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.
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.
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