10.19.2014

Live "Turn-based" Episode in Class

At the end of last week, I decided to do something special with my Latin I students when they reached Operation LAPIS episode 2.3b (in the villa of M. Maecenas). This is always one of my favorite episodes for the students and it is one that becomes a memorable experience for them as well (often they'll still talk about it as juniors and seniors). I've written about this episode before but this time I ran it "live" in class as a turn-based RPG throw-back. The results were so powerful that I don't think I'll ever not do it this way again.



Setup and "rules" in class:

  1. Using a Google Drawing, I imported a copy of the map for episode 2.3 and using simple smiley-face icons to represent the Recentii and the guards in the house, I "moved" them around in real time as the operative-teams controlled their Recentius. You can see the map here: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/164ul9w8CFV2F2rC39fO3WEiPxzJKj3Ys5n4ExZmzXX4/edit?usp=sharing
  2. Using random.org to roll dice to determine order, we established the sequence in which the characters would move.
  3. Operative teams were allowed to make one "action" per term (i.e., Bellator ambulat ad latrinam or Octaviana capit stolam.)
  4. Operative teams were given two minutes to discuss what their action would be. When they were ready, one member of the team called out "Bellator movet!" and all the other groups would immediately fall silent and pay attention to the team whose turn it was to act. (This worked unbelievably well!)
  5. One member of the team would say what they were planning to do while simultaneously posting it to the Edmodo thread for the episode.
  6. Me (acting as the TSTT) would then post a response to their action. Some replies were on the fly, others came from stock descriptions provided for Agents in the Episode Guide (i.e., the room descriptions, etc).
  7. As a class we would read the character's action and the TSTT reply together, checking for understanding.
  8. Next team would then be on the clock to move.

Initial Thoughts:

  • Engagement was through the roof. In between actions, I was walking around the classroom monitoring discussions. Through both periods that we ran this episode, there wasn't a single time when a single student was "off task." They were focused and plugged in. I attribute a great deal of this to the immersive qualities of the game-based learning environment. 
  • Operative teams paid very close attention to what their allies were doing. When it was a team's time to move, the rest of the class was listening intently and looking for additional clues.
  • There was an incredible amount of comprehensible Latin in both periods. This included the Latin that the students read, but also what they produced. Remember, output by one operative team became input for the three other teams. I'm becoming more and more convinced of the power that meaningful and relevant output by peers has on other students' ability to acquire more ability in the language. Hearing me speaking, reading things I've written is one thing -- it's something else entirely when it's done by a peer.
  • Lots of repetitions with structures. It is so important to provide ample opportunity for modeling correct usage and for the students to see structures, words, and phrases repeated. Running the episode in this format, in class, with the limit of actions allowed for lots of practice with various structures even at this early stage in their Latin careers.
  • The learning objectives for this episode (rooms and functions of a typical Roman villa) are now situated in context for the students. They were "moving" in and around the rooms, interacting with objects contained within. This experience becomes far more powerful for them and their ability to retain the information as opposed to simply reading about the rooms in a culture section of a typical textbook.
  • I want to take a look at additional episodes throughout Operation LAPIS to see how I can replicate a similar experience at various other points throughout the year.

Transcript of the Episode:

(2.3.b)
>Vīlla of Marcus Maecēnās, Pompēiī, 79 CE<

tū in ātrium intrās. tū larārium dextrā vidēs. larārium est malīgnum. tū quoque lectum geniāle vidēs. ātrium est dēsertum. clāmōrem ē peristyliō in trīclīniō audīs.

Prompt: find the volūmen in vīllā of M. Maecēnās. You are free to explore any area of the house that you wish, but be on the lookout for Marcus and his guards.
Codex Link: http://lapis.practomime.com/index.php/104-hud023
Live Map: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/164ul9w8CFV2F2rC39fO3WEiPxzJKj3Ys5n4ExZmzXX4/edit?usp=sharing

