Cui bono, Part II

salvete iterum, amicissimi, and welcome back for your daily dose of “Tres Columnae” musings! I appreciate all your comments, especially about the issues of subscriptions and technical platforms. More on those issues later this week. Today I want to focus on what “Tres Columnae” can do for our participants.

Specifically, I want to look at two topics. First, within the broad “target audiences” we looked at yesterday, are there particular subgroups that deserve special attention? In other words, who will be especially drawn to – or especially helped by – “Tres Columnae”? Second, what are the implications of these special audiences for the Metastory? We’ll talk more about the Metastory tomorrow and perhaps on Wednesday.

When I think about subgroups, I have to think about particular students. I’ve referred to them by first initial (and not their real first initials) to protect their privacy, but I think it’s critical to look at individual stories. The idea for “Tres Columnae” came to me in my work teaching Latin face-to-face in a very interesting little public high school, and I initially saw it only as a way to meet the needs of my own students. Only later did I realize that there was a larger audience.

As for the school (quam nōmināre nōlō), it’s unusual in several ways. First, it’s an open-enrollment “choice” program within a large school district, so everyone who comes there has chosen to attend . Second, everyone must attempt four or more credits of foreign language, with at least two credits of the same language (their choices are Latin, French, and Spanish), so language classes don’t have the “exclusive elective” feel. Third, it’s in a military community, so some students have been all over the world … but others have rarely left the county. Fourth, because the school is perceived as small and caring, we attract a lot of unusual, interesting children! Somehow they eventually form a community, and sometimes even a Joyful Learning Community.

So who are these students and groups, and what benefits might “Tres Columnae” bring to them? Some students come to us mid-year from very different schools – for example, K, whose dad was transferred several years ago, when the only languages we offered were Latin and French. He arrived in November, as a senior, having studied neither. But he had to be placed in Latin II in order to graduate on time. (Fortunately, K was both brilliant and bilingual (in English and a Romance language other than French). Within a few weeks, his reading comprehension was at the top of the class, and by the end of the year, he was equally good at “the grammar!”) In general, students who arrive mid-year need a self-paced way to “catch up” with the rest of the class – even if they come from another Latin program. “Tres Columnae” can allow such students to build up their weaknesses while maintaining their strengths, with minimal demands on the (possibly overwhelmed) teacher.

Other students depart mid-year and need a way to continue learning Latin in a new place. I think of L when her dad retired and the family moved away, or D many years ago, whose mom was transferred to a post overseas where the American high school didn’t offer Latin at all. In D’s case, we found a way to give her course credit at the receiving school, though it was quite difficult! L’s receiving school simply wasn’t interested – but she would have been glad to continue learning Latin on her own. Then there was B, whose family moved just across the county line, to a district where Latin has never been offered. She was offered an online course from a “big name” provider but found it woefully lacking in depth or rigor. For all of them, “Tres Columnae” would provide a way to continue with a rigorous, engaging Latin curriculum no matter where they found themselves. Even if course credit was not available, they might present a portfolio of their original stories and multimedia to the college – or future employer – of their choice.

Other students, with health issues ranging from severe allergies to cancer, diabetes, or pregnancy, need a way to keep up with their work during extended absences. Sometimes they also need to document “makeup time” to satisfy school or district requirements about “seat time.” For them, “Tres Columnae” will keep a record of the time you spend, what you do, and how long it took when you log in. Still other students have learning differences, or differences in preparation, or gaps in their understanding. They need differentiated, targeted practice of their areas of weakness, or accommodations of their learning issues, which “Tres Columnae” can provide through its different pathways and “practice only until mastery” approach. Of course, all learners need a safe, welcoming space to explore and create with the language, and everybody needs to experience a Joyful Learning Community!

Participants who don’t come from “traditional” school-based programs may have an even greater need for the Joyful Learning Community feeling. If you have always wanted to study Latin, but your school district never was able to offer it, you may feel quite isolated … and possibly nervous. If you’ve lost your beloved Latin program (whether to your teacher’s retirement or to a budget crisis), you may be mourning your loss and looking for the comfort of a community. If you’re an adult learner, you may be apprehensive too, especially if you’ve been away from school for a while, or if you’re trying to fulfill a requirement somewhere. If you’re a military officer who’s interested in reading Caesar in the original, you have very little free time, and you may have problems with access when you’re deployed. That’s probably why you came to us rather than choosing a more “traditional,” time-limited learning experience! Different “Tres Columnae” participants will have different needs and concerns, but they can all benefit from the flexible pace and the support of a Joyful Learning Community.

How, then, do we create a Metastory that appeals to all these different types of learners, that “says” Joyful Learning Community? What periods of Roman history would work best, and what part – or parts – of the Roman world? Can “Tres Columnae” be accessible for teachers and learners who use it as a supplement to an existing textbook? I truly appreciate any thoughts you can offer!

Tune in tomorrow for more thoughts about these Metastory issues….

Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 9:55 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Justin, just a quick thought about the metastory (you are making me so very curious about it by making us wait to find out more!) – I’m guessing that as with the stories in Athenaze and Oerberg, there is room for “stories within the story” which is where I am hoping to contribute useful raw materials. The things I study and collect are anecdotes, exempla, fables, proverbs, etc., all of which aspire to be a commentary on the world at large – a fable or parable gets its meaning from being APPLIED to some other situation, thanks to the storyteller who makes that connection. So, whatever direction that the metastory will be moving in, I hope that I’ll be able to find some fables and proverbs that can fit into that story and provide a kind of commentary on that story, just as Latin fables and proverbs have traditionally provided a kind of running commentary for life in the ancient, medieval and modern worlds. 🙂

    • Laura,
      I have been cruelly keeping you all in anticipation, haven’t I? 🙂 But tomorrow’s post will finally reveal the overall shape of the metastory! You’re right, there is a lot of scope for “stories within the story,” and I would be delighted to include (or find ways for participants to include) fables and proverbs. I love the way that fables work as commentary, and I try to get my face-to-face students interested in that concept with the small amounts of Phaedrus that we read.

      I’d also love to include (or find ways for participants to include) quotes, summaries, or allusions to myths, historical figures, and literary works. For example, one continuing character will be a somewhat-longwinded teacher who subscribes to Quintilian’s newfangled theories about making learning pleasant … much to the dismay of certain other characters. 🙂 He is quite likely to quote from all sorts of sources at any time, at least as I envision him at the moment.

      I don’t want to give everything away in advance, though; I want to keep building some interest until we actually do our “soft launch” next month and our “grand opening” in the spring. 🙂

  2. […] Tres Columnae and the “Three Columns of Instruction” in the Paideia model. This post and this one explore the potential audiences that might be interested in Tres Columnae. What can we offer a […]

  3. […] that the word rigor inspired a post last June, another last August, and lots of others, including one of the earliest posts I published here back in December 2009.  Language is important, and not just to us language […]

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