In the 1970s, the American Philological Association (APA
) formed its Computer Committee, which was given this charge
"Committee on Computer Activities.
This committee is responsible for monitoring new developments in the field of computer technology which are applicable to pedagogy, research, and communication at all levels of the Classics profession. As appropriate, the committee acts both in an advisory capacity to the Association and as an advocate of the use of computer technology. The committee, whose members maintain ongoing contact via electronic channels, normally meets each year at the Annual Meeting. The committee frequently sponsors a panel session or workshop."
By 1999, the Committee on Computer Activities
was defunct. From a recent communication with the APA, I learned that:
"By the late 90's, however, that awareness and knowledge were so pervasive on college campuses, and university IT departments had become so strong that the Committee just wasn't needed anymore. (It's not just that individual members didn't really need the Committee anymore; other APA committees that used to have to depend on that Committee for information now had their own internal expertise.)"
Judging from the number of members on this site, and from numerous conversations with junior high, high school, and college teachers, I would say that the demise of the APA's Committee on Computer Activities was premature. If anything, I'd say it's more needed than it ever was. Looking back at minutes from past Computer Committee meetings and reviewing who was on the committee, it appears that a lot of good work went unfinished, although I do hope to be corrected on this point. Regarding committee membership, I see a lot of college/university professors, but am left wondering where the Classics publishers are, where the non-college teachers are, and where the computer/software companies are. It would seem to me that in order to have a broad-spectrum dialogue on technology and Classics that we should engage all eager minds and open the Committee to pretty well anyone. If there must be seats, then they should be filled evenly with a mix of the aforementioned population.
To be fair, the APA was recently awarded an enormous grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH), in support of the APA's capital campaign for its noble project, "From Gatekeeper to Gateway: the Campaign for Classics in the 21st Century". Read more about the initiative here
. There will be a Classics portal containing a collection of worthwhile Classics sites and software, plus the on-line edition of L'Annee Phililogique
, plus an initiative to encourage younger generations of Classicists and Classics teachers. I did not see anything regarding a reformation of the Computer Committee, nor did I see a masthead of the people behind the creation of this portal (I'd love to see one), but the APA will be looking for volunteers to help serve as reviewers of the content that will be placed on-line. The portal's launch will most likely happen in 2009 or 2010, which leaves the Classics teaching community hanging until then.
So why wait? I would like to form a new Computer Committee for Classics both here and now in order to fully support Classics teachers. It will serve as a platform for educating educators in applying technology (gadgets and software, etc.) to their teaching and to their research. It will also serve as a platform to lobby publishers to produce digital and on-line content for teachers to use, both to "make life easier" and to improve students' classroom experiences and to aid with language practice and retention. Lastly, this new committee will serve as a lobbying group to the APA to communicate grassroots requests for change, for improvement, in the quest for quality digital pedagogy. Instead of storehousing current information, the new committee can make a push for some real design, potentially effecting the APA's decisions on resource-creation, specifically for teachers.
While it is too late to do anything formal for the 2008 APA annual meeting in Chicago, I do propose two things:
1) If any eClassics members, or any teachers who have a vested interest in blending technology with more traditional Classics study, will be attending the APA, please e-mail me at email@example.com and I can see if we can at least meet for drinks at the hotel bar and kibbutz more about what we want the new computer committee to do,
2) We need to propose to have a panel at the 2009 APA meeting in Philadelphia dedicated to technology-enable pedagogy consisting of teachers using tech in class, publishers producing digital content for use by Classicists, students who use technology to assist in Latin/Greek study, and Internet/software people who have a desire to assist Classicists in teaching ancient languages.
From there, I hope the new committee becomes directly involved with the APA's new Digital Classics initiative as both sounding board and guiding force, creating something useful by teachers for teachers and their students, bridging the gap between APA and ACL, high school and college. I hold the personal belief that Classics teachers should be consulted about the materials they may be asked to use in the future, that they should be given a voice within the APA and its new initiatives, that, in the spirit of community, they be able to participate actively to create, learn about, and use both existing and new tools to facilitate better Classics pedagogy.
By the time the portal is ready to launch, the new committee will be ready, too, and may have already had a positive impact on how the APA discovers, designs, and promotes digital resources for Classicists. The 210 current members of eClassics should naturally be a starting point to give other teachers a voice in inventing the future for teaching the past.