Bellator said Oct 16, 2014: Bellator festinat clam to ad Locum V
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Bellator ambulat ad locum V (tablinum) sed conspicit (catches sight) custodem extra (outside of) ianuam. custos non videt Bellatorem. revenit ad Recentiōs in ātrium. 
Octaviana said Oct 16, 2014: Octaviana clam ambulat ad cubiculum. 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Octaviana ambulat ad cubiculum. in cubiculō est lectus. tunica et toga in lectō iacent. cista quoque est in cubiculō. cista est clausa. clāvem nōn habēs. aliquid nitidum sub lectō cēlat. 
Priscus said Oct 16, 2014: Priscus intrat in different cublicum, priscus quaerit est volumen 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Priscus ambulat ad alium cubulicum. in cubiculō est lectus. stolla in lectō iacet. 
Tulliana said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana ambulat ad peristylum et clam spectat around a column. 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana ambulat at peristylum. lūna in peristyliō lūcet. via est in mediō peristyliō. frutex in viā est. lūmen ē trīclīniō venit. clāmor ē trīclīniō venit. custōs in iānuā stat. custōs tē nōn vidēt. aliquid nitidum prope fruiticum latet. 
Bellator said Oct 16, 2014: Bellator ambulat clam to ad locum VII 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Bellator ambulat ad latrinam. in lātrīnā est multum stercoris. cavum est in mediā lātrīnā. aliquid nitidum prope cavum in lutō cēlat. 
Octaviana said Oct 16, 2014: Octaviana nitidum sub lecto capit. 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Octaviana quaerit sub lectō. sub lectō est rōbīginōsus gladius. Octaviana capit gladium robignosum. 
Priscus said Oct 16, 2014: priscus valde quaerit sub lecto et in cubiculo 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Priscus quaerit sub lectō. eheu! est nihil sub lectō in hōc cubiculō. 
Tulliana said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana ambulat ad fruticem et capit aliquid nitidum. 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana capit aliquid nitidum. ecce! est stola fulva! Tulliana ponit stollam in suō saccō. 
Bellator said Oct 16, 2014: Bellator quarit ad cavum for ad nitidum 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: in stercore Bellator invenit clavem! est sordidus. bellator capit clavem et ponit in suō saccō. 
Octaviana said Oct 16, 2014: Octaviana ambulat ad tablinum cum robiginosus gladius. 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Octaviana ambulat ad tablinum. habet gladium in suā manū. custōs videt Octavianam. custos nunc est iratus. custōs capit gladium ā Octavianā. dicit, "hic gladius est mihi! custos vocat alium custodem quī ducit Octavianam ad ianuam. 
Priscus said Oct 16, 2014: priscus clam intrat in another cubilicum 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: in cubiculō est lectus. tunica et toga in lectō iacent. cista quoque est in cubiculō. cista est clausa. clāvem nōn habēs 
Priscus said Oct 16, 2014: priscus capit tunicam 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Priscus capit tunicam et ponit tunicam in suō saccō. 
Tulliana said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana ambulat ad columnam prope tablinum. Tulliana videt custodem in ianua of tablinum 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana spectat custodem. custos ambulat in tablinō. via ad culinam est vacua! 
Tulliana said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana ambulat ad culinam et spectat in culina 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: Tulliana ambulat ad culinam. mēnsa est in mediā culīnā. in mēnsā est cēna optima. ecce! coquus est in sellā. coquus tamen in sellā dormit. prope coquum est mappa ōrnāta. litterae “SP” in mappā sunt. 
Octaviana said Oct 16, 2014: (two actions at once since their similar and so you dont need to type more) Octaviana atrium quaerit et Octaviana lararium quaerit. 
TSTT said Oct 16, 2014: In the corner of the atrium stands the Larārium.
larārium Marcī est malīgnum et antīquum. statua in larariō est frācta. statua lapidem in manū tenet. statua gladium in aliā manū tenet.

