Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
You may know that I teach Latin in a public high school, and that my school is in the midst of a major technology push involving $2.4 million invested in MacBooks for teachers and iPads for all. Of course there’s the usual resistance — or at least disconnect — from faculty who are uncomfortable with technology. But I’ve made it a priority to find things that students can do to enrich their experience, and in my searches for iPad compatible site I was very pleasantly surprised to find GapVis.
GapVis is a product of GAP, the Google Ancient Places project, and has its roots in the HESTIA project, which focused on plotting places in Herodotus. GapVis expands on that idea by pulling texts on ancient history from Google Books and offering the reader a visualization of the places mentioned via Google Maps.
The "reading view" of the Histories of Tacitus, from GapVis.
I was so happy to find a site like this because, as any one who has read ancient history knows, without careful attention to geography, it can quickly become very difficult to follow texts with any real precision or deep understanding. Visualization is key, and is one of the reasons the Robert B. Strassler’s ‘Landmark’ series has been both so popular and so helpful.
GapVis can not yet approach what the ‘Landmark’ editions of ancient historians offer, such as carefully edited maps, scholarly appendices, and contemporary translations, but that’s not really the point. I think that what makes GapVis such a treasure is its interactive nature and its potential, even in a beta offering.
The texts are often problematic, considering the state of OCR text from scanned books that haven’t been carefully reviewed. And often places are misidentified by similarities in personal names, etc. But this can lead to productive activities for students and ensure a close reading of texts. Students may be assigned particular passages and asked to perform certain tasks, including checking the place identification and reporting problems to the GapVis team.
I think this is a tool to watch and one that has pedagogical potential even today. I’m looking forward to see where it goes.
Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
We’ve all seen suggestions (in textbooks, vel sim.) for how to pronounce Latin vowels. We’re often given pairs of words, and depending on the text the sounds are either un-classical or unlike the sounds of our own dialect of English.
What has worked for many of my students is using disyllabic words or phrases in English, showing the qualities of both the short and long vowel sounds of Latin in that order.
It works as long as you understand that it’s meant to illustrate not the quantity of syllables but the quality of vowels.
As I alluded to in the beginning, you may find that these vowels don’t work in your dialect, but the principle holds: find short, easy, memorable words and phrases that work within the dialect used by your students, and you should see — or rather hear — better results.
Posted by Dennis » 1 Comment »
I sent this to the Latinteach list today in response to a post on a student’s mnemonic for remembering the meaning of tandem. I think I’ll keep it in my back pocket for the next time tandem comes up in class.
You know why they call it a tandem, right?
Its invention goes all the way back to the Alban kingdom, in the days when those fabled twins, Romulus and Remus, were busy playing Robin Hood and making merry.
When the vehiculum they called the birota was doubled by a clever Alban faber, Romulus cried out:
“TANDEM! A bicycle built for two!”
It’s in a hexameter fragment of Ennius.*
Rōmulus ait, ‘tandem! birota aedificāta duōbus!’
*Not really. I just made this up.
It would probably be most effective delivered dryly, especially if you can convince students that the bicycle actually was an ancient vehicle.