Sol Day

Sol Day 07Jul2014 – iAuguste and Moi, Auguste – Exhibition and Social Media

A screen at the Moi, Auguste exhibition displaying all the tweets bearing the hashtag #MoiAuguste (C) Classics Collective

A screen at the Moi, Auguste exhibition displaying all the tweets bearing the hashtag #MoiAuguste (C) Classics Collective

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the I, Augustus (Moi, Auguste) exhibition last week at the Grand Palais in Paris, less than a month before the exhibition draws to a close. The organisers have managed to bring together a good collection of items, some reflecting Augustus himself, the majority reflecting the Roman World of the time.

For the current exhibition it is clear that the organisers thought about integrating the presentation of the objects with additional information through an app. Another possible integration was that of our personal experience of the exhibition and the collective experience of it, via the hashtag #MoiAuguste across different platforms of social media. Within the exhibition space at the Clemenceau wing of the Grand Palais, screens displays the Instagram and Twitter feed of the hashtag.

I am aware that the British Museum has invested much energy in promoting a twitter environment for its museum exhibitions, especially the blockbuster exhibitions such as the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum and the Vikings: Life and Legend exhibitions. It is then often possible that other social media users can see the interactions by searching the hashtag on their social media platform, although I have not been aware of the use of screens to display the relevant social media posts before.

What I did notice is that, in the case of the Moi, Auguste exhibition, the tweets on display stretches back over a week (It displays around 8 tweets). I am unsure if a member of staff controls what tweets filters through but, in any case, this shows a lack of interaction through the social media platforms.

Is it a case of publicity that led to low social media interaction? The display screens and displays promoting social media is present on entry and throughout the exhibition. That seems adequate enough. Short of the staff promoting it to each visitor, the exhibition could not do more to promote the use of social media in relation to the exhibition. Furthermore, the exhibition did not seem to benefit from any city-wide poster campaigns that the British Museum exhibitions enjoyed. Since the hashtag link was placed on every poster promoting the Pompeii and Herculaneum and Viking exhibitions, the public awareness of the possibilities of enjoying the exhibition through social media will be greater.

It is also important to note that the Moi, Auguste exhibition is not at the scale of the Pompeii and Herculaneum and Viking exhibitions. Though the collection of objects is unique, on my visit on a Wednesday afternoon there were a handful of visitors in each room and it was not at all congested. If fewer people visit, then fewer people will interact; even then not all visitors would interact through social media.

Personally, the fact that I was not able to access the free Wi-Fi at the Grand Palais also did not help my use of social media within the exhibition hall. If this is the fault of the Wi-Fi provision (and, of course, it could simply be my phone malfunctioning), then there needs to be a way of ensuring that the internet coverage would facilitate such sharing – especially for us foreign visitors on roaming.

The Grand Palais (C) Classics Collective

The Grand Palais (C) Classics Collective

Once the points above is covered, is there any possibility of encouraging social media users to use it while they are enjoying the exhibition? There’s always a possibility of having a best tweet, photo or post of the day, week or month. The public display of someone’s social media post is also rather gratifying for the person who posted it. Perhaps there can be more structure – a list of questions asking visitors to react to the objects and respond via a linked hashtag. Perhaps this can even be done through an app, with a moderator collating it to then re-post it on the social media platforms. I am sure there are many more possibilities I have not considered here.

Fundamentally, exhibition organisers should also consider why there should be an integration of social media into an exhibition – and perhaps this might be compounded with the greater question of why we have exhibitions. If the purpose is to educate, then does a visitor posting photo of him or her next to an exhibit aid that? If it is for publicity, then is it not a problem if the social media posts are only seen by the visitors in the halls and some keen followers of the exhibition following on social media? And if it is for feedback, then is the format of social media best suited for that?

It is good to see the Grand Palais and other such exhibitors experimenting with social media within the exhibition, but it also seem to be the case that an integrated experience of an exhibition – through social media and through the physical interaction with the exhibition – seem far from mature. The possibilities of relating or being drawn to the exhibition from beyond the hall also seem limited. Perhaps many will be contented with social media providing practical support for visitors (when does the museum open? What is the price?) But surely we, not so much as Classicists but as curious individuals and the presenters of knowledge, can aim for better.

