at Rutgers University, 6-8 December 2002

Latin teachers: Take our survey!

Tela Latina (Latin on the Web)
The Current State of Affairs

presented by Janice Siegel, Illinois State University

preface for web-posted version of this talk

When I presented this at the ASNT conference, I began with some introductory words and then added commentary as I ran through various links to exemplify strengths and weaknesses of current approaches of using the web to teach Latin, pointing out along the way the value of the collaborative, centralized, peer-reviewed effort Tela Latina hopes to contribute.

Introductory Remarks

Purpose of today's presentation
1. to provide brief overview of the current state of Latin on the web
2. to present Tela Latina project
3. to ask for feedback

Nature of the Project: to create a single, official (APA/ACL sanctioned and/or sponsored) “Latin on the Web” supersite in between two extremes: (a) a site built from scratch that would reinvent the wheel and (b) a gateway site to already existing sites that will go through a peer review process before being accepted. The site will be dedicated to presenting Latin materials useful to students using any textbook.

Rationale for the Project: certain needs exist and are not being met:

 Goals of the Project:

  1. Design and build a common website under APA/ACL aegis that would attempt to provide the most comprehensive and authoritative help possible for teachers and students of all levels looking to start or continue Latin study.
  2. Index existing web-based resources for Latin teaching.
  3. Commission such pieces of the site as a managing committee determines to be necessary to fill gaps in currently available resources.
  4. Create a general (not text-specific) database from which all sorts of automated drills can be constructed.
  5. Provide a peer review process for Latin pedagogy websites that will provide a mechanism to help users (to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly) as well as help legitimize the efforts of those writing the webpages – a way to provide necessary evidence of excellence for tenure review boards. Peer review will also raise the bar in terms of quality of resources presented for review.

Benefits of Collaboration: The heart of the project is collaboration on all levels: management, review, editorial, creation of materials, evaluation of materials, etc.

strength in numbers (this is a big job, demanding lots of different skills!)

strength in diversity (different approaches, different results)

I used the starship analogy: we need dreamers, engineers, builders, users, perhaps defensive weaponry, a universal translator and a Starfleet that provides us with auctoritas and vis

Pitfalls to Avoid: What should our goals not be? A short list might include:

A Smattering of Latin Pedagogy Pages Live on the Web

 most of the Latin pedagogy websites featured here are keyed to Wheelock's text...there are hundreds of others...identification of errors on websites or glitches in software do not necessarily suggest that there is limited value in the offering...we are all grateful for the time and energy and enthusiasm and expertise of our compadres...I use my own websites whenever possible to explore the grand possibilities for improving and expanding the state of Latin pedagogy on the web...

Who are we doing this for?

We should be particularly aware that students of all levels and circumstances seek Latin pedagogical materials. Circumstances include traditional school classrooms, from elementary through post-graduate levels, home-schooling, independent study, and on-line learning.  Some students have no access to a teacher at all. Students have a wealth of texts to choose from, all with their own method, vocabulary base and order and pace of presentation of materials. Students have varied learning styles and needs. 

Variety of Approaches: Re-Inventing the Wheel? Or Putting a Different Spin on it?

Everyone has his own way of teaching this material. Not every teacher is good for every student, so the more variety the better chance that some presentation will make the difference for some student. Here is an example of some different approaches – all valid and useful – to teaching all about participles:

Got Latin Participles?
Greta Ham:
Margaret Imber:
Claude Pavur:
Janice Siegel:
Dale Grote:

Automated drills and corrections

Clearly there is value to approaching explanation pages in different styles. But do we start to duplicate effort unnecessarily when we create automatic drills that already exist elsewhere? I gave up trying to create the database for such a drill system of my own. The front load time was prohibitively extensive. And then I found that others had already created some of the same drills I was thinking of and made them available to all. Here are some examples of automated drills, most of which are keyed to the same chapters in the same text. Compare and contrast the technical and stylistic approaches each author takes…call up a specific quiz from each site and purposely answer some questions right and some wrong. In some cases, the tone of the computer interface is not terribly encouraging. Some programs are agonizingly slow. Some programs allow only a specifically presented answer. If a comma is out of place, the answer is considered wrong. Barbara McManus Paul Barrett William Batstone?
Quizzes and exercises (Anonymous)
Quia drills:
More Quia drills:
More Quia drills: Meredith Dixon Laura Gibbs
University of Victoria
University of Houston: Richard Armstrong, Shawn Deeley R. Scott Smith
Rutgers University no author listed (don’t answer any questions and submit it for grading)
Resources for Creating Drills: Barbara McManus

Creating The Mother of All Latin Databases and Putting it to Use

A database built from scratch with one program and one style containing a non-text specific vocabulary and grammar will address the needs of everyone. If we could find a way to pool our enthusiasm, expertise, time and resources and create our own extensive database, we could enlarge the scope of the currently available drills. One way might be to get four or five of these authors together and dole out assignments. Once the program is agreed upon, practically anyone can take an hour and create drills for an entirely new topic, say the passive periphrastic. In no time at all we would have a significant collection of materials to offer.

