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Living Latin: Home at Last …

2017-04-10 16.07.59Unbelievably (well to me anyway), the odyssey has ended in a successful landing with my thesis safely lodged in the Open University online repository (ORO) where the waiting hordes of Classicists may download and digest it … I hope they will treat it kindly. It does feel a bit like letting a not-quite-ready-for-the-world child go, but its time has come and I need to look to the next adventure.

Me and my supervisors (from left to right) Dr Linda Murphy, Prof Regine Hampel, Dr Uschi Stickler, then me, and Dr Eleanor Betts

So, it is a thing accomplished, but I can’t leave this blog without sharing a picture of my endlessly patient and encouraging supervisors, celebrating my survival with me in traditional boozy fashion and looking suitably blurred. We have enjoyed ourselves all the way through! I am grateful to so many other people too for help and encouragement. Some are named in the acknowledgements or references, and some (hidden under pseudonyms) contribute evidence for my findings, but I am also grateful to the many who kept my wordcount down by their absence and who stay treasured in my heart.

It is really lovely to have stopped writing (phew! phew! phew!), but, like all the best adventures, this PhD ends on a cliff-hanger. Whatever will our intrepid heroine do next? All suggestions or offers of gainful employment gratefully received!


Living Latin at #CA16 – Panel Recordings

LL Team-1
Living Latin Team: Alma, Aislinn, Terence, Mair, Laura, Jason (our chair, Steve Hunt, took the picture)

I am drafting this post on the train home from Edinburgh and the Classical Association conference, and I am already missing the Living Latin team and looking back in wonder at how at how amazingly well it all went. We had lots of very positive feedback with participants saying they were ‘blown away’ by hearing Latin spoken and amazed at how quickly their ears became attuned to the language so they understood at least some of what was being said. The storified tweets for the panel are here. I’ve included a screenshot of one of my favourites too.HelenTweet

I wish I could have made a video of the whole thing but I have put together the sound with the slides and made them available on YouTube. I am also hoping that a video of the final session where Prof Tunberg demonstrates his Latin teaching techniques may become available soon … watch this space.

Living Latin – Friday 8th April 2016

Mair Lloyd ~ Living Latin in Theory

Laura Manning ~ Living Latin in Kentucky

Jason Harris, Aislinn McCabe, Alma O’Donnell ~ Living Latin in Cork

Terence Tunberg ~ Living Latin in Action

We are extremely grateful to the Classical Association and to the Edinburgh team for hosting this panel, and to the Open University Classical Studies Department, the Council of  University Classics Departments (CUCD), the Association for Latin Teaching (ArLT), the Roman Society, and Classics for All, for their sponsorship, without which the panel could not have taken place.

Living Latin at #CA16 Edinburgh

map2This year will see a very special panel at the Classical Association conference. The unique highlight is a teaching session delivered in Latin by Prof Terence Tunberg of the University of Kentucky, convener of the renowned Conventiculum Latinum Lexintoniense. For anyone with any interest in the Latin language this constitutes an amazing opportunity to hear Latin spoken fluently and to take part in the type of learning rarely experienced in the United Kingdom. For Latin teachers in schools and universities, this is a must‑see session!

………….9 a.m. Friday, 8th April 2016

Leading up to this, there will be two papers dealing with the benefits and challenges of implementing communicative approaches. First, Laura Manning, a student and teaching assistant at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, will talk about pedagogy in action there and its benefits for Latin learners. Then Jason Harris, Aislinn McCabe and Alma O’Donnell will describe how inspiration from Lexington has led to innovative approaches to enhancing engagement with Latin texts at the University of Cork.

salisbury green 2
…………..  .Salisbury Green Hotel

To tee the panel off and to bring together learning theory with teaching practices, Mair Lloyd of the Open University, will show how looking at communicative teaching and social interaction in Latin through the lense of sociocultural theory can cast light on the ways in which language learning takes place. This will provide a theoretical perspective from which to view the presentations that follow.

Finally, the icing on the cake is that the panel will be chaired by Steve Hunt, lecturer in Classics Education at the University of Cambridge and author of Starting to Teach Latin.

The panel will be held at 9am on Friday 8th April in the Salisbury Green Hotel, a very short walk from the Conference Centre. Don’t miss it!




Pedagogy Panels ~ Edinburgh #CA16

Yes it’s that time already! The Classical Association Conference is here again and this is a (hopefully) helpful post for all Pedagogy enthusiasts heading off to Edinburgh.

The day to look out for is Friday 8th April, when there are wall-to-wall panels.
Morning Pedagogy panels are in the Salisbury Green Hotel (NOT Conference Centre!).
Afternoon Pedagogy panels are in the Conference Centre (NOT hotel!).
See the map below to find your way round.