Sol Day

Sol Day 01Jun2014 – Ancient languages and MFL: FML or FTW?

It is undoubtedly a good thing that Latin and Ancient Greek are included in the list of subjects eligible for EBacc performance measure. No matter that students must now do a Modern Foreign Language (MFL) subject for GCSE – they can choose Latin!

Why Latin? A student might think: “well there’s no point learning Spanish and Chinese because they all speak English and I have no plans to go to Germany. Besides, I don’t need to speak Latin – Latin doesn’t need to be spoken! #winning #YOLO”

The fact that Latin and Ancient Greek is placed amongst the Modern Foreign Language block is not unsurprising as such. As a student I remember filling out NUS online survey to get my NUS Extra card – the tag line was “Demand extra!” and I was always tempted to demand they put Classics onto a list of subjects that student-members might study. The list have never included Classics and I was always torn between languages and history. Looking at university departments (and even school faculties) I have also observed that Classics is mostly tagged alongside ancient history, sometimes with humanities and sometimes with languages.

Of course, ancient languages as GCSE subjects are different in nature to university courses in Classics. Though the point is debatable, I would still argue that ancient languages at GCSE level focuses on obtaining the foundations of the ancient languages. That is to say that students are learning the language but not quite applying it a great deal to any original product by the speakers and writers of those language and using it as a medium for analysis.

Should it be part of the MFL group? The teaching and learning of ancient languages are fundamentally different. The Chinese (and perhaps we do too) like to consider learning a new language through five sub-categories of reading, writing, listening, speaking and translating. For learners of modern language it is quite clear that the first four skills will have to be practised, with the fifth being an inevitable by-product (though in reality this will depending on the didactic methods). For the ancient languages the emphasis is on translation – though if Lingua Latina per se illustrata is used, then perhaps it appeals more to the reading aspect. Even the Cambridge Latin Course, with a more inductive approach in its heart and a healthy amount of comprehension questions, will require translation skills to be practised.

No language courses will be complete without an understanding of the culture and here, too, the content varies. Yet in reality, the amount of exposure students have towards culture varies so much from teacher to teacher, school to school that it may be difficult to compare. I will also confess that I do not have enough data to make it comprehensive.

In any case, the ancient languages are now, for Department of Education’s intents and purposes, part of this larger MFL family and category. Is it the right decision? To me, it is certainly the most pragmatic way of fitting it into the category. The danger is that the benefit of including the ancient languages within this category is diminished because schools and senior leaders who might be tempted to introduce the subjects into their curriculum, lured as they may be by their EBacc status, are not immediately aware that the two ancient languages are included. It’s not obvious that two allegedly dead languages are “Modern Foriegn Language”, after all.

So why doesn’t the Department of Education just call it “Languages”? Or perhaps “Ancient and Modern Foreign Languages (AMFL)”? You could just about pronounce the last suggestions through its initialism.

Sol Day

Sol Day 25May2014 – Gove set and march

I shouldn’t really be writing this blog today. Around me I have copies of Caesar’s Gallic War, Cunliffe’s detail on Pytheas’ journey and Asterix et Obelix apud Britannos, with some Tacitus to boot. For I thought I will be prepared for the time when Gove speaks to OCR and say: “I hate Homer, and Daily Mail doesn’t like Catullus. Besides, it’s not British. Get working OCR Classics…” nil desperanda Gove duce et que sera sera

Michael Gove’s intervention means three-quarters of the books on the government directed GCSEs, which will be unveiled this week, are by British authors and most are pre-20th century.

Daily Telegraph’s depiction of Gove.

Not that this is likely to happen. Whilst Gove did tell OCR that it was depressing 90% of school boys study Of Mice and Men according to an article in the Daily Telegraph, it could just be that he dislike romanticising labourers and their work. Besides, Gove likes Latin and Greek – he put it on the National Curriculum and promised to roll it out across the state sector, as long as it’s not a free school.

