CO 68.3 [Spring 1991], pp. 100-102: Tutorial software discussed;Crown dissertation; Flex, FasText, EZ-Comp, LatinaNouns/Verbs; Paidagogos, reVERBerations; Macintosh LCwith Apple IIe card; Text Encoding Initiative
In the last two columns I have attempted to define and discuss the typesof instructional software commonly referred to as simulations and drill-and-practiceprograms. According to the classification scheme which I have found to bemost predominant, the third and last category is known as tutorial software.
This category is easily the least available of the three, largely becauseit involves the most complicated programming. By the definition which Iset out earlier, tutorial software is designed to automatically reorderits sequence (of questions or challenges) according the user's varying degreeof success. It may also attempt a more complex form of evaluation than simplepercentage or point scoring.
To expand on this definition: tutorial software is programmed to mimic someaspects of the human tutor. This means that the program will be given somevery specific objectives for student performance and the ability to changeits own course if the student does not respond successfully enough. Practicallyspeaking, this means that the program must keep more detailed records ofstudent performance so that it can verify that all prerequisite topics havebeen passed satisfactorily before a new topic is presented.
As you might imagine, the general objective of tutorial software--tomimic a human tutor--is one of the more controversial areas of educationaltechnology. Although I have heard very few instructional designers claimthat any current software can actually replace a human tutor (or teacher)on an equal footing, I know there are still high-level researchers in thefield of artificial intelligence who hold that to be their ultimate challenge(and, therefore, their goal). One of the more gratifying things I have learnedfrom my own survey of the research literature is that the achievement ofthis goal is still subject to severe doubt by a significant contingent ofresearchers--enough so, I would say, to make it unexpectable in the foreseeablefuture.
Of course, this does not prevent software designers, including myself, fromtaking on the challenge of providing as much tutorial assistance in a programas possible. In fact, my committee colleague, Rickie Crown, and I have spenta good bit of our own research efforts in the last several years determiningwhat types of tutorial software are actually useful and effective in theLatin classroom, given the current practical constraints of hardware andsoftware and the psychological constraints of everyday teaching environments.
Rickie recently completed her doctoral dissertation in Educational Psychologyat the University of Michigan, with much assistance from Glenn Knudsvigin the Department of Classics. The dissertation is entitled "A Comparisonof the Effects of Traditional Instruction, Tutoring, and Software Tutorialsin the Latin Classroom," and it is probably the most thoroughly documentedpiece of research directly applicable to instructional microcomputing inour field. (Contact: Rickie Crown, Baker Demonstration School, 2840 SheridanRd., Evanston, IL 60201-1796)
Because there was no real tutorial software available when she began herresearch, Rickie wrote her own program to teach the topic of direct andindirect discourse. She tested the program in two similar high schools inthe Chicago area and compared its effectiveness against that of both fullclassroom instruction and one-on-one human tutoring.
While Rickie was doing her work under a rather strict statistical format,I was conducting somewhat less formal research at both the high school andcollege levels in Madison, Wisconsin. Not too surprisingly, some of ourgeneral conclusions turned out to be rather similar.
What we both found was that: 1) Students quickly get frustrated and annoyedwith tutorial software which maintains strict control of progress throughthe material. 2) Student response to tutorial Latin software depends verymuch on each student's attitude toward both computers and Latin in general,based on previous experience. Thus, requiring the use of such software aspart of the curriculum can be deleterious to some students' progress inthe course, while just making it optionally available can spur others onto unexpected advances.
Rickie's recommendations to anyone considering the use of tutorial softwarein the Latin classroom: be sure that the methodology of the program is intune with your own teaching approach, and check to see that students areproficitent in any prerequisite skills or knowledge before setting themloose with a new program.
Let it be known that there is a new 1991 update of the Survey of LatinInstructional Software for the Microcomputer available from the ACL's TeachingMaterials and Resource Center (Item #B219). It now lists 40 programs andincludes a critical review of each program, along with a general introductionto evaluating instructional software.
I would particularly like to draw your attention to several new programsin the listing which were written and published by Latin teachers themselves.They may not have all of the professional glitz and polish of some of the"big name" publications, but their prices are not as "bigtime" either.
Those of you who attended the ACL Institute computer workshops in 1988 and1989 may recall the set of IBM-compatible programs that Allan Wooley demonstratedthere. He has developed them for his own classes at Phillips Exeter Academyand is constantly making improvements to them. Flex is a verb form drillwhich randomly generates items based on customizable parameters. FasTextis designed to assist new Latin readers by providing assistance on syntaxand vocabulary for a passage with a color-coding and pop-up window scheme.EZ-Comp tests a user on Latin composition, using full sentences from FabulaeFaciles. Roots is an etymological matching quiz program which demonstratesthe connections between Latin and Greek words and their English derivatives.
Those who are looking for IBM materials (sparse as they are!) may want togive them a try, especially since they are very reasonably priced. Eachprogram is $15, and a "combo" demo disk, containing demo versionsof Flex, FasText, and Roots, is $10 (+$1.50 postage/handling). Contact:Allan Wooley, 10 Whitley Rd., Exeter, NH 03833.
