CA2017: Teaching and technology

CUCD education committee will be presenting two panels at CA2017 in Kent on digital engagement in higher education.

Technology is increasingly important in the lives of university educators. It changes fast and offers both challenges and opportunities. These two co-ordinated panels explore different aspects of technology in the work of higher education Classics departments. The first focuses on pedagogy and the changing role of technology in our teaching; the second on public engagement and the interface between schools, universities and the general enthusiast. The panels will stimulate discussion of the best ways to use technology, the problems and challenges of adapting to changing environments and expectations, and share best practice and new ideas. Contributors from the US and the UK and from a range of institutions and career levels offer a variety of perspectives on new ways of communicating.

Panel 1: Digital pedagogy

  1. Classics on the Move: Audio and Video Content in Teaching at the Open University and Beyond

Joanna Paul, Open University

University study is no longer confined to the lecture theatre or library. In a world of MOOCs and VLEs, online TED talks and apps, the smartphone or tablet gives students a wealth of options for accessing study material and even gaining accredited qualifications. So how can classics and ancient history programmes in conventional HE contexts keep up with, and make positive use of, these developments? This paper provides an overview of how the Open University has shaped – and been challenged by – advances in mobile learning in recent years, drawing especially on our experience in creating audio and video content. Since its foundation in 1969, the OU has been synonymous with the televised lecture, and innovative video content and audio podcasts continue to play a key role in our teaching. Through platforms such as OpenLearn, and OU-generated projects such as Classics Confidential, opportunities abound for all teachers and students to access – and add to – this material themselves. At the same time, face-to-face contact between student and teacher is fiercely, and rightly, cherished. How, then, should the provision of remote or mobile access to study materials be developed, such that it enhances – rather than replaces – the traditional, ‘real life’ study experience?

  1. To Boldly Go, or Mostly Harmless? Blended and Online Delivery at the University of Glasgow

Ian Ruffell, University of Glasgow

This paper discusses a project that has been running at the University of Glasgow to deliver its full set of pre-Honours Classical Civilisation courses (years one and two) entirely online. It will cover the rationale for developing an online pathway to Honours in terms of accessibility, flexibility, capacity-building and constructivist pedagogy, how the methodologies used built on our experiences of blended learning and of increasing emphasis on reflective learning, and the institutional and technical challenges we have faced in implementing our courses. Topics to be covered include: the vagaries of video, the popularity of portfolios, what’s wrong with a wiki, banging the big blue button and the mysterious limitations of moodle. With the courses now in their second year, the paper concludes by taking an early look at student and staff feedback and outcomes.and argues that we have at least achieved parity of outcome between online and face-to-face variants of our courses, while achieving the specific goals set for the project.

  1. Classroom voting technology: yes or no?

Helen Lovatt, University of Nottingham

In a large lecture session it can be hard to get students involved; lecturers do not have many effective ways of figuring out what large numbers of people understand, or don’t understand, and students feel passive and reluctant to contribute in front of such a large audience. Could classroom voting technology help to overcome these problems? This paper investigates Turning Point as a way of creating engagement in first year lectures. Students use keypads to vote on multiple choice questions and can see the responses come in, in real time on Powerpoint. The main challenge is to do this efficiently but not reductively. How can students vote meaningfully on material about which they do not yet know much? How can lecturers formulate questions to stimulate open and complex responses rather than cut and dried ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers? Can such technologies help to overturn misconceptions or do they rather serve to reinforce prejudices? I have been using Turning Point for two years with mixed results and this paper reflects on student and lecturer experiences of the technology.

  1. Self-training app for Reading Latin second edition

Alison Sharrock, University of Manchester

This paper discusses Manchester’s use of online Blackboard drills closely associated with the first edition of Reading Latin, and the development of an independent app for the second edition. Questions include what works from a pedagogic point of view, as well as what is practical from a technical perspective. In particular, how can we help students away from a testing mentality and into one of training and growth? Not only is this essential for the best outcomes, but it also decreases the problems caused in any automated system. For instance, in the case of u-v, direct entry tests can only accept exact answers as correct. Since Reading Latin uses u-consonant, we took an early decision not to replicate all words containing u-consonant with v. If a user who already knows some Latin writes vita rather than uita, they are ‘marked wrong’. Some students become distressed and annoyed by the feeling that the machine has cheated them of marks. This is a symptom of the testing mentality. The more we can stress the learning process, rather than the testing process, not only the better will students learn, but also the less problem there is with the rigidity of machine-marking.

Panel 2: Online communication, public engagement and teaching

  1. After Virtual Engagement, what then?

Ray Laurence, University of Kent

In the last 12 months, over 1 million people have watched the film A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome (2012) on YouTube and the same numbers have watched another film Four Sisters in Ancient Rome (2013).  The question for academics and their various learned societies and other organisations (such as the Classical Association or the Council of University Classics Departments or the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies) is how do we engage with this audience?

This paper looks at some recent experiments in engagement with this audience undertaken by staff and PhD students at the University of Kent, and also some of the reactions to these initiatives that have been unexpected – including a rap by Bregans from the Cambridge Latin Course.

  1. ‘Online Companion to the Worlds of Roman Women’: resources, forum and teaching

Ann Raia, College of New Rochelle, New York

Online Companion to the Worlds of Roman Women began life as a complement to the intermediate Latin anthology The Worlds of Roman Women (Focus 2005), to make available to readers a variety of unadapted Latin texts, images and essays about Roman women of all classes from the Republic through the Empire. Further, it contains Instructional Resources, including classroom and independent learning activities, to facilitate comprehension of passages, material evidence and contexts.  It has become a forum where editors, teachers and students collaborate to engage in activities, and where their strategies and projects can be shared and even published.  In addition to demonstrating the site, I will show examples of faculty mentored student work, especially text-commentary and funerary inscription analysis.

  1. Mint Imperials: a student-led digital outreach project

Will Leveritt, University of Nottingham

Social media offer many opportunities for outreach and student communication. This paper discusses a student-led digital outreach project ‘Mint Imperials’, which involves at any one time approximately twenty student volunteers, ranging from first-year undergraduates to late-stage PhD candidates. The project produces short pieces of student writing about historical events (such as births, battles, accessions), which are timed to appear on their anniversaries, supported by a student-run Twitter feed. Each piece of historical writing is verified and edited by postgraduate volunteers and supported through an image of an ancient coin, generated by undergraduate volunteers using the University’s Digital Humanities Centre; the coin is then attributed by further volunteers. Each task in the project’s output is therefore compartmentalised and distributed, allowing volunteers to self-select manageable volumes of work of interest to them and gain experience in different sectors, while also fostering student learning in areas they may not explore in their regular course.

The model of distributed tasks with student-led verification of output steps is an effective one, but as a process brings its own challenges. This paper seeks to share my experience of directing and managing this project, alongside strategies for motivating the volunteers and quality control.



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