I am still unsure why Gove likes the ancient languages; he certainly showed aptitude in Latin in response to the Education Secretary’s equivalent of how-much-is-your-shopping questions when he was asked in parliament what festina lente meant. There are clues to why he sees ancient languages as beneficial – when speaking about rolling Latin out across the state sector he considered that Latin and Greek should not be the preserve of the independent sector, which suggests that perhaps this should be a way of balancing the discrepancy between state and independent school provision. It cannot be to do with the cultural side, otherwise Classical Civilisation will be included in his flagship EBacc measurement, just as the ancient languages (and the more traditional Ancient History course) are. Perhaps it is to do with developing good grammar, or to do with intellectual exercise – after all the right-leaning think tank Politeia did suggest introducing an element of Latin composition into the GCSE exam. But then the think tank is not Gove, and the suggestion has not been adopted (yet).

The known unknown. This is quite often what we are worried about. The only known known is that Gove is here to stay until the general election, perhaps beyond. The known unknown for us Classicists is why he favours Latin or what he will do in any aspect, particularly our part, of education policy. Could the unknown known be that he is not enhancing the reputation or the spread of Latin at all (and that Latin uptake is occuring in spite of him)? And if the unknown unknown is known, please comment below.

There are strands of philosophy of Gove that each of us is inclined to agree or disagree. But beyond the rhetoric, the assenters and dissenters have little idea how these philosophies will manifest itself when a policy is announced. Beyond that, if a political backlash occur, the end product is anyone’s guess. The most salient example is how the EBacc Certificate qualification became the EBacc measurement of performance. We Classicists know that Gove supports the ancient languages. So far this idea has led to the subjects’ inclusion in EBacc and the primary curriculum as well as a campaign to retrain more non-specialist teachers. But the reduction of PGCE places in Classics next year the fact that trainee teacher of Classics were initially set to have no funding next year due to an oversight is perhaps a worry on Gove’s commitment, if not an indictment on the Department for Education. Either the idea is not being seen through in policy, or there is much hot air being pumped out.

What is partcularly worrying is the subject of Classical Civilisation. The fact that Classical Civilisation is not included in EBacc, the fact that PGCE courses in Classics are to become PGCE courses in Latin with Classics, suggest a heavy emphasis on language but not on culture. As mentioned above, Gove never quite laid out why he favours the ancient language but if the reasons for his support is purely a combination of the fact that public schools offer it and so should state schools, and that we should do language gratia language as a means to developing logic, reasoning and the sort of rhetoric production that he produces, I am worried. I am worried because I am a Classicist, and being a Classicist is so much more than learning culture through Livy or Ovid unseens (which I do enjoy), but a more holistic approach to two, perhaps more, of the greatest civilisations whose origin is in the Mediterranean, the middle of lands. The language is the manifestation of a culture and the teaching of one should come with the other.

In this light, Gove’s meddling of the English syllabus, after he laid out the history curriculum like rounds in a history pub quiz, is worrying. The worrying thing is not knowing what to worry about. To me, the announcement today that Gove has actively commented on a detailed aspect of a syllabus is a surprise. The display of disappointment over studying the John Steinbeck classic is likely a result of his belief in exposing more, perhaps solely, books from the English canon. We know Gove favours the ancient languages but we do not know why – will there be a surprise in store for us as he exerts influence on the Classics curriculum? nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.


Goodbye Mr Lee

The Greek is supposed to say goodbye, I think…

In amongst all the talk on education policy can I just thank my year 10 Classical Civilisation students, who have given me a rather appropriately decorated poster and signed with lovely messages (and ones abusing my football loyalties). You will be missed – good luck in all your future endeavours!




Sol Day

Sol Day 27Apr2014 – #CA14, the physical and the cyber space

We really enjoyed a few days in the sun (and it was mostly sunny… and hilly) at the Classical Association annual conference at Nottingham this year, at 13-16Apr. University of Nottingham’s picturesque campus was the setting for a diverse array of panels. We have fond memories of the various pedagogical sessions and was impressed with the Twitter coverage, so we hope to bring you our thoughts below.


The Programme

But before we do, let us just thank the organising committee for what must have some complex and taxing work, since the conference mostly ran smoothly. There were various innovations from the previous conference, such as roundtable discussions and the change of meal format. The general impression we got from the campus was that delegates were enjoying themselves.

I enjoyed myself too, and it was particularly nice that, on that third time of attending a CA conference, I realise that there are more and more familiar faces. It was good to see fellow Tweeps, old friends from the South West and people interested in pedagogy.