Octaviana quoque quaerit lectum genialis. lectus geniālis est in ātriō. lectus est līgneus et imāginem Iūnōnis habet. litterae ‘SP’ in lectō sunt. strāgulum in lectō iacet. aliquid nitidum sub pulvīnō cēlat. 
Bellator said Oct 16, 2014: (Also 2 actions) Bellator festinat clam to ad locum III. Bellator aperit cistam with the key. 
Tulliana said Oct 17, 2014: Tulliana clam intrat culina et vero tacite capit mappa 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Bellātor tenet clavem in manu et aperit cistam. *click* Bellator cistam inspectat. in cistā est rōbīginōsa galea. Bellator capit galeam et gerit in capite. 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014Tulliana capit mappam et ponit mappam in suo sacco. coquus movet sed non excitat se. coquus dormit adhuc (still). 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: custos exit ē tablinō et ambulat ad latrinum. tarde. (slowly.) 
Bellator said Oct 17, 2014: Bellator crepit clam to ad other locum III 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Bellator intrat cubiculum et videt pallium in lectō. 
Tulliana said Oct 17, 2014: Tulliana ambulat ad tablinum. 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Tulliana ambulat ad tablinum et circumspectat. The tablīnum is empty of people, but full of papers. 
tū in tablīnum intrās. tū mēnsam vidēs in tablīnō. stat mēnsa māgna in tablīnō. in mēnsā est lumen. in mēnsā est tabella. in mēnsā est lapis. in mēnsā est volūmen. 
in tablīnō quoque stat mēnsa parva. 
Priscus said Oct 17, 2014: Priscus clam intrus the final cubuiculum 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: cubiculum est vacuum. mane! (wait) est cera et stylus in cubiculō! 
Octaviana said Oct 17, 2014: Octaviana capit nitidus aliquid sub pulvino. 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Octaviana quaerit sub lectō et invenit (discovers) multam pecuniam! Octaviana nunc habet quinque (V) denarios! 
Bellator said Oct 17, 2014: Bellator capit pallium 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Bellātor capit pallium cinereum et gerit pallium in tergo. 
Tulliana said Oct 17, 2014: Tulliana quaerit volumen et tabella. 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Tulliana legit tabellam. tabella est negotium de equiis (about horses). Tulliana legit volumen. estne volumen verum? 
Link to the volumen: http://links.practomime.com/volumenrg 
Priscus said Oct 17, 2014: Priscus quaerit per cera et capit cera 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: est nihil in cerā. Priscus capit ceram et ponit in suo sacco. 
Octaviana said Oct 17, 2014: octaviana capit lapidem in staue manu 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Octaviana capit lapidem sed, ecce, non est lapidem. est aquila! Octaviana capit aquilam et ponit in suo sacco. 
Bellator said Oct 17, 2014: Bellator Ambulat to ad locum IV 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Bellator ambulat ad culinam sed coquus nunc surgit e sellā. Bellator currit ad tablinum et spectat at rimam quod Bellator amat rimās. 
Tulliana said Oct 17, 2014: Tuliana quaerit rimam in muro 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Priscus currit ad tablinum. Octaviana currit ad tablinum. 
TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: Tulliana quaerit rimam et invenit volumen! Tulliana capit volumen! 
Link to volumen: http://links.practomime.com/volumenmarci

TSTT said Oct 17, 2014: quisque Recentius currit per villam et exit. tua persona revenit (returns) ad villam Sexti.

4.09.2014

Thoughts on the ALIRA Exam

I just wanted to share my comments about the ALIRA Exam; we gave the exam to our Latin 1 and Latin 3 students today.

The exam is very short; the website says it has a 50 minute timer. Most of the Latin 1s were done in under 10 minutes, most of the Latin 3s were done in under 15. I'm a little concerned that there aren't enough tasks before it ends the exam in order to get a true sense of where the student is at. Most of my I2 and I3 scored students saw 12-14 questions, my I4 and 5s saw about 18. Those in the novice range saw fewer than 10.

The Latin sources used were indeed varied in context and in time. I do question the design choice to provide this weird papyrus background with a fake script font for the bulk of the passages. My students said it was distracting and I'd definitely agree. There's really no reason to create a faux-situated experience on an examination in that manner. You can see some examples of it here in the ALIRA sample test.

There was a big show-stopping bug which impacted a handful of students (I did email Language Testing International about it, hopefully I'll hear back soon) and invalidated their scores. I had a couple of solid Latin 3 students score N1 (and one even score BR - below the range). Interestingly enough, all four of them ended on the exact same question (about 13 questions in) and no one else saw that question in their rotation. I hope that the question can be fixed or removed as others take the exam.

In the end, many of my students walked away with a bolstered confidence level and affirmation that they were on the right track. My Latin 3s were, by in large, right where I thought they'd be knowing the students. Most were I2 and I3, a few I4 and 5.

The Latin 1s were the surprise of the bunch; except for 3 N1s (and I suspect a test error here, too), everyone was I1 or above with a large cluster at I3. In essence, ALIRA is telling me that our Latin 1 students are at the same place our Latin 3 students are in terms of ability to comprehend a text. I need some time to digest this data and think about how a few things may be impacting those scores; but my Latin 3s are really the last vestiges of my former life of reliance on a more grammar-translation-reading approach and the Latin 1s, in addition to having a lot more CI-type activities embedded in their daily instruction, also have the added benefit of 2 full years of refinement to Operation LAPIS aiding them as well.

Overall, though, I'm very pleased with the ALIRA exam, the time to administer it, and the information (if it is indeed accurate) that it provides. I'm not convinced it's a $10 test, however. That price needs to come down so that I (and others) can administer it program-wide each year.