Day 3: Friday 8th April
9:00 am- 11:00 am Living Latin Panel – Salisbury Green Hotel (NOT Conference Centre)
11:30 am – 1:00 pm Pedagogy Panel – Salisbury Green Hotel (NOT Conference Centre)

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm Classics in Schools Round Table – Prestonfield
3:30 pm – 5:30 pm CUCD/CA: Transitions Panel – Prestonfield
3:30 pm – 5:30 pm Digital Classics Panel – Salisbury (not Hotel!)

See full programme here!


Salisbury Green Hotel a short walk from the Conference Centre

Being There: Full-time PhD Study at the Open University

When I applied for a full-time PhD place at the Open University, I had no idea you had to go anywhere particular to do it. I was completing my MA at Manchester University at the time and I had never seen Milton Keynes, let alone the Open University campus. During my undergraduate study with the OU, I had thought of them as distant, perhaps imaginary, places and there had certainly never been any reason or occasion to try to visit them. So it was quite a shock to find out during my (telephone) interview for a Phd studentship that full-time students were expected to live within 40 mins and 40 miles of the Walton Hall campus and to see their supervisors face to face on a regular basis.

The flat in Fenny: my living room is the one with the door open
The flat in Fenny: my living room is the one with the door open

When I was offered and accepted my place, I still didn’t go to see Walton Hall because I was knee deep in an MA dissertation and grateful that my son, Matthew and my sister, Pat, were willing to go and find me a place to live while I carried on writing. The first time I saw the flat in Fenny Stratford (a couple of miles from campus), was the day I moved in. Thankfully it turned out to be a great place to live though I was also a bit shocked that I needed to buy a car to get about in MK – I don’t know who designed the public transport system, but they certainly didn’t have the Fenny to Open University journey in mind and two miles each way was a bit much for my little legs.

Walking onto the campus for the first time – it’s just over that bridge

But eventually, I saw the campus and fell in love with it, and I met my supervisors and I suppose it would be a bit odd to say I fell in love with them, but I certainly felt I had been extremely lucky to end up with such kind and generous  and intelligent people as I staggered my way round my PhD topic trying to connect with some concrete ideas for exploration. The Open University is an amazing organisation, totally accepting of whatever you are as long as you direct your efforts into your subject with enthusiasm. I think all PhD candidates probably suffer from some degree of ‘impostor syndrome’ where they think that any minute now someone is going to spot that they are really just some random person who wandered into the programme by mistake, but I always felt that, even if my supervisors had spotted it, they would have been far too kind to point it out and would have found some way of making a success of things. Perhaps that is what is happening after all 🙂 Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.

The on-campus chapel where two OU choirs hold their practices

The first year is not so frightening. There are skills workshops at least once every couple of weeks and they are mostly quite easy to understand. Some of us have already gathered some of the skills in previous lives and that take the pressure off nicely. There are some topics that are more difficult though – I struggle with ontology and epistemology and frameworks but, at they end of the day, they are just words and I will have to get over it! There are other students, actually a surprisingly large and eclectic mix of students, at first all of us trying to look as if we know what we are doing, and then swinging to the other extreme and admitting that we really don’t. Then starts the long habit of supporting each other and trying to understand and help with each other’s problems. We don’t see each other enough though really and our topics are mostly very different. I still haven’t met anyone researching pedagogy and technology for Latin (that’s where my PhD topic has settled now). We do have desks together, at least in my department (the Centre for Education and Education Technology – CREET). My seat is invariably empty though – I never did like working at a desk or in an open plan office. I generally stay at home and wrestle the procrastination monkey alone. I join a couple of on-campus choirs though and that makes me feel more part of the place. At the end of the year, we have to submit a probation report and do a mini-viva defending our plans for the rest of the PhD. This is very worrying. If there is going to be a moment when the impostor thing gets spotted, this is it! Somehow, I end up with extremely kind and generous and intelligent assessors – I am beginning to spot a theme now – and they give lots of encouragement and helpful advice. I can stay for another two years!

Coming in to land in Lexington on my way for a week of speaking Latin

In the second year, the workshops dry up, but we still have supervisions – mine are once a month, but some are more often. This is data collection year and I find myself gadding off to America to speak Latin, all courtesy of my research grant. I think I have gone to Heaven. There are trips to conferences around Europe and the UK as well as Work in Progress (WiP) seminars on campus. I can see everyone’s ideas beginning to take shape and my own seem to be settling down a bit too. There is some hope that I might get away with this after all  …

But no, the third year is really scary. I am going to have to write stuff! Actually a real lot of stuff! I hate writing! Why did I not think of that before? I start and it isn’t so bad. My supervisors stay true to form and tell me it is all ok while managing to tell me about the bits which are not ok as well. I write and correct and write. The amount I haven’t written doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller though. I am still at that stage where the mountain to climb seems insurmountably large, but I keep plodding along, sometimes forward and sometimes back, hoping that by some miracle I will sneak up on the summit and the PhD will make it through the impostor filter too. Doing a PhD is really hard – harder than any academic thing I have done before – and I suppose that is as it should be. But, whatever happens, I have learned an enormous amount in some really excellent and inspiring company. I would certainly recommend the Open University to any of you intrepid enough to take on the PhD journey.