There were things to consider next year. For example, the sit-down service for dinner allow for longer conversations and meeting of new people, but it does mean sitting down from 8-9:30pm in the separate dining halls. The planning of roundtable sessions at the same time as the excursions somewhat defeats the objective of a leisurely break and, for us, made finding a time to visit the book stalls difficult; not to mention the fact that the final morning panel overlapped with the excursions and both cancelled out lunch on the Tuesday. Bus issues from the gala dinner added to that. But then the overall experience for all was positive.

Having been on an organising panel for an annual conference I also know the hard work that is required; I trust that the Classical Association and the Department of Nottingham would not treat the comments above as anything other than the reflection of a conference delegate!

Pedagogy, digital and others

In the absence of much on Greek lyric or Hellenistic poetry, the focus of my visit to Nottingham turned to learning and pedagogy. And there was a good provision of that there.

Monday saw the double-panel “New Approaches to eLearning in Classics”. The six speakers all spoke on a different aspect of pedagogy and/or use of digital means of teaching/learning. Bart Natoli and Mair Lloyd both spoke of the importance of identifying theory and assessing practicalities in the new and old ways we have of teaching Classical knowledge; Mair, James Robson and Simon Mahony all considered the resources available to, and actually used by higher education institute to teach Classics. Sonya Nevin gave an in-depth presentation on one such project, the Panoply project which aims to bring vases to life by, amongst other things, animating them.  Moss Pike spoke about how to add a gaming aspect, a competition element to learning. Finally Andrew Reinhard gave us a round-up of the Classics world in social media. You can revisit the panel through Mair Lloyd’s thorough Storify summaries here: part I and part II.

On Tuesday we also attended a roundtable talk on “Defining Classical Scholarship: The Research/Teaching Interface” (The discussion of the roundtable session can be found through Storify, thanks to Mair Lloyd again). The talks were all really interesting, with Lisa Trentin and Bart Natoli presenting the practicalities and challenges of blending your own learning or research with the students. While Mair Lloyd gives an overview of language teaching at universities, Ben Cartlidge gives a specific example of language teaching through his own work. Nonetheless, what we really enjoyed most is the roundtable element of the session, the discussion and sharing of theories and ideas. This seems to be something that is lacking in Classical pedagogy, at a university level or a school level. Classics Collective wonders whether there could be more events where teaching ideas and theories are discussed and shared, either as part of the Classical Association conference or at an independent event.

We cannot omit the panel on teaching sensitive topics, scheduled amongst the final set of panels. Steve Hunt presented on how Classics, specifically at a secondary school-level, help brings out discussions of the more sensitive topics whilst Ronnie Ancona spoke about making a Catullus edition for schools in the US – how the decision on which poem to include could have repercussions in terms of whether schools would choose to use it.

#CA14 at Nottingham seems to be a bountiful conference in terms of pedagogy, we wonder if #CA15 will be the same?


In another sense we have noted that there is a far greater use of Twitter during the conference. We cannot give specific numbers, but the conference does seem to be the greatest in terms of twitter activity and specifically in terms of live-tweeting.

In terms of live-tweeting, Liz Gloyn seems to be peerless. Liz is also knowledgeable and the author of the live-tweet code. If ever live-tweet summary becomes an art form, researchers will not only consider the thoroughness of her notes, but the skill she must have been equipped for the endeavour. By no means was she alone in live-tweeting, with Kate Cook, Foalpapers and PaullusD and Claire Jackson, amongst others, contributing to the #CA14 hashtag.

Was it useful? There was certainly comments about how the tweets are keeping non-delegates informed of the paper and the proceedings. An empirical study of the functionality of live-tweeting will have to be for another time. In our case, we hope we brought you the right amount of news and updates from Classics Collective anyway, through Twitter, Facebook and our sister blog’s live update page.

Comments at the bottom of the page.



Sol Day

Sol Day 09Feb2013 – tot desperanda Gove duce et auspice Gove (1)

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

There is compelling evidence that there is a need for an increase in Classics teachers across the state and private sector. Classics is in boom, in particular in the state sector. Against this backdrop Gove announced:

And I can announce today that their work will be complemented by Professor Christopher Pelling from Oxford University – who will be leading a brand-new project in collaboration with several universities to develop top-quality professional development for non-specialist teachers of classics in state schools. His work will help state school students compete on equal terms with privately educated students for university classics places.

