Teaching Latin on an iPad: An experiment at Messiah College

An example of some of the things that Messiah College is trying to do in experimenting with digital technology in the classroom.  My colleague Joseph Huffman is more pessimistic than I about the promise of iPads and e-books, but I’m just glad we have faculty trying to figure it out.  See the full post at the link below.

You might not expect a historian of Medieval and Renaissance Europe to be among the first educators at Messiah College to volunteer to lead a pilot project exploring the impact of mobile technology—in this case, the iPad—on students’ ability to learn. But that’s exactly what happened.Joseph Huffman, distinguished professor of European history, and the eight students in his fall 2011 Intermediate Latin course exchanged their paper textbooks for iPads loaded with the required texts, relevant apps, supplementary PDFs and a Latin-English dictionary. The primary goal was to advance the learning of Latin. The secondary goal was to determine whether the use of the iPad improved, inhibited or did not affect their ability to learn a foreign language.Why Latin?“A Latin course is about as traditional a humanities course as one can find,” Huffman says. Because any foreign language course requires deep and close readings of the texts, studying how student learning and engagement are affected by mobile technology is especially provocative in such a classic course. In addition, Latin fulfills general language course requirements and, therefore, classes are comprised of students from a variety of majors with, perhaps, diverse experiences with mobile technologies like iPads.One aspect of the experiment was to explore whether students would engage the learning process differently with an iPad than a textbook.

The assumption, Huffman admits, is that today’s students likely prefer technology over books.Huffman’s experiences with his Latin 201 course—comprised of five seniors, two sophomores and one junior—challenged that commonly held assumption.

via Messiah College: Messiah News – Messiah College Homepage Features » iPad experiment.

5 thoughts on “Teaching Latin on an iPad: An experiment at Messiah College

  1. ryanalexanderhunt

    I’ve had my iPad for a couple years now and it’s long been my trusty Latin companion. It’s a good, but not great tool for Latin. The best Latin dictionaries on iOS are more focused on Classical than medieval Latin. A sizable number of Latin texts (both Classical and medieval) are available for free download via iBooks and Kindle. On the whole though, if I were to get serious about Latin again (I’ve all but given it up since shifting my focus to digital humanities) I’d chose a good paper dictionary and grammar book over anything available on the iPad.

  2. ryanalexanderhunt

    The more I use my iPad, the more I feel like it’s a transitional product between what we use now and what we’re going to use in the future. It hints at something revolutionary, but usually falls short. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next 5 years.

  3. Gideon Burton

    A lot of factors contribute to effective language or foreign literature comprehension. I can imagine a suite of apps working together: a good etext, a flash cards program, the right dictionaries, a grammar. Recently I’ve been pleased with the dual language iBook editions by doppeltext.com. I’m reading Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris in French on my iPad, clicking on any unfamiliar word and a full English phrase appears. At the same time, I am listening to the French audiobook. The combo is amazing. As for Latin, I can imagine all kinds of possibilities. I’m sure Ryan is right about the future. Quod erit iPadendum?

  4. Peter Kerry Powers Post author

    Thanks for the tip about doppeltext.com Gideon. Looks really interesting and I may try it out this summer. Wish there were more languages because I’ve been wanting to teach myself Italian. Would love to do it with some literary texts.


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