At this year’s American Classical League Institute, Romae.org and its Amicitia social network were showcased to professionals in the field of Classical Studies. The focus was on how social networking could be used to augment education in a Latin classroom, starting with defining a social network and how using such technology could be directly applied. There is a strong need for such a tool, and the reaction was one filled with strong interest. In order to help make an efficient use of the tools in the Amicitia, I wanted to post some basic tips that may help.
The main purpose of the Amicitia is to foster a community of learners around the subjects of Latin, ancient Greek, history, and other topics in the field of Classics. The most effective way to do this is to join these pockets of learners in the form of groups. If there is a subject you are interested in, search through the groups to find it and join that group. If you can’t find one, then consider starting a group yourself!
There are a few groups you should look to join in the beginning, to get a feel for the tools and how to work within a social network. Start with the Colloquia group – it is a general discussion group that allows members of the Amicitia to exchange ideas on a range of topics. Also, take a look at the Rome In Situ group – it was spawned around the pre institute workshop consisting of participants from last year’s program. There are several members that are experienced in applying technology in a classroom and also know their way around the Amicitia network.
If you are a teacher, you will want to create a group for your classes. I recommend that you create a group for each subject you teach as opposed to each class. For example, if you have 3 Latin I classes, you will need to post the homework assignment three times – once in each group. If, however, you create 1 Latin I group, and enroll all of your students in that group, you will only need to post that assignment once. Groups built around your classes should also be set to Private where only members requesting access can get in. You should also limit only yourself to be the group’s admin, although you could assign students as moderators if you felt the need arose.
The Amicitia is filled with members. Another strength of joining a social network is, well, networking! You should find members that you would like to stay in contact with and, much like any other social network, add them as a friend. You can easily do this by navigating to a particular member’s profile and selecting this option. The more friends you make, the more activity will start to pop up whenever you come back to the site.
This is also a great way to monitor your students’ activity on the site. By friending them, you can have an easier time keeping track of them. You can also easily invite them to your class group through the Send Invite feature within the group.
Making Amicitia a Part of Your Class
I like to make this an easy assignment to start the year. Instead of printing out and giving everyone a syllabus, I post it online and have my students print out an “acknowledgement” page, sign it, and bring it back to me to put it on file. I do this for a few reasons – to ensure that they know how to navigate to the tools we will be using online throughout the year, but also to make sure they are properly registered, etc.
Here is what I recommend – but you are free to adapt these in anyway:
- Sign up for an account at Romae.org’s Amicitia – create a “teacher” account; one where you won’t be afraid to share with your students as well as to use as a means to connect with other teachers on the site.
- Create a group for each of your SUBJECTS – you can create as many groups as you’d like but for sanity’s sake, you may want to create a group for each subject (Latin I, for example) instead of for each class (see above under Groups).
- Make each student acquire an “academic” Gmail account – a combination of their first name, last name with a Gmail extension. This allows them to use the Google suite of tools, which can be very useful, and give them access to features they will need heading up through college. Getting them started now only gives them an advantage so help them out!
- Have each student sign up on Romae.org’s Amicitia – using their newly acquired Gmail account, of course. This way when you send out emails to the group, they will get them in their “academic” correspondence.
For fun, you should encourage your students to create their own avatar for their profile. An easy way to do this is to tell them about Gravatar, which allows members to manage avatars associated with their email addresses. For example, anytime your students create an account using their new “academic” Gmail account, the picture they uploaded at Gravatar will pop up automatically. Or, they could just navigate into their Amicitia profile and change it there. Believe it or not, your students may do this automatically without you having to instruct them – as mine did!
Assignments and Assessments
There are several ways you can manage this but here is a general suggestion: I would announce an assignment in class, and then post it on my website (if you want to have a website for your classes on Romae, definitely contact me and I can help you with that). That way there is no question about when it was due and what the directions where (I even linked it to my Twitter account so students who followed me received updates on assignments there as well – no excuses! I will write about this in a future article). More importantly, you can use the Amicitia as a hub for your homework assignments and here’s how.
There are several types of assignments (I will post an article on this in more detail in the future) you could give your students ranging from reading comprehension to general practice or even a review. The best way to achieve this would be to use the Forum feature within your group – post your assignment there, complete with directions, and have your students log in and do their work there.
You need to make the activity easy to assess and one way to figure that out is by using a simple eyeball test. If you are looking to grade based on completion, then you can simply look to see if the the student did the assignment and document it in your grade book. If you are looking for mistakes and will grade accordingly, you can do that on the Amicitia as well – perhaps instead of telling the student what they got wrong, suggest it to them so you can coach them through the use of the language. You can even use the @ feature built into the Amicitia (much like Twitter) so that your student will get a notification that will direct them to your comment.
These are just a few general ways you can use the Amicita social network here at Romae.org to help augment your class. One of the great things about Amicitia is that it most likely is not blocked by your school’s internet (unlike Facebook or other sites) and it serves as an academic network only with less distractions (you won’t see your students posting about their daily lives and gossip on Amicitia!). In today’s ever-infringing world of technology, it is always good to have some boundaries and the Amicitia helps establish that while at the same time leveraging the great tools behind social networking that engage students and encourage learning.