Making a Contribution, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I’m writing this post in beautiful New Bern, North Carolina, where last night an old friend of mine was ordained as an Episcopal priest. It’s just over a 2-hour drive for me, so I’m enjoying a most unusual day away from my face-to-face students … in the middle of the week, no less!  New Bern is one of the oldest cities in North Carolina and has some lovely Colonial-era architecture, as well as a beautiful view of the Neuse and Trent rivers. As I write this, I’m looking out a hotel window at a beautiful river scene, and I’m very grateful for such a lovely day and such a beautiful setting. But I’ll also be glad to be home this afternoon, and I’ll be glad to see my students again tomorrow.

  • Today we begin a series of posts about the future – the “fully formed” Tres Columnae project. We’ll be imagining several things:
  • The “bones” of the project are in place, including the basic storyline, the “core” stories for each Lectiō, the initial versions of the grammatical explanations, some exercises, and the Continuing Virtual Seminar prompts.
  • There are several hundred subscribers, maybe more, who are regularly using the materials.
  • Subscribers have also started uploading their own content, much as our friends Ann M and David H are doing during the free trial period.
  • So far, most of the contributed content has been images, audio files, and videos, though a few participants have also been writing stories.
  • Joe and Jane, brother and sister in a Classical homeschooling family, are subscribers.
  • For different reasons, they’re both dissatisfied with the existing grammatical explanations for the distinction between nominative and accusative case nouns.
  • John is a kinesthetic learner, so verbal explanations (like ours) don’t work very well for him.
  • Jane is an auditory learner and would like to hear the explanation, as well as see it.

In a typical classroom, or with a typical textbook, that would just be too bad for John and Jane. In a homeschool setting, they’re more likely to get personal attention – after all, the need for personal attention is one of the primary reasons homeschoolers give when asked about their decision to teach their children at home. Even so, if John and Jane’s parents used traditional textbooks, they’d have to supplement the books heavily to meet their children’s learning needs … and they might not know how to do so effectively. And even if they created great material to help their children learn, who would ever see it? Certainly not the other users of the textbook series they chose; after all, the publisher is quite unlikely to market some parent’s (or child’s) supplementary resources for their “perfect” book, especially if the parent or child (quite reasonably) asked for a share of the revenue.

By contrast, the Tres Columnae project expects our participants to create more “stuff” for the project – that’s the core of our Joyful Learning Community model! And in the “fully formed” model, we’ll have a royalty system in place for community members who are interested … and whose contributions are seen as valuable by other community members. With our core value of Ownership, we’ll encourage our learners to find a better way, share it, and see what happens.

So, in that world (and we hope that world will be in place in the next few months!), it will be very natural for John and Jane to go through a process like this:

  1. Jane uses a link called “propose something new” (which will appear on every page of the “fully formed” Tres Columnae project) and suggests audio recordings of the quid novī grammatical explanations.
  2. “Somebody at Tres Columnae” (initially, I am that Somebody, but over time, I expect we’ll grow and add additional Somebodies) reads her suggestion and says, “Yeah! Why haven’t we done that already?”
  3. Somebody sends a message back to Jane telling her to make a sample recording for the quid novī of her choice.
  4. Jane uses Audacity (or her favorite audio recording software) to make a recording of the quid novī for nominative vs. accusative nouns and uploads it, using our standard system for uploading audio. She’s a Monthly subscriber, so she’s entitled to make a certain number of submissions each month without any editing charges.
  5. Somebody reviews her audio and notes two minor mispronunciations. We let Jane know about them.
  6. Jane fixes the minor pronunciation problems.
  7. We review the audio again, just to make sure everything is OK.
  8. We create a link to it and publicize it in the (soon to appear!) New Contributions section of the Tres Columnae website.
  9. Other participants check it out and comment on it. Comments are very favorable.
  10. Every time someone uses Jane’s audio clip, she earns credit toward royalties for her contribution. It’s not a lot of money, but still! It helps to pay for her subscription, and her friends and family think it’s great that something she created is earning money for her.
  11. Her brother John is impressed! He creates a kinesthetic demonstration of the differences between nominative and accusative nouns, makes a video of it, and goes through the same process.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Obviously we haven’t worked out all the details, but does this sound like a workable model to you in theory?
  • What practical objections do you see?
  • What do you think would be a reasonable per-use or per-click royalty for participants whose work is included in the project?
  • We’ll obviously need to have consent from our participants – and the parents of our younger participants – to use materials in this way, and we’ll have to spell out their rights, and ours, quite clearly. What specific rights do you think we should mention?
  • Do you have any other suggestions or concerns about user-contributed materials … especially explanations, quizzes, and exercises?

Tune in next time, when we’ll take a closer look at the material that Jane’s brother John might choose to submit … and at the exercises and quizzes they’d both create to follow up on what they’d already submitted. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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