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Modernizing Classical Language Education: CLT and EdTech in Classical Greek

Modernizing Classical Language Education: CLT and EdTech in Classical Greek

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A proposal for a revamped method of teaching classical languages
A proposal for a revamped method of teaching classical languages

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Published by: Apostolos Koutropoulos on Sep 14, 2011
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 55 H
 
UMAN
 A
 
RCHITECTURE
 : J
 
OURNAL
 
OF
 
THE
 S
 
OCIOLOGY
 
OF
 S
 
ELF
 -K
 
NOWLEDGE
 , IX, 3, S
 
UMMER
 2011, 55-70
 I. I
 
NTRODUCTION
 A number of years ago, having been astudent in many foreign language class-rooms, I opted to audit a course on Classi-cal Greek. What struck me was the massivedifference in teaching styles between thoseteaching in Modern Languages
 1
 and thosein the Classics Department. At the time, asa student auditing the class, I didn’t reallyanalyze the methodology much; I just wentalong with the teaching style of the profes-sor and used my metalinguistic awarenesswhich I had developed through the studyof other languages, and my familiarity withModern Greek, to understand both thegrammar and syntax portions of the class.Recently, I was given an opportunity toobserve the same course, the course that Itook a number of years ago, and examinethe classroom from a different lens—that of an applied linguist. Going into this pilotstudy I was interested in analyzing theteaching methodology, wondering if theteaching methodology for the class hadchanged from when I was a student.Having learned a great deal about the vari-ous linguistic factors that go into learninganother language, I was interested inunderstanding whether professionals inthe
eld of classical language teachingapplied any of this research in secondlanguage acquisition in their own practice.If I found the approaches to be about the
 
1
My previous in-class language learningexperiences included English, French, Italian,German, Russian, Chinese and Japanese.
Apostolos Koutropoulos
is a Training Coordinator for the Healey Library at the University of MassachusettsBoston where he instructs students on computer literacy, and consults faculty on pedagogically sound ways of integrating technology into the curriculum. He holds a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.B.A. with a focus onHuman Resources, an M.S. in Information Technology, an M.Ed. in Instructional Design, and an M.A. inApplied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research interests include: knowledgemanagement, educational technology, linguistics, and epistemology.
 Modernizing Classical Language Education
Communicative Language Teaching & EducationalTechnology Integration in Classical Greek
Apostolos Koutropoulos
University of Massachusetts Boston
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
a.koutropoulos@umb.edu
Abstract
: Classical language education has changed little over the past three decades despiteadvances in academic technology and advances in our understanding of both second languageacquisition and human development. This paper proposes a modi
cation to classical languageteaching and the classical language curriculum based on
ndings of second language acquisitionresearch, as well as factoring in observational data of students taking an introductory course inAncient Greek.
 
H
 
UMAN
 
A
 
RCHITECTURE
 
: J
 
OURNAL
 
OF
 
THE
 
S
 
OCIOLOGY
 
OF
 
S
 
ELF
 
-K
 
NOWLEDGE
 
ISSN: 1540-5699. © Copyright by Ahead Publishing House (imprint: Okcir Press) and authors. All Rights Reserved.
 HUMANARCHITECTURE
 JournaloftheSociology ofSelf-
 
A Publication of OKCIR: The Omar Khayyam Center for Integrative Research in Utopia, Mysticism, and Science (Utopystics)
 
 56A
 
POSTOLOS
 K
 
OUTROPOULOS
 H
 
UMAN
 A
 
RCHITECTURE
 : J
 
OURNAL
 
OF
 
THE
 S
 
OCIOLOGY
 
OF
 S
 
ELF
 -K
 
NOWLEDGE
 , IX, 3, S
 
UMMER
 2011
 same as when I was a student of ClassicalGreek, I would then be interested in apply-ing my knowledge of applied linguistics topropose a reboot of the curriculum. Asecondary goal was to discover who thestudents were and what motivated them tolearn a classical language; last time aroundI didn’t really pay much attention to myfellow students, as I was then focused onmy own education.
 1. Learner Analysis
 During the fall semester of 2010 Iobserved a typical set of learners in Classi-cal Greek at an urban university in theBoston area over a period of one semester
 2
 .Through my semester-long observation, aswell as a beginning-of-the-semester classsurvey
 3
 , I discovered that the learners inthis classroom were amazingly diverse interms of their educational background. Myinitial assumption was that courses in Clas-sical Greek and Latin would attract mostlystudents whose major is ClassicalLanguages and Literature, while stillattracting a minority of students interestedin the language—much like I was as anundergraduate student. I expected thatstudents in most majors, other than Clas-sics, would opt to take a modern language,like French or German, since those arepresumably the languages that would bemost useful to them in a work or researchenvironment. I was, however, surprised to
nd that only a handful of students wereactual Classics majors. Most students in theclass came from both the arts and thehumanities (social work, philosophy,history) and the sciences (biology, psychol-ogy). History could be lumped into the“Classics” category if these students aim tostudy the history of the ancient world andneed to be able to decipher originalsources.
 4
 In terms of other academic back-grounds, about half of the students in thiscourse were juniors, about a quarter weresophomores and about a quarter werefreshmen. My initial predictions, however,had been that most students in the coursewould be freshmen or sophomores major-ing in the Classics. I thought that since thiswas a Greek 101 course, and the knowledgegained in this course would aid thesestudents in future Classics courses wheninteracting with original, authentic materi-als, then they would more likely take thiscourse earlier in their studies. This initialprediction was proven wrong.Another prediction was based onlinguistic factors. I predicted that manystudents would have had some exposure toa second language, and would have hadsome sort of exposure to Latin, given thanmy initial prediction was that thesestudents would be predominantly Classicsmajors. I also thought that there wouldprobably be a few Greek-Americans look-ing for an “easy A” by taking ClassicalGreek. My initial predictions, as far aslinguistic factors go, were proven correct.Most students did have some exposure to asecond language; there were quite a fewstudents who had studied Latin, there weresome Greek-Americans with some knowl-edge of Modern Greek, and a number of students had studied various Europeanlanguages like French, Spanish, Italian, andGerman, as well as some languages, thatone doesn’t typically
nd in a high schoolcurriculum in the US, such as Gaelic, Hindi,
 