(See longer extract of Gove’s speech on our blog: Gove: Professional Development for non-specialist teachers of Classics.)

In other words, there will be a new project, led by a top academic at a top university, to allow students from the state sector to compete on equal footing with the students from the private sector for university places in Classics. Yet this is a small passage in a very, very long speech. It announced a policy, but did not detail it. For us Classicists and for Pelling especially there may be compelling evidence for Classics to be provided: provided by quality teachers, provided for a variety of reasons, provided equally across the sector. But did the Secretary of State made equipped with this knowledge? Perhaps he spoke to Boris for evidence, perhaps not, but the Secretary of State has form in trumpeting his ideology on the simple argument of tradition. We would do well to see his motives and reasoning by engaging in a popular past time of Classicists: close textual analysis.

The first half of the text refers to how the initiative is university led. This is politically important to show that Gove is engaging top academics and facilitating outreach; it is also important considering schools and, in particular, A-levels are preparation for a university courses. In the same section of the speech Gove announced : “we’re working with world-renowned, world-class Russell Group universities and Professor Mark Smith of Lancaster University to reform A levels – ensuring they provide students with the knowledge and skills they need for the demands of university study.” This leaves you in no doubt what types of universities Russell Group members are; I hope you are not reading this from Birkbeck, Royal Holloway, Reading or Swansea, Kent. Mark Smith has the honoured for being named because he is from Lancaster, a 1994 group-university. This is akin to saying “all the experts and Mark there…”

The collaboration of such high-end universities in the Classics project allow joint-up thinking as the universities participating are preparing their future students; they can also help allay the criticism of bias against the private sector as, as you read in the final sentence, this is to ensure an equal starting point when applying to Classics courses at university (and we know that all Classicists at school go on to become Classicists at university, don’t we?). Is this a policy to aid the ailing departments of Classics across the higher education institutions of the land? It does certainly no harm, in the sense that Classics department across the land might now be able to report a better ratio of state:private intake. But the final sentence quoted above hints more at reducing the gap between state and private schools or, as most of the media reported it, making state schools like private schools.

So what sort of Classics teachers do state schools have. The article implies that non-specialists Classics teachers will be given professional development. It would be great if any readers can direct us to statistics showing the background of teachers offering Classics in schools as whilst there are statics on offer for demands of teachers, whilst we know there is a shortfall of teachers from teacher training course (JACT Bulletin, 2013), there does not seem to be figures on how that shortfall was met. In my travels I have met a department of  several MFL teachers teaching Key Stage 3 Latin. In one department of 1.3 people, 1 of whom wanted a career change and became the Head of Classics from the Head of Music; he began the department from scratch and built up the department sufficiently to draft in an English teacher with a qualification in GCSE Latin. I know the English teacher would like to be re-trained but can find no opportunity, can this project help? Or more pertinently, how many teachers are seeking a subject change and how many are quite satisfied with their allocation of year 7s and 8s?

This, we are also to know, is a project for the benefits of state schools. Gove went on to say: “Academics of this calibre are serious about the need to give state school students the extra level of stretch and challenge that privately educated students enjoy through extra coaching and preparation.” The assumption can only be that private school non-specialists are automatically equipped with such stretching abilities, or perhaps that there are no non-specialists in private schools. Time will tell if teachers in the private sectors are to compose, Ovid-style, addresses to the doorman begging them to let them into these professional development sessions. The decision is a strange one for readers of the last JACT Bulletin (2013) who might recall that 70% of the posts advertised in TES in the year 2011-12 were in the independent secondary sector, 83% if primary independent posts are also included; the decision is not a strange one for all who are politically minded. Gove could have said independent schools (and academies) could hire unqualified (i.e. non-QTS) teachers, and indeed 41% of independent schools did according to the same article in JACT Bulletin.

So what is the motive behind this initiative? I am not sure. It is a step in the right direction and, anecdotally, I know there are teachers who would be very interested in courses if they are recognised to provide the same opportunities to products of PGCE Classics courses at the end of the course. The announcement was made in a section where many similar initiatives intended to boost the quality of education in the state sector is announced, and the stated method for this is to make schools in the maintained sector more like private schools. By this close textual analysis and by reference to the contemporary setting, the conclusion is that Gove is interested in traditional schools for modern maintained schools.

