CO 70.1 [Fall 1992], pp. 29-32: ACL committee report; Survey ofComputer Users and Non-users; SoftPC on Macintosh; Seven Activitiesfor CLC Unit I, Roman Banquet; Updates on Transparent Language,Dasher, de Italia, Perseus; Crossword Creator
The ACL's Committee on Educational Computer Applications (CECA) was setup in 1987. Since that makes this year its fifth anniversary, I think it'sappropriate to briefly review the work of the committee to-date.
When the committee was chartered, it had six objectives prescribed for itself:1) To maintain the Survey of Latin Instructional Software for the Microcomputer(soon to include Greek), published by the ACL's Teaching Materials and ResourceCenter (TMRC); 2) To create an evaluation form for instructional softwarein the Classics; 3) To articulate a prioritized list of recommended topicsand/or formats for software development; 4) To establish a network of interestedsoftware designers, developers, and publishers to expedite the fulfillmentof the needs expressed in #3 above; 5) To disseminate relevant informationabout educational computer applications in our field (originally by wayof a newsletter and now by way of this column); 6) To advise the TMRC onadditions to its catalog listings of educational software.
At this point in time I am happy to report that the committee has had substantialsuccess with most of its objectives, except for #4. The Survey has beenupdated every two years, and a detailed evaluation form (TOO detailed accordingto some) has been drafted and distributed with all software orders sentout by the TMRC. This column continues to regularly publish up-to-date informationabout new developments and discoveries. However, when the committee attemptedto contact all the publishers who are currently involved in our field, therewas almost no response. The number of teachers interested in designing softwareis encouraging but relatively small. It appears that the attitude of softwarepublishers is to wait for teachers and/or programmers to come to them witha finished product, rather than to invest money up front for the long-termdesign and development of programs that are designed to meet specific needs.
In an attempt to conduct more outreach and education for our "cause,"the committee has also been accepting invitations to give computer workshopsat various state, regional, and national conferences for Classics teachers,similar to those given at the annual ACL Institute. This fall there is sucha session planned at the annual ACTFL convention in Chicago (alas, withouta computer lab).
Another recent endeavor of the committee has been to survey Classicsteachers on the extent of their current use of computers for educationalpurposes. A "Survey of Computer Users and Non-users" was includedwith the ACL's mailing of the TMRC catalog in March 1991. Almost 200 peoplereturned completed surveys (out of approximately 7500 mailed), which thecommittee found gratifying since there was no special incentive to do so.The results may be the most up-to-date and useful gauge in our field for:1) how accessible computers are to both teachers and students, 2) what typesof computers are available to them, and 3) what types of software are deemeduseful and needed by teachers.
Many of the numbers speak for themselves. If you thought you were oneof the few people not using computers for teaching, you might be reassuredto find you are not in a minority (#1-3). A substantial majority have NEVERdone so. In most cases, however, it cannot be denied that the machineryis available for students to use (#5). It often just depends on findingthe appropriate software to provide them, and most teachers are nowherenear satisfied with the variety of software now on the market (#8). Theyeven seem willing to put some time into adapting a program to their ownneeds when they find something worth using (#6-7).
Strangely enough, the desired priorities for future software developmentseem to mirror what is currently available, both by topic and type. Therate of spending on software remains fairly conservative (#12-13), reflectinga general dissatisfaction with the variety of choices available.
The breakdown of computer types available in school and at home (#10-11)demonstrates the national split between three major operating systems foreducational programs. Apple IIs got such a strong foothold in the schoolsearly in the game (1980-85), and their relative cheapness kept them popularthere. Families in which parents have often learned how to use IBM-compatiblecomputers at work have tended to buy the same thing for home use. This,I think, best explains the reverse imbalance between those two systems.While Macintoshes (also made by Apple) are generally more user-friendlyand for the most part more expensive than either Apple IIs or IBM-compatibles,they continue to hold onto a smaller, yet very substantial, piece of thepie.
Apple is trying hard to make it easy for schools to cross over the AppleII-Macintosh bridge. The Mac LC epitomizes their effort. Since I announcedits arrival here not long ago (see CO 68 [Spring 1991]: 101-2), it seemsto have proven itself well in the academic arena. The Apple IIe card forthe LC, which allows users to run virtually all the old Apple II software,has by all accounts lived up to its claims. Apple has even gone so far asto lower the price and improve the package at the same time.
If you have a profound desire to "cover all the bases," I canverify the fact that it is now possible to do it on this same MacintoshLC. With the help of a program called SoftPC you can run IBM-compatible(or "PC") programs on the very same computer that runs Macintoshand Apple II software. The "PC" programs will run a little slowerthan they do on an actual IBM-compatible computer; but, otherwise, thisis the closest thing I've seen to complete intercompatibility between thethree major "platforms" for educational computing. For more informationon SoftPC, contact Insignia Solutions, Inc., 526 Clyde Ave., Mountain View,CA 94043; tel. 800-848-7677.
