More wired than a Roman Internet café
As eClassics gets more members, many teachers have related some interesting stories on their experiences with technology in the Classics classroom. I thought I'd back things up a little bit and provide some definitions of technology that is currently out there and being used, for better or worse, by your Classics colleagues and other educators.
PowerPoint: This has become the ubiquitous software application in classrooms equipped with a computer and overhead data projector. Created by Microsoft as part of its Office suite, PowerPoint enables you to created your own slide show on the computer merging pictures, charts/tables, and maps with companion expository text. Be warned -- there are good PowerPoint presentations and bad ones. Etiquette dictates that you use PowerPoints to supplement your lecture, bulleting speaking points so that you can provide more in-depth explanations of given topics. Bad PowerPoint presentations distract the audience because they're reading text-heavy slides. If the slides contain everything you're saying, no one will pay attention to you! Click here for some additional PowerPoint resources for educators.
Flash Drives: Also known as "thumb drives" and "memory sticks", these are data storage devices small enough to fit on a key-ring yet can contain upwards of 2 GB (gigabytes) of files. You could fit two feature films, dozens of "albums" (do we still use that term anymore?), or thousands of pages of text -- even PowerPoint presentations. Thumb drives will plug into any computer with a USB port (a thin, rectangular slot with a thin, rectangular wafer in the middle of it -- if you can't find it, keep pushing your thumb drive into the different slots until it fits snugly), will self-install on most computers, and behave like another disk drive once plugged in. My wife teaches archaeology classes and regularly stores her PowerPoint presentations on her thumb drive, plugs it into the classroom-provided PC, and can go from zero-to-lecture in about ten seconds. Yowza! These devices are cheap (good ones cost about US$30 at any Big Box store) and are a better alternative to e-mail or spotty networking at your school. These drives should come as standard issue to any new hire at any educational institution.
Virtual Worlds: Apparently I have a deep love for these environments as I keep talking about them. For those who don't know, virtual worlds are realms within the Internet that have been created for people to visit and create while on-line. Two good examples are Second Life and ActiveWorlds. Both are huge playgrounds for creative people to explore and add to. They have their own laws (sometimes their own laws of physics), culture(s), and offer great opportunities for distance learning, homeschooling, and special interest groups who share a desire to speak Latin with one another or go on a class trip to virtual Rome. For younger people (up to age 17), there are realms like Teen Second Life which offers a safe environment in which to explore.
YouTube: Like it or not, we're living in a world where everyone can contribute to the construction of all kinds of content. YouTube is a web site that grants registered users (registration is free) the ability to upload digital videos of pretty well anything within the bounds of "good taste" or that do not infringe on copyright beyond "fair use". All of the videos you see here on eClassics are linked from YouTube. If you have a video you'd like to post, please send the link.
Podcast: No doubt you have seen your students walking around with wires coming out of their ears. These wires lead to iPods (or more generically MP3 players) that are designed to take over the world. While most people are listening to "music", some are listening to podcasts. A podcast is a fancy word for a "pre-recorded audio program that you can listen to at any time on your MP3 player or computer". Please visit the Links section below for a Classical example of a Latin poetry podcast courtesy of Dickinson College.
n00b: In any language, "n00b" (spelled with two zeros, short for "newbie") is a generic term defining someone who is very new at something technological (although this is carrying over into everyday use). When you call yourself a n00b (as on a discussion list), this gives you instant absolution for a limited time by members who are more experienced than you. Go ahead and make mistakes! You're a n00b! (Example: "I'm a Latin grammar n00b. Can someone please explain what is going on with all of those ablatives?"). Just an example -- no need to reply.
More on this technology primer next week.