto 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 widelypopular simulations like Zork, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, orWhere in the World is Carmen Sandiego ?.
Since that time there have been at least two programs published for ourfield which address this need, and I am anxious for readers to extend thisshort list if at all possible.
Annals of Rome is one such program which follows in the tradition of communitysurvival simulations and "wargames." These types of games canbe adapted to all kinds of different contexts. They put players in controlof a varying number of elements, such as the tax rate, army salaries, andtroop movement, and allow them to rewrite history. Over the simulated passageof 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 periodcovered (273 B.C.-1075 A.D.), it provides an opportunity to become familiarwith the groups of people involved and their respective homelands, as wellas their actual migration/invasion routes during particular centuries. Acolor map which covers a third of the screen changes constantly to reflecteach people's control of territory. The names of Senate leaders, who areselected by the player for army leadership positions, are decidedly Romanbut are made up of bits and pieces of common and historical names.
The complexity of Annals of Rome may seem unwieldy to the uninitiated wargameplayers, but it is largely unwoven by a detailed 30-page manual. Thoughthe reading level of the manual would seem to limit usage to high schoolor above, it has been picked up with enthusiasm by students at the middleschool level. According to Aaron Benjamin of the Baker Demonstration Schoolin Evanston, IL, "It's easy to learn, but real hard to win!"
Annals of Rome is published by Datasoft; there are versions compatible withthe IBM-PC, Amiga, Atari ST ($34.95) and Commodore 64 ($24.95) microcomputerswith basic graphics capabilities (color helpful, but not necessary). Formore 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 fromthe ACL's Teaching Materials and Resource Center. This program puts theuser in Pompeii on the day of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and gives themthe chance to roleplay one of eight characters. Each character has a differentset 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 specialicons signifying different people and objects on the map. Hazards, likefalling ash and clouds of sulfur gas, are randomly generated with increasingintensity. A student's growing familiarity with the layout of the city andits 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, MiamiUniversity, Oxford, OH 45056 or Centaur Systems, P.O. Box 3220, Madison,WI 53704.
Several years ago I was introduced to another simulation called Odysseusand the Golden Fleece, which combined graphics and text to create an interactivefiction adventure mimicking the archetypal, heroic sojourn, obviously mixingmythological details in the process. This program is definitely geared towardthe middle school level; the graphics are well done, and the minimal textis very easy to follow. Unfortunately, Sierra On-Line sold the publishingrights, and it doesn't seem to have been reissued.
If anyone has further comments about these programs or, better yet, knowsof other simulations for the Classics, please let me know about them. Idid note the listing of a program called Return of Heracles in a recentissue of Prima (,19) and would appreciate hearing from anyone whohas used it.
In 1983 Gerald Culley of the University of Delaware published Latin Skills,a five-program package for grammatical instruction keyed to several majortextbooks. Since that time Professor Culley has taken on the somewhat monumentaltask of applying the new principles of "artificial intelligence"to simulation programming. The result of his labor is an interactive fictionprogram which converses entirely in Latin! Now he just has to figure outa way to squeeze the program down to a form that will run on common microcomputersso we can all try it. Right now it is running on Sun 3 workstations at hiscampus, 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 TeutoburgForest, where he or she is free to respond to and request information aboutsurrounding conditions and events. A powerful Latin parser is built intothe program to make it capable of interpreting input and carrying its sideof the conversation. In order to accomplish this with sufficient success,the vocabulary must be limited to a certain degree. A list of allowableverbs 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 originalApple 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 minewho had first brought the Barbie issue to my attention. When I conveyedto him the comments made recently in the Facetiae column about Barbie'sTV script and other Latin excerpta in advertising (,129-130;,31), he came up with yet another explanation, based on his own professionalperspective. The use of Latin text, he suggested, was most likely basedon a desire to avoid copyright infringement. Since copyrights generallyexpire 50 years after the author's death, all of ancient literature wouldlie safely within the "public domain."
Others with whom I've spoken have pointed that this fact does not precludethe 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 explainsthe reason why the text samples which we have found in advertising alwaysseem to be "cropped" to make them inexact and unintelligible copies.