In an effort for those of us using ALIRA to gauge where our students are at as a whole, I want to start compiling data for exams given this year. I created this Google Form for anyone who wants to contribute:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1sx87t04SkDYByBWXKghbmXJHm5iAq3Xjc7Nuf_uvSVo/viewform

Names and schools won't be published (included that space, though, to help ensure that we're not getting false data), only raw numbers for proficiency at each course level.

If you have had experience with ALIRA, it would be great to share your thoughts, so please do!

7.03.2013

An Example of the Classroom Flow of Operation LAPIS

I'm always asked what the flow of Operation LAPIS looks like in a typical classroom over a typical few days. Since I was adding a page for the equivalent of the teacher's guide, I figured that I would also post this here. Each episode has two parts (A and B), each mission has 3 episodes, and there are 28 missions across the entire curricula. LAPIS can be used as a stand-alone source or in conjunction with most popular textbook series. The generic example here is in a stand-alone setting.

Operation LAPIS

Day 1 - Start of a new Mission
  • Post the new episode (part A) to the TSTT Interface
  • Teams collaboratively read through the new immersion
    • Students utilize VERBA and GRAMMATICA sections for new words and constructions
    • Monitor the teams as they work their way through
  • Review the immersion as a group, reviewing any new or unfamiliar constructions
    • If necessary, a small amount of direct instruction based on the content GRAMMATICA section
  • Hypothesize about potential cultural and historical information needed for the immersion
  • Teams read the CULTURALIA section of the CODEX and use the comprehension questions in the ATTUNEMENT section as scaffolding for the immersion response
    • Monitor the teams as they read and work on the comprehension questions
Day 1 - Outside of Class
  • Teams collaborate on a response by their character in their team-specific areas
    • Monitor discussions and intervene as necessary
  • Lead Operative posts their character's action in the main TSTT thread
  • Respond in-character as other NPCs, or continue telling the story as linking narrative
    • Award denariī (if after Mission 3.3)
Day 2 - In class
  • Read the in-character responses of each team as a group
  • Make minor corrections to Latin that are common mistakes with the intention to not "over do" the correction. Instead of emphatically correcting every small bit, continually model correct usage in order to not interfere or impact the willingness to compose in the target language.
    • Excellent opportunity to utilize circling techniques to ask questions about each character's actions in the TL
  • KEY-TEXT reading:
  • Project the KEY-TEXT on a whiteboard, play accompanying audio file and ask students to listen and follow along
    • Each team collaboratively reads the KEY-TEXT for meaning
      • Utilize roll-over tooltips and visual walkthrough if needed for new vocabulary or constructions
    • Monitor the teams as they read
  • Each team then collaboratively responds to the reading comprehension questions in the ATTUNEMENT section
    • Monitor the teams as they respond in the TL
  • Come back together as a group, review comprehension questions
    • Another excellent opportunity for circling techniques to ask additional questions in the TL
  • Post the new episode (part B) to the TSTT Interface
  • Teams collaboratively read through the new immersion
Day 2 - Outside of Class
  • Teams collaborate on a response by their character in their team-specific areas
    • Monitor discussions and intervene as necessary
  • Lead Operative posts their character's action in the main TSTT thread
  • Respond in-character as other NPCs, or continue telling the story as linking narrative to next Episode
    • Award denariī (if after Mission 3.3)
Day 3 - In class
  • Read the in-character responses of each team as a group
  • Make minor corrections to Latin that are common mistakes with the intention to not "over do" the correction. Instead of emphatically correcting every small bit, continually model correct usage in order to not interfere or impact the willingness to compose in the target language.
    • Excellent opportunity to utilize circling techniques to ask questions about each character's actions in the TL
  • Teams collaboratively work on remaining ATTUNEMENT exercises
    • Monitor teams as they work through the exercises
  • Teams collaborate on the memoratio for the episode in the TL
    • Using memoratio questions in the ATTUNEMENT if needed
    • Acts a closure activity for the episode

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for composition, speaking, listening, and reading in the target language. Because all of the content is situated inside of the narrative, it also affords a level of cultural competency that tends not to be seen in a traditional textbook driven classroom.

6.23.2013

Operation LAPIS: Virtue Trait System

What better way to kick off summer than by sharing a brand new trait system for the Recentiī player-characters in Operation LAPIS? As a little bit of a background, one common suggestion from students was that the player characters didn't quite feel like they were truly in an RPG. We solved this to a small degree last year with the introduction of the denarii rewards and gear system.
Points, traits, and levels are key components of most RPGs -- whether it be a pen and paper table-top game or a popular video game. However, given our insistence that learning objectives map onto play objectives, grafting on a superficial system of strength or charisma points just wouldn't be acceptable. I also wanted to find a way to bring the core Roman values into play in a meaningful way. 

