Thoreau’s Latin Letter

I was on a field trip at the Concord (MA) Museum today for a non-Latin class; it and the Pierpont Morgan are exhibiting Thoreau’s journals alongside his possessions. The Concord Museum has the possessions and the Morgan has the journals; the exhibit just left the Morgan and is now at the Museum. Our guide said that this is the first time that they have been together and, likely, the last time in our lifetime that they will be together.

The exhibit was great, of course. But I was pleasantly surprised to see some Latin in the exhibit, and I decided that my Latin class and I would look at these documents for class today (right when I got back from the field trip).

There is a flyer for Harvard’s commencement (in which Thoreau is featured) and a letter that he wrote to his sister. The plan was for the students to transcribe the letter (and deal with the handwriting), and then we’ll read it and the flyer together. My students, of course, quickly found a transcription online but, to their credit, largely ignored it and worked with the handwriting. It also took longer than I thought (as it often does).

I Googled Thoreau’s Latin letters and found this quick entry but that seems to be about it, at least at the top level of a Google search. The entry references a volume that reproduces both the Latin and the English (which is what my students found); you can download those pages here (though you do have to skip around a bit) and here is the title page for citation purposes:

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I hadn’t even noticed too when I first saw the letter that he includes a local variant of Horace’s Mt. Soracte poem.

But it was a cool thing to do and to read. I reproduce them here, as well as the placards for the letter.

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Legonium Tweet

I could probably post tens, if not hundreds, of tweets from Legonium / @tutubuslatinus, but I happened upon these tonight and their use of visual plus Latin made them worthwhile (again, pure happenstance that I, well, happened upon this particular one).

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Manuscript Week and Swivl’s Recap

So a bit more technology perhaps than Latin, but I’ll return to some Latin below. I’m a Swivl Pioneer and so was alerted to the launch of Recap, a website that allows students to interact via video with questions the teacher poses. (I’ve heard this is similar to VoiceThread, which I know of but with which I am not directly familiar.)

In my Medieval Lit class, we’re focusing on manuscripts for the next few weeks, and so I thought I’d turn my class loose with Recap and some introductory videos on MSS to see how Recap works.

Once you’re logged in to Recap, you make classes:

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There’s my Medieval class.

At the upper right of that screen is the ‘Add Recap’ button, which allows you to write questions for your students to answer and you can set the length of max response (2 mins max).

When I first started writing the questions, I was sticking to largely objective questions (because they were the ones that came to mind) but I realized that it seemed somewhat wasteful for students to record answers to objective questions (though I was happier with the video responses to those questions than I expected; more on that below). As I went on, however, I made more open-ended questions, including questions that required physical props; this, it would seem, is the real advantage to Recap, is the ability to hold before the camera in a dynamic way objects to enhance a response.

Once the students answer and submit, the teacher has a summary screen:

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(At the risk of sounding defensive, the students were working in groups, which is why the percentage is so low.)

You can see too that students are able to rate their understanding with a simple visual key and student videos are available for watching at the bottom.

Here’s a screen-scroll of all of the responses / summary screens:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

Recap also produces (and I mean that to some extent in the technical sense as well) a ‘Daily Review Reel’ (at upper right) that puts together the videos with some music, borders, and the question at the beginning. (I’m not quite sure why all of the videos didn’t make the review reel but I did find that you could add or subtract videos from the reel; perhaps they try to keep the review reel on the shorter side?)

Here’s a link to the video (Recap provides this; no embed code as far as I could find). And here’s the screen-grabbed video:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

In the end, I’m always trying to assess whether a new tool like this has staying power. Is it an effective tool for me and my students to make more efficient and more successful my teaching and their learning? The easy answer is I don’t know. They were initially skeptical (at best) of videoing their answers but, once they got used to the idea, they produced good responses in a more natural and comfortable way. I enjoyed listening to the answers because their personalities came through. And even for the objective questions, which, as I said above, I felt like was a bit of a waste for this kind of format, it seemed like they had a better handle on that objective information than they would have if they were writing it down, filling in a blank, etc. I will try to do circle back to this information later to test that sense, but that was an initial impression.

So a good first foray. I think finding the right kind of assignments for this is important, but I’ll continue to experiment with it. I’m excited to try it with Latin because I feel like it could be a good way to get more students involved in a more natural way for open-ended material, i.e. students can interpret text, offer different readings, speculate on grammatical usage, etc., in what feels like a much less pressured environment (the video response) than in front of the whole class.