Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kindergarten at MIT

For those of you who don't know about Lifelong Kindergarten, take a look. Although it isn't meant to replace the name "lifelong learning," it would be a much a better way of expressing the same concept. It implies freedom to experiment, play, and a desire to learn because it's fun.

The papers are worth perusing. For those of us interested in network analysis, check out "Who Knows Whom in a Virtual Learning Network?" listed second or third. I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

But Wait, There's (Always) More

For those of you who are already persuaded that new languages come with new perspectives, or for Classics teachers looking for an unlikely use of dead languages, here's a site where you can get podcasts of current global news in Latin.

More on Latin and Why It's Big Stuff

Continuing from the last post . . .

So if Latin provides more than an exercise for intellectuals to learn about ancient culture and literature, how does it work? As important, will it work for the average teacher?

Road Tested

Metamorphosis can offer a program in Latin for teachers to enhance their lessons in any subject because its founder, Dr. Richard Gilder, has experienced the way it's changed the atmosphere in classrooms. In addition to offering workshops across the US, he currently teaches at Tuxedo Park School and City University of New York.

For those of you unfamiliar with New York, you couldn't get two institutions further apart in membership. The first is an expensive (what Americans call) private school, and the second is a state university with a diverse population of students -- most of whom don't have the money for (well) a posh, expensive alternative.

There's also a great deal of interest at schools in the South Bronx from teachers who want to show their students patterns in all sorts of data -- from language to the relationship among course areas.

Back to Grammar: through Latin More than Just Word Order, Vocabulary, and Punctuation (Which Really Should Be Enough)

Richard teaches Latin in relation to English. Whatever he demonstrates in Latin is practiced in English first. Through the exercises, the class explores variations of ways to express themselves in particular circumstances. Then they learn to recognize patterns in English that offer sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, logic behind the differences.

Why is This Fun?

Richard treats language like a complicated machine that can be taken apart and put back together again like a car engine -- or a computer. Sometimes language is more like a creature with both predictable and surprising behavior, the logic of which can be understood regardless of its movements.

This car engine, computer, or creature is one with which kids are already intimately familiar. It lives in their bodies and connects them to every person, object, and idea in their lives. Understanding how this works is fascinating to them.

And the Latin makes the lesson impossible to forget.

Latin for the Masses (And More than Even the Catholic Kind)

Continued from the last post . . .

Atra Luce is still in the process of transforming itself. It will offer several sorts of grants -- some of them are in coin and some in kind.

Both are under discussion, but one program has already been clearly articulated: using Latin to explore language in general and English in particular. The target market comprises schools where children struggle with achieving high standards in many subjects.

Why is This Unusual?

The study of Latin is generally considered to be an elitist pursuit. Most students in English-speaking countries choose French or Spanish -- and sometimes German -- if given a choice to study another tongue.

After all, who has time or use for a dead language other than those with no need to be relevant in this century? Even most Catholic schools dropped Latin as a requirement after Vatican II declared that religious services could be offered in the vernacular.

So What's the Problem?

Increasingly, teachers in English-speaking countries are not teaching students the grammar of their native language.

Many teachers to whom I spoke don't feel comfortable teaching it because no one taught it to them. Some told me they were taught to diagram sentences and found later that it (strangely) helped them very little to do anything other than -- well -- make diagrams. Still others had been forced to memorize rules that they couldn't remember because the logic had never been explained.

There is also the school of thought that students should learn to write without regard to structure in order to encourage them to feel comfortable in the medium. The premise is that once engaged and writing regularly, students will pursue the nuts and bolts of precision in future life.

Unfortunately, this doesn't often happen. Grammar doesn't sound like fun to anyone in traditional education. Furthermore (and maybe consequently), most of the teachers I spoke to -- from university through primary school -- blamed their predecessors for their students inability to recognize a sentence.

Why Does This Matter Anyway?

An understanding of how language works involves more than following rules. It makes one aware of the way we think as a culture and as indivduals. This awareness changes the way we perceive ourselves, others, and the rest of the world in which we live. This is big stuff.

More on this in the next post.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A New Educational Foundation: Atra Luce

It's been a month since the last post -- and now I'm proud to tell you about a new foundation of which I have become executive director.

It's called Atra Luce.

Atra Luce: What Does it Mean?

Atra Luce means "dark light" and describes the effect on a fury's torch when it hits the human seat of understanding. The furies transform men into poets this way -- as with any kind of learning, probably not very comfortable. But better than the alternative.

Here is the mission statement:

Atra Luce
The Foundation For Transformational Learning and Teaching

In Nova Corpora

The Mission of Atra Luce is to identify, encourage, support, and foster engaging, effective, transformative approaches to learning and teaching beyond the traditional educational curriculum.

The richest learning and teaching experiences are transformational. They challenge preconceptions, engender reconsiderations of old material, encourage consideration of the new. Such experiences are instrumental for intellectual growth in breadth and depth; they result in an on-going redefinition of limitations in an ever expanding circumference. Experiences of this ilk can spur a learner/teacher to take a different path - or make a new one all their own.

Atra Luce's Mission is to provide the opportunity for those experiences to happen.

For information on how to apply, please keep an eye out for coming posts.