The first full year run of Operation LAPIS is in the books. The final mission was finished on Monday. The exam was completed yesterday. I've learned a great deal over the past academic year and in a series of posts, I plan to reflect upon and share some of the anecdotal pieces of evidence on just how powerful practomimetic learning can be. Next week we'll be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to the Games, Learning and Society Conference and I'm very excited to share LAPIS with a wider game-based learning audience.
Originally I started the year teaching one section of Latin I that was presented in the traditional format while the other section came in on the first day to find out they were tasked with saving western civilization as we know it. As the year went on and the other section caught wind of what their peers were up to, eventually I had to cave and in the middle of March, I brought the other group into the fold; albeit on the fast track through the missions and the storyline. This proved to be a fortunate decision because the newer group proved to me something that I had long thought would be true -- the full narrative is indeed vital for thorough and meaningful fulfillment of the learning objectives.
While the newer group was clearly impacted positively in terms of engagement with the material, because they were on such a fast track, they just didn't have the deeper understand or connection with the material as the original full-year LAPIS group. This became most evident on their prompt responses for the final mission. After reading and translating a passage of decent length, the students (as part of their final assessment) had to do what they've done all year: respond to the immersion prompt, taking into account the world-view of their character. The only difference was this one was a solo mission.
Over the past few weeks, as I noted in previous posts, they were researching and giving speechs as part of the trials to gain access to the headquarters of the Societās Potentium. All of those speeches were intentionally laying the foundation for them to understand the collapse of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the Principate under Augustus. They did a great job at understanding how the Gracchi led to Marius which lead to Caesar... but could they tie it all together for Antony and Octavian?
The answer was that in a timed exam, under pressure, the results were very mixed. But at the very least they could demonstrate their awareness of how Octavian fit into the big picture. However, I do want to show an example of one of the best responses from the newer LAPIS group (the third of the year group) and the original full year group.
Example from the newer group:
If I could align myself with either Octavian or Anthony I would align with neither of them. Octavian although a great leader, used his power to persuade the Roman senators into a fight that didn’t nessasarily need to occur. When he wanted to start the war, he made sure to persuade the senators to declare war, so it was official and couldn’t be argued against. He started the conflict that would end the lives of both Anthony and Cleopatra. Because my Recentius’s view is very political, Octavian persuading the senators to start this war seems very harsh and it almost seems as though he wanted a war for no reason, but turned the senators against Anthony. Now Anthony on the other hand isn’t perfect either. He left Rome to be with Cleopatra and told her he would give her land that the Romans owned. This is completely going against the idea that he wanted to help Rome at all. I think that him making a decision like this was a good reason for the Romans to be upset but maybe not so upset that a war turned to the outcome, because the land was still technically owned by the Romans. It wasn’t Anthonys to be giving away. So in the end I believe that both sides had mistakes that they seemed to make and in the end the both chose the wrong decision to stick with. They both could have thought their decisions through before they made them.
This is a great, thoughtful, and thorough response to the question of whom would they align themselves with. This particular student was the only one who chose to aid neither man. I love the risk taking that happened here that I'm not sure would happen in any other setting.
Now, for those wondering what true practomimetic learning looks like, here's something that I would love to make into a poster:
Titus thought for a moment on what would be the correct choice, tapping his chin in contemplation of the matter while he considered the story that Sextus had just relayed to him. It certainly did clear some things up, that much was true. With a heavy sigh, Titus turned his eyes from the ground up to the image of Sextus and declared. “I align myself with Octavius.” he stopped to collect his thoughts and became just slightly distracted by the annoying sting of the arm wound he acquired earlier in the day, a bit sickened by the fact that he had only earlier engaged in mortal combat and was now supposed to work up the mind to make a firm decision. Ah, saving the world is quite a fair burden, eh? Shaking his head of further complaint, he cleared his throat and continued “Having been the true heir of Caesar, it was only natural that the late Augustus seized power. ‘Tis the goal of all men who have ambition, it seems. And the conflict with Antony could be seen as inevitable, since Rome has been through the same sad song-and-dance time and time again. The Second Triumvirate’s rather rocky relations made it far too unwieldy to properly oversee the internal functions of Rome, so in some way it was best for the three, that is, Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus, to break off from each other and better place power in a more resolute, single direction. While one may see Octavius’s actions to dispose of Antony as being of rather underhanded political maneuvering (i.e, having the war declared on Cleopatra rather than on Antony, thereby circumnavigating the slippery slope of official civil war entirely), perhaps it was for the best. One can only imagine how different things would be in the event that Rome was taken under the clutches of Antony, assisted by Cleopatra. Personally, all I can say is that the aftereffects of Octavius’ victory led to the Pax Romana. And if anything good were to come of the Battle of Actium, then that would be the primary thing. For it was about time that Rome set down its weapons and embraced peace, if only for a time.” Titus explained, looking a little bit weary of having had to explain himself. Right now, all he wanted was a nice nap. But there was no time for such matters. There were still things that he and his cousins had to do. So, he stood straight and watched the other Recentii closely. ‘Well, Titus. You’ve already killed a man.’ he thought, furrowing his brow. ‘And it looks like you might need to man up and do it some more.... So that no one needs to resort to violence again.’
That's what practomimetic learning looks like. That's the power of the narrative.