Possibilities include: (1) morphology and vocabulary drills, self-paced, self-correcting, self-grading, with the option of reporting results by e-mail to a teacher; (2) materials designed to appeal to different learning styles -- so not just morph drills, but different *kinds* of morph drills.  (3) Above all, material of resolutely high and tested quality -- no drills that generate anomalously regularized (and incorrect) forms when you input irregular words.

A Question of Responsibility: Everything You Could Ever Want and More:
Another purpose this project could serve is simply as a resource site so that both students and teachers know what is available in terms of Latin Pedagogy on the Web. For example, I was surprised to find that a professor had posted the answers to Wheelock’s Practice and Review and Sententiae Antiquae ( I suppose it was inevitable, and it makes sense if used as a responsible pedagogical tool. But I only allow my students to see the answers after they hand in their own attempts. The textbook specifically does not provide these answers, although extra excercises in the back come with a key. So, they are out there and it is better to know about them than not. The Tela Latina website could be a clearinghouse of sorts, too.

Web-specific Innovations: we should explore the advantages the web has over print

audio is one important tool some web authors have already shown the value of: and

(just today I received an email from a stranger asking how to pronounce a certain Latin word – the need for such resources is there)
 Use of color to show process of assimilation, inflection, etc

dynamic programming
Claude Pavur’s Flash Movies:
Andy Wilson's Magnetic Latin:

Filling Holes

Once we have identified holes that need to be filled (e.g., drills on the use of the double dative), should we “commission” specific people to create the necessary materials? Should we post a list of areas that need work (á la BMCR’s Books Available for Review) and open it up to qualified volunteers?

Editorial Board

A review of existing materials will allow gaps in under-addressed areas (e.g., intermediate Latin study) to be identified and filled. An editorial decision will be made concerning the pedagogical value of the site. Regulation of quality would be good for students and for teachers, who would be encouraged to submit their sites for review. If materials are flawed, a reader's report will suggest areas of improvement and encourage resubmission once the faults are addressed.

Creating and Enforcing Standards

We must identify criteria for evaluation (difficulties include fluctuation of content). Who will sit on the editorial board? What will the procedures be for soliciting, evaluating, accepting/rejecting material, old or new? What are the criteria? accuracy of information? reliability and accessiblity of website? aesthetics of the presentation? tone and attitude? Should we be in the business of reviewing sites (a la Merlot) or of acting as the editorial board (á la a journal)?

Variability of Quality

One contribution our website could make would be to prevent surfers from mistaking an amateur (often enthusiastic, but error-ridden) Latin pedagogy website from those that are professional and reliable. Sometimes it is difficult to tell who has written a website, and the inclusion of a colophon for the author of every accepted site will help. Many surfers do not bother to check the credentials of web-authors or to examine a website critically. There are lots of Latin pedagogy sites written by people with less than acceptable Latin verbal skills, and even if they cheerfully admit their amateur status, this often eludes the typical surfer:

ex: (Comics in Latin) I am not a professional teacher or translator, just an amateur scholar. In many cases, my translation may be inaccurate, clumsy, or just plain wrong. If you can suggest a change, email me and let me know. If you are offering an alternate phrasing (and not just ridiculing my poor grammar), please cite a source so that I can look it up, too.  I also may have sometimes mixed classical and medieval words or usages. Oh well. In finding Latin words for modern and technical terms, I have relied on Vocabula Computatralia and Nuntii Latini Transcriptio. Or else I have made them up.” quote of the day: “Dum vivimus, viviamus”

Tech Problems

I use my own site as an example. Sometimes my macrons don’t show up properly. A tech person could help with that. But since I am not a tech person, sometimes I come up with ideas that tech people wouldn’t think of (and sometimes with good reason). But there are difficulties. The sample pages below show the steps I went through to fix another hinky tech problem. Because I use a Microsoft program to write webpages, my pages show up better in IE. In fact, some of the special effects don’t even show up at all in Netscape (like mouse rollovers) and some forms do not present correctly. In approach #1, I programmed the drill so that the answer would pop up with a mouse rollover. But if  a student wanted to print out the page and try taking it on paper, the answers printed out (select all the text on the page and see what happens)

approach #1:

So I programmed it so that the answers wouldn’t show up even with a rollover, and you had to click on every blank to get the answer. This took an extraordinary amount of time to create but did not solve the printing problem:

approach #2:

Finally, I took a technological step backward and decided to offer two pages, one with the answers and one without:

approach #3:

The collaboration of people with different skills will benefit all of us. Those who are already gifted in both areas can lead the way.

The Problem with Automation: machines only know what you tell them

funny: All the students in the class know the teacher’s habit: to ask each boy, in succession, to stand up and recite the principal parts of the next verb in the list, also in order. The kid in the back dozes off and awakens with a start just as the lad in front of him is reciting his verb forms. In a panic, he asks the kid next to him: “Quick! What verb is next?” “Damned if I know,” says his compadre. So he stands up, and says it loud, says it proud: “Damnedifaeno, damnedifaenare, damnedifaenavi, damnedifaenatum”!  (source: jo’d)

not funny: go to either of these remarkably similar looking websites and plug “damnedifaeno” into the verb conjugator. The first will conjugate the verb “damnedifaeno” in active and passive voices in any tense. The second will provide the subjunctive: and