Another New England colleague has written a very handy pair of Apple II-compatibleprograms. Marcia Jones has been trial-testing her programs, Latina Nounsand Latina Verbs, at Berkshire Country Day School for more than four yearsnow. The two drill-and-practice programs complement each other and followsimilar formats. The user may specify one or more declensions (or conjugations)for drilling. In the verb program the user also specifies active or passivevoice and present tense only, present system, or all tenses. Each Englishform is randomly created from a vocabulary list of 245 nouns or 150 verbs,and the user must create the Latin counterpart. There is also the optionof separate quizzing on stem and ending for each form, and the verb drillwill check to see if the user knows the first principal part before requestingthe necessary stem. After each form-item the user is given the opportunityto quit.
The programs are loaded into the computer in their entirety at the start,so it is possible to use one disk to load the program into many computersone after the other--effectively providing most of the convenience of asite license. One backup copy may be made. The cost of the programs is $39.95each. Contact: MVJ Software, 64 Bartlett Ave., Pittsfield, MA 01201.
It took awhile to sneak a microcomputer programmer into the bastion ofclassical Greek instruction, but it's finally happened! And it happenedon an IBM-compatible, no less! Michael Swanson of Vanderbilt Universityhas written Paidagogos to provide computerized exercises for teachers ofintroductory Greek. It is not correlated with a particular text, but seemsfairly accomodating as an elementary workbook.
The program covers a very comprehensive variety of 26 topics, from recognizingthe alphabet to conjugating in the middle voice. There are 15-32 multiplechoice questions included in each topic quiz. A student receives one chanceto select the answer; a stinging beep notifies the world of a wrong choice.At the conclusion of each drill, a percentage score is provided, along withthe opportunity to print out a short record of the session.
The Greek is quite readable, though the character sizing is somewhat uneven.Breathing marks are used but not accents, due to the low resolution of IBM-CGAgraphics. Basic graphic capability (CGA) is required. The publisher offersseveral purchase options: individual pack, $25; lab pack (5 copies, 1 manual),$50; site license, level 2 (4-year college) $375; level 1 (other institutions),$250. Contact: National Collegiate Software, Duke University Press, 6697College Station, Durham, NC 27708, (919) 684-6837.
Allan Wooley (mentioned above) has also written a Greek verb drill programfor IBM-compatibles, called reVERBerations. This program has several differentmodes: passive review, form creation, morphological labeling, and errordetection; it is probably best used as a review for more advanced students.See contact/cost info above.
Of course, the Macintosh has generally become known as the easiest and bestmachine to use for Greek because of its superior graphic capabilities (see"Random Access," CO 67.1). However, I am aware of only one instructionalprogram for Greek on the Mac, and that is a Koine Greek program from theUniversity of Minnesota. If anyone is aware of other publicly availableGreek instructional programs for micros, please let me know about them sothat we can expand the Survey to include Greek, too. (Please note that,by the definitions of instructional and educational software I have used[see "Random Access," CO 67.3], the Perseus Project would be consideredan educational, rather than instructional, software tool and resource, albeitan extremely powerful one.)
Apple has finally produced their long-awaited "crossover" computer,and it is called the Macintosh LC. The "LC" supposedly standsfor "Low Cost," but that appellation may be debatable for educators.It does, in fact, pack a lot of "bang for the buck," but it doesn'tquite fit into the old Apple II-Mac Plus under-$1,000 category.
The Macintosh LC is comparable in many ways (such as power and speed) tothe original Macintosh II (released in 1987 at a much higher price tag)all wrapped up in a much smaller box. Like the whole Mac II line it providesthe capacity for color on a large separate monitor (unlike the original"compact" Macintosh, still available as the newly upgraded Macintosh"Classic"). The Apple IIe compatibility is provided through anadd-on card.
If you have any particular software that you want to use on it, it wouldbe best to find an opportunity to try it out on one of the new machinesbefore making any commitment to buy. There was no demo machine availableto me at this writing; the arrival date is set for early 1991.
The list price of the Mac LC is $2,499 (while the Classic is only $1,499,including the monitor); that price includes a 40MB hard disk and a keyboard.Schools may be able to get a double-floppy drive setup at a lower cost.The color monitor is an additional $999 (monochrome: $399), and the AppleIIe card is another $199. Keep in mind that educational purchases have generallyreceived a 30-50% discount from Apple. For more info, contact: Apple Computer,20525 Mariani Ave., Cupertino, CA 95014.
The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) has just announced the availabilityof the first draft of its Guidelines for the Encoding and Interchange ofMachine Readable Texts. Sponsored by the Association for Computers and theHumanities (ACH), the Association for Literary and Linguisitc Computing(ALLC), and the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), the TEIhas as its goal the development of a set of standards for the encoding oftexts. Such standards would make it easier for researchers and softwaredesigners to use machine-readable texts for a variety of purposes. Developedover the last two years of study, the Guidelines are now scheduled to betested and revised over the next two years. A single copy of the draft versionmay be requested at no cost. Contact: C.M. Sperberg-McQueen, Computer CenterM/C 135, University of Illinois, Box 6998, Chicago, IL 60680 (Bitnet: U35395@UICVM).