Next Steps?

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I’m afraid this post will be a bit disjointed, with two minor elements and one bigger one. We’ll start our next round of Tres Columnae Project stories tomorrow – which I know may disappoint some of you who like your daily dose of the adventures of Lucius, Valeria, Lollia, Caius, Prima, Secunda, Cnaeus, etc.

But instead of focusing on “core” stories today, I want to share some amazing work from our piloting subscribers, Ann M’s students at The Marist School in England. Prepare to be amazed and impressed by the multimedia stories they’ve created about Rīdiculus mūs through the Tar Heel Reader project. The direct link is – I’d love to know which one is your favorite before I tell you mine.

If you’ve been interested in Instructure, the company that developed the learning-management platform we’ve used for the Tres Columnae Lectio Prima Demo course, you might be interested in this very positive review by Michael Feldstein, a well-known name in the e-learning world. One quick quote from Feldstein’s piece:

If I had to summarize Instructure’s strategy in one sentence, it would be “They use the lessons learned by consumer web companies to clear the clutter out of LMS software design and business model.” They’re not focusing particularly on open education or analytics or any other hot topics in online education, although they are aware of these and do pay some attention to them. Rather, they are looking at core use cases and trying to make them as simple as possible, throwing out some outdated LMS design assumptions in the process.

As you know, I’ve become a big fan of Instructure myself … and I’ll be an even bigger fan once they figure out how to implement their Quizzes and “branching” lessons more fully.

Finally, as July begins, and with it the second half of this calendar year, I’ve been in a reflective mood about the past, the present, and the future. So I took some time yesterday to think about what I would want for the Tres Columnae Project, and for myself, in a “perfect” world in the next several months. Actually, I realized I wasn’t describing a “perfect” world – I was actually describing a vision that, meā quidem sententiā, is very achievable in our actual world.

  • For the project itself, I see a “finished” version of Cursus Primus – but I need to define “finished,” since in one way, TC won’t ever be finished as long as contributors continue to add new content to it. By “finished,” I think I mean that
    • the core stories are all posted for Lectiōnēs I-XXX;
    • comprehension exercises for all of them are in place;
    • quid novī explanations are in place for all major grammatical concepts;
    • at least 1-2 forms practice exercises and/or quizzes are in place for each Quid Novī;
    • we’ve finished and posted the correlation of our “core” vocabulary to other “core” vocabulary lists, such as those for the GCSE, O-levels, and A-levels in the British national system; and
    • we’ve contributed to a conversation among American Latinists that will, sooner than later, lead to an agreement on a “core” vocabulary list. (It’s shocking and scandalous to me that we send thousands of children every year to take high-stakes examinations like the Advanced Placement Exam, but there’s no way to know what vocabulary items will or won’t be glossed for them! I commend the AP® Test Development Committee for the work it’s currently doing to develop common standards for other facets of that examination, but it does seem odd to me that, while they’re working hard on a “common language” for rhetorical and grammatical terms, no one has apparently even raised the more basic “common language” issue of core vocabulary.)
  • There are well over 1000 paid subscribers – including a large core of Standard and Premium subscribers who contribute regularly. Even the Basic subscribers are frequently choosing to make contributions, and some of them are choosing to upgrade their subscriptions so that it’s more convenient for them to contribute. We’ve begun to achieve viral growth, since (meā quidem sententiā) the Tres Columnae Project should generate some network effects – the more who participate, the more engaging and attractive the experience should be for others. (My favorite illustration of network effects is to imagine a world where one person has a fax machine. Not much incentive there – after all, whom could you send faxes to? Or receive them from?)
  • We’ve successfully convinced large numbers of homeschooling families to join TC. No longer do they need to purchase printed material of dubious quality, and no longer is there a need for parents (who don’t know any Latin themselves) to worry or hesitate if their children express an interest in Latin.
  • We’ve also convinced a large number of teachers and schools to provide subscriptions for their students (or to encourage their students to subscribe). In particular, we’ve been able to offer some relief for young teachers, for teachers with very diverse classes, for teachers with multiple-level classes, and for students who need some extra help and support with reading Latin.
  • We’ve helped to change the conversations among Latin teachers. No more “my method is the only way” or “your method is wrong” – instead, people talk to each other, listen to each other, and seek the good in each other’s approaches. (Yes, I know this is a dream! But bear with me!)
  • The first wave of TC subscribers will soon overwhelm, in a good way, college and university Classics departments. Professors, surprised and delighted by the presence of so many well-prepared students who read Latin fluently and can play the “grammar game” well (and, in fact, can play it Latīnē as well as Anglicē), will be compelled to use more oral Latin and more hands-on, collaborative activities in their classes. But those who prefer the “hard-core” Classical authors are surprised and pleased to discover a group of learners who are well-prepared, both in reading skills and in cultural background, to read and engage with those authors – and to do so in a way that hasn’t happened within the living memory of the profession.
  • We’ve been able to implement our planned royalty system, and some of our subscribers are receiving enough revenue from products based on their “stuff” to cover – or more than cover – their subscription costs. And I hope we’re able to make significant contributions to the profession – and the study – of Classics around the world, and to other important causes.
  • We’ve provided a model for thoughtful teachers and learners in other academic areas, inspiring them, as well, to escape from the “factory model” school and to develop interesting alternatives.
  • In our success, we’ve held on to our core valuea and have truly built a Joyful Learning Community.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of these goals? Realistic, or utterly wishful? Worthy, or unworthy? I’d really love to know how the community feels about the project before we go too much farther with it.
  • What are your goals for the upcoming school year? To what extent does Tres Columnae fit into your goals?
  • And what do you think of Ann’s students’ stories? Personally, I love the Tar Heel Reader project, and I think there are all kinds of fruitful connections and collaborations that we can develop between “them” and “us.” But I’d really like to know what you think.

Tune in next time, when we’ll begin a new series of posts about a set of stories we haven’t yet featured … and a character who may have been feeling a bit overlooked. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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