2
I observed every class session except ses-sions that were set aside for hour-long unit ex-ams. This took place over a 13-week period inthe fall 2010 semester. Each week had three ses-sions; each one being forty-
ve minutes inlength.
 
3
The survey was designed to capture dataon learners’ previous encounters and familiaritywith other languages, familiarity and usage of technology, existing knowledge of the subjectmatter (Ancient Greek), and learners’ expectedfor learning outcomes.
 
4
It would be interesting to conduct furtherresearch as to the motives of studying a classicallanguage by non-Classics majors.
 
 M
 
ODERNIZING
 C
 
LASSICAL
 L
 
ANGUAGE
 E
 
DUCATION
 57
 H
 
UMAN
 A
 
RCHITECTURE
 : J
 
OURNAL
 
OF
 
THE
 S
 
OCIOLOGY
 
OF
 S
 
ELF
 -K
 
NOWLEDGE
 , IX, 3, S
 
UMMER
 2011
 and Arabic.In terms of technology access and use,the results were quite interesting. There is atrend in academia to believe that studentshave both access to technology and facilitywith using this technology. This is based onMarc Prensky’s work (2001) with what heterms
 Digital Natives
 . All students in thiscourse had access to a computer and accessto the Internet. All students also had accessto either a smartphone, or a digital musicplayer. When it came to rating their owncompetence in using computers and theInternet, all of the students rated their skillsat least at the intermediate level of pro
-ciency. The status of the learner (freshman,sophomore, or junior) seemed to have a lotto do with how they rated their competencein using
 library resources
 and
using Black-board 
 . Students who had been on campuslonger tended to rate their experiencehigher than students who had been oncampus for a shorter time; this was to beexpected. The Web 2.0
 5
 behaviors of thestudents were also quite interesting. Moststudents knew of blogs and microblogs butdidn’t use them. They knew of Facebookand used it frequently; however, they didnot know of, and therefore did not use,dedicated social networks like
del.icio.us
 ,
  Ning
 and
Goodreads
 . They also did consultwiki pages, but they never contributedknowledge to a wiki. These
ndings wereclose to my initial hunch about the learners;I believed that they would have
access to
 technology, but unlike Prensky (2001) Ibelieved that this didn’t necessarily implythat students were comfortable using it.The student expectation responses, inthe free-form answer part of the survey,were actually quite interesting to analyze.In the responses there are a few responsesof the “the course will be successful if I getan A” sort, but in responses where studentswent beyond a letter grade you can see adifference between students who had beenapprenticed into the discourse of Classics,and those who had not. The former hadmost likely taken Latin and their rubric fora successful class is to be able to read theGreek and to translate it into English.Individuals who have not been appren-ticed into the discourse of Classics expect tobe able to speak Classical Greek withfriends and family, gain an understandingof English based on Greek roots andlemmas or learn about their background. Itis interesting that students who have beenapprenticed into the discourse expect to beable to memorize a lot, and use that forreading, while those who have
not 
 beenapprenticed into the discourse of Classicsexpect cultural background information,and to gain competence in speech as well asreading—something you tend to see in thediscourse of foreign language teaching, notin classical language teaching. What isinteresting to note is that about half of thestudents dropped the course during theuniversity’s add-drop period
 6
 , and most of the students who remained were Classicsmajors.
 2. Current Teaching Methodology
 Having observed a seasoned, andtalented, faculty member teach ClassicalGreek
 7
 for one semester, I can say with ahigh degree of con
dence that theapproach used to teach the course is the
 
5
Web 2.0 is a term that describes applica-tions on the World Wide Web that facilitate par-ticipatory information sharing andcollaboration amongst the users of those webapplications. The user-centered design of Web2.0 web applications encourages dialogue anduser-created content. It is commonly believedthat members of the “Digital Native” generation(born after 1980) are avid and expert users of Web 2.0 technologies.
 
6
According to the instructor it is normal tostart a class with a full set of students, and forabout half to drop it throughout the semester. Itwould be interesting, in a future study, to seehow this compares to other Classical and Mod-ern languages and to determine what makesstudents stay or drop the course.
 
7
5
 
th
 century B.C.E. Attic Greek to be exact.

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