We will come back with a second installment, published not on a Sunday, to analyse how this initiative relate to the education landscape for Classics.

Sol Day

Sol Day 02Feb2014 – It’s a small world

The Classics community is a small world. This statement might seem unsubstantiated and I will do little to substantiate it over this blog post, but this is where I shall start my post, because you must have heard these words vel sim before. Everyone knows everyone in the Classical world, or something like that.

Recently, we hear news that the Joint Association of Classical Teachers (JACT) is consulting about a merger with the Classical Association (CA). You can read about it here, and by now the representatives of both organisations would have met. One wonders what the conversations would have been: a shared goal of spreading Classics? You keep your annual CA and I keep my Bryanston? A joint Twitter feed? A joint campaign to bring Latin onto the National Curriculum? Collective outreach effort? A seamless transfer from A-Level Classics to degree-level Classics? It may even be sharing the Senate House office? Have a single secretariat? Ensure one pool of money is used effectively across the board?

I hope you will forgive me in that the suggested topic above is meant as a light-hearted enactment of the meeting of the organisations. It seems to me that JACT is serious in its consideration of merging with the Classical Association. Such a merger would represent the union of a professional organisation representing schoolteachers with a broad-based association serving those with any degree of interest in the classical world.

JACT was founded in 1963, at a time was not in crisis, but crises. The abolishment of Latin as a requirement to enter the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (realised slightly differently in each of the universities) coupled with the rise of comprehensive school are sparks in a world where classrooms were still obsessed in the grammar-translation-or-bust model. This is a world before Cambridge Latin Course, and that has been around for a while. The crises, the sparks, the triggers for schools to drop classical subjects. JACT was meant to reinvigorate that, and it achieved a varying degree of success over the years – yes Latin did not make it into the National Curriculum when it was established, but it did not fall off the cliff either.

William Thompson, a Lecturer in Classical Method at the University of Leeds (a department recently under threat of closure), was one of they key figure in establishing JACT, as was John Sharwood Smith of the Institute of Education (an organisation that no longer offers Classics):

Thompson had tried to persuade the CA to increase its subseciption which had remained unchanged from five shillings since the Association’s foundation and to transform itself into an organisation that would support teacher of schools Classics. Sharwood Smith had been involved in moves to expand the functions and to change the name of the ARLT [Association for the Reform of Latin Teaching].

Martin Forrest, Modernising the Classics (Exeter, 1996), p.16.

Given the proposed merger now, perhaps one could reach two conclusions – that the CA has taken up the mantel of promoting teaching of Classics in school and so this function, which JACT has performed valiantly recently, can be done collaboratively, and; there is no threat to Classical teaching and indeed it is very healthy.

Classics, on feeling, is not doing too badly in secondary education but can it still do better? Can the jobs of Classics teachers be made easier still? The inset days that JACT organises have been beneficial but does it seek other way of allowing idea sharing or crowdsourcing between teachers? It must be noted that in a world with organisations such as the Classics Library for sharing ideas, Classics for All for promoting Classics in general and in schools, The Iris Project for introducing Classics to schools that do not offer any Classical subjects beforehand, Oxford’s outreach effort for outreach effort (seemingly across the whole of United Kingdom) to existing school Classics department and the Classics in Communities project for advice and encouragement in increasing uptake of Classics at primary level, the Joint Association of Classical Teachers is slightly hidden in their midst.

Yet there must be a role for an organisation to Classical Teachers. It should be noted that last year Classics PGCE was almost left off the list of subjects for which bursary will be given to trainee teachers; now trainee teachers is set to gain the top tier of support as supposed to the second tier current trainees enjoy. In times where curriculum is frequently altered, a professional organisation such as this should be there to ensure that it is changed for the better. It could be argued that Gove was inherently interested in having Latin, Greek and Ancient History in the list of subjects measured by EBACC, but what about Classical Civilisation? What of the consultation to introduce an element of Englist-to-Latin composition at GCSE?