British schools have for a long time had a nice set of small, but graphicallystimulating, computer programs to accompany the Cambridge Latin Course.Unfortunately, they were designed to run on BBC computers, a uniquely Britishcreation that became ubiquitous in their school system early on in the computergame. (I am led to believe it is something akin to a Commodore 64.) Afteryears of trying to figure out a way to convert the programs into a formatuseful to schools outside the British Isles, the North American CambridgeClassics Project was finally able to get David Curran to rewrite the programsfor Apple II computers.
The programs do provide a nice blend of text, graphics, and sound, followingthe CLC methodology very closely and keeping the drilled grammar and vocabularytightly correlated to the stage by stage development of the textbook. Thoughsome of the graphics programs follow the same sequence every time they arerun, the diversity of approaches provided by the seven distinct programsis refreshing, and the price is hard to beat (US $29.95, Canada $31.25).
Here is a brief list of the programs and their topics: "Help Melissa"practices nominative and accusative discrimination; "Mus in Villa"teaches room names in the house; "Who's Who" tests the use ofappellations and degrees of comparison; "Jumbled Stories" quizzesthe user on narrative sequences; "Dative" and "Perfect &Imperfect" are self-explanatory; "Thermae" deals with roomnames at the baths; and "Fuga" challenges your decision-makingskills as Mt. Vesuvius is erupting. For more information, contact the NACCPResource Center, P.O. Box 932, Amherst, MA 01004. (A Macintosh version mayalso be available soon.)
Another recent software addition to the catalog of the NACCP Resource Centeris called Roman Banquet. This program is part of the "Dieting Dinosaur"series published by Curriculum Applications, and it offers a new variationon the old "Hangman" game. Each letter must pass the dietary standardsof Ludwig the Dinosaur before it can be accepted into the target word(s).The data disk includes the vocabulary from stages 1-12 of the CambridgeLatin Course. The graphics and sound elements, along with the simplicityof the game, are generally geared toward the middle school student.
Just a year and a half ago we saw the introduction of the new TransparentLanguage program for IBM-compatibles (see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:26). The programputs literary selections from several languages, including Latin, on screento read and then provides learning support by means of word, phrase, andsentence translations, along with some useful notes. Now Transparent Languageis already releasing a Macintosh version--at a slightly higher cost thanthe IBM version ($125).
Another new "conversion" for Macintosh folks is from Conduit.Dasher is an authoring program for foreign language instruction which wasoriginally written for Apple IIs (see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:27). Not long agoConduit published an IBM version of the program and now they are releasinga Macintosh version, too. Plans are in the works for the creation of Latinmodules (providing macrons) for these newer versions of Dasher, similarto the one for Apple IIs.
More good news comes from the University of Wisconsin Videodisc Project(see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:28-9), where the latest shipment of de Italia videodiscswas received from Italy at half the usual cost! The UW Classics Departmentis happy to pass the savings on to those purchasing the software packagefrom them, so the price has been dropped to $145.
Also residing in that exotic realm of classical videodiscs is the incomparablePerseus software (see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:26-7). Under development since 1987at Harvard University with major funding from the Annenberg/CPB Project,Perseus 1.0 is now publicly available from Yale University Press. The fullpackage, including videodisc, CD-ROM disk, and user manual, is priced at$350; a CD-ROM only package with user manual can be purchased for $150;a demonstration video is available for $10; and on-approval orders witha 30-day review are accepted from qualified institutions. (A more detailedreview of this publication will appear in an upcoming column.)
"Clearinghouse" Editor Ken Kitchell has passed on to me anIBM-compatible shareware program called Crossword Creator which he has enjoyedexperimenting with recently. The program accepts the input of word listsand prompts the user for matching clues. If you have a crossword designin mind, you can put it together yourself, but the real thrill (and value)of the program comes when you let it create the crossword for you. The authorof the program tells me that he has just released a new, slicker version(price: $55); contact Brad Cannell at the PC Help-Line, 35250 Silver LeafCircle, Yucaipa, CA 92399; tel. 714-797-3091.
Many Latin teachers have also had fun with a similar program called CrosswordMagic, which I believe runs on the Apple II. If someone would like to sendme the publisher's contact information on that program, I would be happyto pass it on to everyone else. That also goes for any other programs whichyou have had success with and which have not been covered in this columnor the Survey of Latin Instructional Software published by the ACL's TeachingMaterials and Resource Center (Catalog item #B-319). Help me spread theword!