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Technology at Texas Classical Association, October 23-24, 2009, University of Texas - Austin

The Texas Classical Association (TCA) annual meeting was held at the AT&T Conference Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin on October 23-24, 2009. With over 90 delegates, it was the best-attended TCA in the history of the organization, and featured one presentation on the 23rd and eleven on the 24th. Read the full program here. Three presentations dealt specifically with classroom technologies for Classics, and one paper focused on vocabulary acquisition/retention, the results of which can be applied to digital helps.

On the 23rd, I spoke to the group from 4:00 – 4:45 about how to make responsible use of Web 2.0 technologies in support of teaching Latin, citing several teacher-created examples, working through strategies for encouraging buy-in by students, teachers, and school IT staff. We discussed the use of blogs, wikis, and social networks for Latin classes, learning about how projects that seek to implement these tools succeed and fail. Students, teachers, and school I.T. staff have to have a shared vision and buy-in to ensure the success of using online platforms to facilitate and continue classroom discussion. I'd encourage readers of this blog post to leave comments below on your own personal experiences with using these Web 2.0 technologies in your classes. What worked? What didn't?

On the evening of the 23rd, TCA arranged to have a concert by San Antonio-based indie rock outfit, Athens v. Sparta, whose 2008 album, The History of the Peloponnesian War, is a gem. From 8:00 – 9:00 the 7-piece band played out the historically accurate retelling of the 27-year conflict through the words of Thucydides and Xenophon. I was able to pick up a CD from the band’s founder on the following day after he spoke about the five years he spent producing the album. The MP3 version of the album is available for free download here, and at just under one hour, can be played in class or made available to students via a link from your course management software.

The lectures on the 24th began at 8:30 and featured a wonderful mix of talks from graduate students, university professors, and high school teachers. The eleven talks ran the gamut from classroom technology to a brand new archaeological discovery to the oratorical stylings of Demosthenes to the future of AP Latin. Below, I have detailed the talks that have a direct impact on eClassics members.

I gave the keynote address, “Classics Classroom Computing: How to Take a Balanced Approach to Educational Technology”. In this talk, I gave a brief history of Classics eLearning followed by a tour of current technologies being used by Latin teachers with their students. These technologies included things for mobile platforms including iPhone apps, vocabulary cards, as well as Lee Butterman's NoDictionaries.com. The end of the lecture served as a caution to teachers not to completely avoid technology as students are using things like Facebook and YouTube to post commentary and videos featuring their Latin teachers.

Summary of Three Papers Given that Impact eClassics Members:

Andrea Stehle, “Recent Research in Latin Vocabulary Learning”: Ms. Stehle is an eClassics member and Ph.D. candidate in Classics and is interested in how students of foreign languages learn and retain new vocabulary. Her research (and the research of others whom she cites), have found the following to be true:

§ The reading of authentic texts greatly assists students in learning and retaining vocabulary (when compared to made-up texts or just word-list study).
§ Reading new words or reading the words while listening to them being spoken is much better for vocabulary retention than just listening alone. The student MUST have the text in front of them.
§ Average students must hear a word spoken 20 times or must read it 12 times in order to retain the new vocabulary.
§ When teaching new vocabulary, teachers should not have the students write anything about the word until after it has been practiced orally and recognized visually.
§ When a student is given vocabulary to learn either before a passage or next to a passage, the student retains words at a rate of 72% when compared to the 47% of students retaining the same words just in a list without any accompanying reading. The passage is what helps the students learn new words.
§ Showing a picture along with a word to learn is too much information. Retention actually goes down if a picture is used for vocabulary.
§ Low-level (introductory) learners need graded readers to help with vocabulary acquisition.
§ High-level (advanced) language students need a quick way to look up an unfamiliar word. Good readers will recognize 95% of words in a passage.
§ When studying new vocabulary via flashcard, it typically takes 5-6 seconds for new learners to make the connection between the word shown and its definition.
§ Self-pacing drills and exercises are perfect for students as each can go at their own pace.
§ Derivatives make words easier to remember – include derivatives (if possible) on vocabulary cards.
§ Dual-encode vocabulary codes with the printed word/definition along with recorded audio.

Bob Cape, “AP: Present and Future Prospects”: Bob Cape of Austin College spoke to the group about what he has learned as part of the AP Latin committee:

§ The “V5” question is being dropped from the AP Vergil test (character-matching essay where students are asked to match characters from early and late parts of the Aeneid and explain how they relate).
§ There will be a wholly new AP Latin test as early as 2012. The AP Latin development committee is seeking suggestions and comments for the exam, and these comments should be posted on Latinteach.
§ No Caesar passages have been identified for the new AP Latin.
§ Passages for both Vergil and Caesar could be publicized as early as the end of 2009.

Clint Hagen, “Classics 2.0: New Directions in Computer-based Curricula”: Clint Hagen teaches Latin and is St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s educational IT person (he's also an eClassics member). He has his own company called “A Third Way, Inc.”, which is dedicated to digital Latin pedagogy. His creations were designed to fill his own needs as a Latin teacher, and hopefully those needs of other Latin teachers, operating under the axiom that “if a teacher does not like the software, then they won’t use it”.

Hagen’s Glossa online site is based on the public domain dictionary of Lewis and Short. Users can type in a word and get a list of words containing that word to choose from. Clicking on a word in that list provides a definition, data about the word, and examples of how the word is used. Glossa shows the user’s 20 most recently viewed words. Users are able to comment on words used in reading passages. Authorized users can also add further definitions and examples word-by-word. The online version can also be downloaded for offline use.

Hagen’s other programs allow students to type in their translation of entire passages. Students can complete worksheets online (including macra in their answers by way of a Quia-like push-button panel). Students can also scan poetry online that the teacher can review. The chorus of "wows" from the TCA delegates during Hagen's session was wonderful and seems to indicate that teachers are ready to use this kind of technology to help their students learn and to save time with preparation and grading.

Next year's TCA is tentatively scheduled for November 6, back in Austin.

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