Which brings me back to the small world of Classics. I have recently attended some inset days for teachers and conferences for the academia. It is easy to recognised that there are different circles that Classicists move in, circles that are dictated by shared interests or aims. Classics teachers are often busy, but call an inset day with advice on teaching and they come together. The outlook of Classics teachers is different to that of the academics and the questions at inset days are more pragmatic than those of Classical conferences, reflecting their teaching needs.

In the recent eGreek and iLatin conference organised by the Open University (see Storify of the conference here) there were a lot of academics teaching ancient languages keen to share their eIdeas (or iIdeas?). Interestingly, there were a few attendees from the world of secondary education too. James Robson from the Open University was able to present on OU’s e-learning platform and it was useful to know, but there are also a lot of other projects based on existing websites and e-learning environment that was useful to share. In amongst the conversations, there have been some talk for collaboration – why don’t all the university collaborate their efforts and experience? There would be obstacle, of course – unique selling-point for the university which developed it, hard to get funding – but it is for the benefit of those who work within the Classics circle.

Indeed, should there not be collaboration at a school level too? The event, which was aimed at higher education, attracted professionals from the secondary education. This shows there are demands for such events aimed at secondary education too. It is also inherently the case that secondary education, with its set exam curriculum, generally different course books and time demand, has different realities to the pedagogy in higher education. The question is who will take up the mantel for organising such events? Not only on e-learning, but on informing formal curriculum, bringing alive Greek Art and Architecture through museums and web sources, teaching using TPRS or the inductive method, maximising school trips.

To do that,  we need a facilitator, a facilitator to make the world of Classicists and specifically of Classics teachers even smaller. At the moment, the Classics Library seems to perform that role best. Perhaps it is in this guise that JACT must decide whether it wishes to boldly take up a mantel to make the work of Classics Teachers lighter, or to quietly lie hidden in the big tent of the Classical Association. But let’s be clear – even if the latter path is chosen, the needs of Classical teachers will not vanish.

Sol Day

Sol Day 01Dec2013 – Onward, Classicists Soldiers

Classicists love Classics, but we Classicists are also increasingly getting ourselves mobilise to spread the love of Classics. It’s not easy always to have the chance to love Classics and we Classicists frequently speak to other Classicists, so in our bubble we may not always be aware that some people have no idea what Classics is. In this weekend’s inaugural conference of the project Classics in Communities we can see a group of keen, enthusiastic Classicists keen to address this.

The conference was attended by over 100 delegates and saw a very packed schedule – so packed that it was impossible to fit tea provision in until 4pm! In the day delegates were treated to reports of inspiring projects and brilliant individual efforts devoted to spreading the word of Classics. We hope to bring a fuller report anon.

The Classics in Communities project is itself a manifestation of the efforts of at least three individuals.

Outreach has been very much a buzzword in university-level academia and across the land we see varying levels of community and school engagements. The Classics outreach effort at the University of Oxford, ably and keenly led by Mai Musié, have tried to bring Classics to a greater audience and that should be saluted.

The Iris Project is a group that supports the outreach effort of various university Classics department. The project is based in Oxford and it recently opened and began running East Oxford Community Classics Centre, taking over a room at Cheney School in East Oxford. The Centre, and the project as a whole, exposes Classics to students who may never have enjoyed experiences in learning about the languages or stories of antiquity. The energies and vision of Dr Lorna Robinson is most laudable.

Evelien Bracke is the initiator of the Latin in the Park project in Swansea. In a pleasant setting students are able to acquire and practise Latin under the guidance of instructors. It is difficult to imagine a project such as this being realised without the organisation and oversight of Evelien.

There are many more who shared their projects: Steve Hunt, Bob Lister, Francesca Richards, Elisabeta Caçao. Some have focused on the primary level of education (which is the theme of this conference) whilst other have really brought Classics out into the community.

How do we do more? Not only to young children but to those beyond the age of compulsory education too. We need to keep Classics in the spotlight and ignite people’s interest in the Classical world from young, or allow people to develop their interest in Classics in their adulthood. The truth is, we all do our little bit and perhaps, if we each have a bit more time, we would do a bit more. We should thank the organisers for organising the conference and, when we do get a chance to have a cup of tea or coffee, we should ask not only what Classics can do for us, but ask also what we can do for Classics.