Virtūtēs

Each character now has six different virtues that will not only shape their character in a more dynamic way, but also scaffold additional elements to the role-playing. These virtues will also help scaffold responses on the part of the Agent of the Demiurge (the instructor) when interacting with their students inside of the immersive world of the TSTT. 
Progress bars and rank increases should make the character feel more playful
There are a couple of neat technical features built into the character sheet. First, the progress bars, cost to next rank, and ability bonus based on the current level are all automatically awarded as the trait increases.

Each virtue, if the operatives choose to specialize, has a capstone ability and subsequently grants an additional agnomen to the character. For example, upon reaching rank 10 in 'auctōritās', the character is automatically granted the agnomen 'Aquilīnus', or 'Eagle-like'. From this point forward, he would be known as Gaius Recentius Bellator Aquilinus.


In addition, there is a dropdown menu selector that further describes what the Romans thought about each of these traits. Our hope is that the way the abilities are described, and the added description box, the students will understand that the Roman virtues were primarily based on how others perceived you (which, I think, is a bit different than traits and stats in most modern RPGs).

Puncta Virtūtis

So how do operatives gain points with which to advance their character's traits? This is where a new self-reporting system of 'Virtue Points' comes into play. In order to make a system where choice has meaning, the point system has to be balanced so that it would be incredibly difficult to max out everything. As a result, puncta virtūtis are tied to the entire team's participation in the discussion for each immersion.

If all members of a team contribute in some meaningful way on an episode, the character receives 3 puncta virtūtis. If the lead-operative fulfills his or her duty and posts the response of the character, the team receives an additional bonus of 2 puncta virtūtis. The intention here is to encourage full participation each immersion since so much of the student's success is driven by their engagement with the material. This incentive system, since it is tied in no way to evaluation or assessment, encourages and rewards engagement in an innocuous way. You'll also notice that the character level (gradus) also increases automatically as the trait levels are increased. Again, this is to make the character system feel a bit more playful without compromising the core values of practomimetic learning. 

Like the denarii system, self-reporting and management on the part of the operatives is also a very important aspect of this system since it encourages the type of responsibility for self that we'd like to see in all of our students.

If you'd like to play around with the sheet for Gaius Recentius Bellator, feel free to access a publicly viewable sheet here and make your own copy. However, there are still a few things to clean up and to add before all eight Recentii characters are updated to the new system and ready for the fall. 

Hope you enjoy the new trait system and it makes the characters feel more playful!

2.04.2013

Simple PBL

PBL (problem or project) based-learning doesn't have to be a huge formal assignment. It is more of a state-of-mind than anything else. I just wanted to share a small example of this that spontaneously happened during class last week.

One of the Recentius teams in Operation LAPIS, while working on a particular collaborative task, strayed a bit off topic -- discussing giraffes of all things. They came to the decision that they wanted to buy a giraffe to keep as a pet (ignoring the logistics of such a thing, we'll just let it slide for now) and subsequently asked me how much denarii (a type of Roman currency) they would need in order to buy a giraffe. I haven't ever read an ancient source that listed a specific price for a giraffe (although we know they were sold and displayed around the empire), and so that would pose a problem to arbitrarily assign a price.

According to Dio, Caesar brought a giraffe with him back from Alexandria
Instead of declaring "No, you cannot buy a giraffe.", I explained to them how I set the price for some of the gear (see the post linked above), and then asked them how they could estimate what a giraffe might have cost a Roman in the time period of our adventure.

In a few minutes of discussion and problem solving, they decided that if the average salary of a Roman soldier was 225 denarii, and then they estimated the salary of a current soldier of around $35,000, they could use that ratio of denarii to dollars in order to estimate the cost of a giraffe. After some research, they discovered that (apparently) a giraffe costs around $30,000 on the open market and so if they saved up about 200 denarii, they could have their own virtual giraffe pet. (I suppose I'll have to let them know what the upkeep is after the initial purchase.)

There it is right there -- problem-based learning, not as a huge elaborate thing, but as an approach to how and why you learn new information. While there are obvious problems with the accuracy of the price that they figured out, nevertheless we have the ability to foster this kind of inquisitive knowledge on a daily basis. We should routinely embrace, not squash, these opportunities to model authentic exploration.