More wired than a Roman Internet café
After a disappointing day yesterday of coming up nearly empty in search of electronic tools for Classicists (and Medievalists and their version of "Latin" ;) ), I spent the bulk of today talking to teachers and students, assessing what technology, if any, they were using for both class and research. I did come up with a few good leads and noticed a few trends. Overhead data projectors with their attendant PowerPoint presentations have surpassed the two-fisted slide projection MWF rituals in the archaeology classroom, and have replaced in-class hand-outs (and even chalkboard work) in many instances. I spoke with Jason Clements, a student at Western Michigan University, who uses Digital Scriptorium illuminated manuscript image database for his research and classwork, Whittaker's Words software (for Windows 95/98) for Latin translation help, and Perseus. Christopher Riedel at the University of Virginia uses an on-line program called "Reading Latin" (no link available). A few professors from Case Western, Georgetown, Washington College, and others either took information or were actively using Artes Latinae and were happy to find something for the Macintosh platform.
For some Medieval scholars, using existing helps is not enough and they have taken it upon themselves to lead their own personal crusades for technology. Peter Konieczny is the web site editor for Medievalists.net ("where the Middle Ages begin"), a place for communication, news, and resources for students of the Middle Ages, something very similar to this site for Classicists. Dr. Lisa Moore teaches art history at the University of Wyoming and is doing her best to encourage her students to fully explore the on-line library resources in Italy and France (as opposed to just English-language libraries). The downside is that these sites are often monolingual with poorly crafted search engines (e.g. you MUST enter diacritics in French to find titles -- the site will not find a word if you type "e" without an accent grave!). So we're stuck until those systems get with the 21st century. It's not hard to write the PHP....
I look forward to resuming my informal interviews with unwary Medievalists as I try to get a better understanding of the state of technology for this class of scholars in order to ultimately create tools that will help them (and Classicists) teach, learn, and research.
As a final note, exactly one person was using Second Life to immerse his students in a foreign language on-line. That language? German.