More wired than a Roman Internet café
David Brin is a science fiction author and futurist (as in science instead of Boccioni). While usually spot-on in his predictions, in an interview in the 2007 special "Invisible Planet" issue of Discover, Brin states that one of his more "disappointing" forecasts is that we have not experienced any rapid, "big advances in computerized teaching" (p. 66). Whether Brin means computer-aided instruction or computer-led instruction is unclear, but still, he is right.
He also writes that we are living in an "age of amateurs" (this is a good thing to him, and to me) where the educated, "unlicensed" masses have a hand in not only creating but directing content. This comes with a price in that "many of the social-net and virtual-world companies treat their users like giggling 13-year-olds incapable of expressing more than a sentence at a time of actual discourse" (p. 65). It is up to us to demonstrate that we can actively use on-line realms like Second Life as a platform for delivering high-quailty educational content to a class, a school, independent scholars, and the world at large, virtual or otherwise, as an active dialogue. Sites like eLatin eGreek eLearn are also here to foster this discourse in the hopes of propelling ourselves forward using new technologies to facilitate language learning.
There are already spaces available in Second Life, waiting for Latin teachers to utilize them. In Second Life, loci of interest are accessed via Second Life URLs (aka SLURLS). After downloading the Second Life client for free to your desktop, you can search either in-world or via engines like Google. To get to virtual Roma, follow this link. I've posted to the Sloodle (Second Life Moodle) group about Roma and if it is being used for Latin instruction. The answer was, "no, but we're trying." There are a couple of teachers exploring using Roma as a venue for teaching Latin, and there is even a wandering Latinist who tries to dialogue with Roma visitors in Latin.
Ideally, I hope we can establish sites like Roma (I have yet to find virtual Athens) as not only being faithful to architectural and artistic reconstructions, but also to linguistic ones as well. You know: when in Rome.... This is significantly easier for modern language students who can dialogue with native speakers of French, German, Spanish, Italian, etc., by visiting locations popular with the locals from France, Italy, etc. Perhaps one day we'll be having American Classical Meeting special gatherings in-world using conversational Latin -- is a virtual session in our future?
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