Classics Summer School Opportunities in the UK

I’m just making a quick digression from my PhD work (OK this is displacement activity!) to share some interesting study opportunities coming up this Summer. They will be specially useful for anyone thinking of taking a course in Classical Languages or indeed for anyone with an interest in Classics or Ancient History who would like a little more insight into the meaning of ancient texts. Bursaries are available for some of these courses (follow links for details).

Language Summer Schools

London Summer Schools in Classics 

KCL Ancient Greek & Latin Intensive Courses

JACT Greek and Latin Summer School in Durham

University of Cork Greek and Latin Summer Schools

Classical Association of Ireland Greek and Latin Summer School, Trinity College Dublin

Lampeter Classics Summer School in Greek and Latin

Swansea Summer School in Ancient Languages

St Albans Summer School in New Testament Greek and Latin

University of Reading Postgraduate Latin Summer School

UCL Summer School in Homer

Language Summer Schools for Particular Age Groups
(see links for details)

JACT Bryanston Greek Summer School

JACT Wells Latin Summer School

I will add further language Summer School options in the UK to this page as I find them, but if you know of any others, please do comment below with a link and I will add them to the list. You can also find some links to Summer Schools outside the UK and to courses which run throughout the year in the comments below.

On the Road with Team OU

??????????That’s team Open University (not the other place!) And we’re off, in force, to the Classical Association Conference in Bristol.

This year, I have dared to convene a panel as well as present a paper and I am in some great company. James Robson (also OU), Steve Hunt (Faculty of Education, Cambridge) and Evelien Bracke (Swansea) will be with me contributing papers relating to the conference theme of ‘Sustainable Classics‘. The panel will work its way through from primary to tertiary education looking as some of the opportunities and challenges presented to Classics in the modern world.  If you’d like to see our abstracts, they start at the bottom of page 102 here. We are on at 9 a.m. on the Saturday in the Wills Building, Room 3.33 so, if old friends have been celebrating meeting up the night before, it may be a bit quiet. If you are going to be at the conference, do come and support us as we try to enliven the early-bird slot. Unfortunately our panel, and, in fact, my own paper (on communicative approaches to ancient language learning), coincide exactly with the paper of my supervisor, Eleanor Betts, who is going to be part of an intriguing sounding panel called ‘Smelling Rome‘ in the Old Council Chamber. I would like to have heard Eleanor’s paper and the odds against us clashing like this must have been very long, but it does at least mean I will be able to bribe my fellow panelists to tell Eleanor that I did really well, whatever happens 🙂

Three further Team OU members will also be putting in morning appearances. Paula James will be second speaker on Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. panel about Pygmalions in the Reynold Lecture Theatre. On Sunday, Emma-Jayne Graham will be talking about Roman votive objects in the third paper of the 11:30 a.m. panel on ‘The Experience of Ancient Polytheism‘. Then, at 11:30 a.m. on Monday morning, Ursula Rothe will be the second speaker of the panel on the Roman Empire in room 3.32. She will be talking about orientalisation in Rome’s Danube provinces. That’s quite a wide variety of topics that we are covering! I am looking forward to trying to stalk all of the team (except Eleanor) and to doing a report on how things went after the conference.

Finally, one of the bits I am most looking forward to is the conference dinner on Sunday night. I will be on table 4 with some long lost friends from Manchester as well as other Open University chums. If you are there, please do come and raise a glass with us, and if I am a little late on Monday morning, Ursula, please forgive me 🙂

Forever Young #antwerpcall2014

jc we will meet again crop

A few days ago, I wrote to one of the many new friends I had made at the International CALL Conference in Antwerp, “Meeting you … made a huge difference to my time in Antwerp … it was genuinely the best time I have had at a conference and mostly because of your good company.”  The atmosphere at Antwerp made it a huge success. I arrived alone, but felt warmly welcome in this gathering of the CALL community.  I met several real kindred spirits and immediately felt that I was among friends.  All this was and is still true, but there is now a huge pall of sadness hanging over my memory of the conference.

At the gala dinner on the Tuesday night, I sat next to a young researcher from Malaysia, JC Ng Shi Ing, who had brought her one-year-old son, Ben, to the conference with her.  I was full of admiration for her because I couldn’t have imagined coping with a successful teaching and research role along with a young child. However, JC was managing more than well, and she had brought her lovely sister, Elisabeth, with her to help look after Ben while JC did her conference thing.  We laughed together all night, and Ben joined in with a game of peek-a-boo.  The sisters encouraged me in my plans to vIMG_7706 cropisit Asia and invited me to visit them in Malaysia if I did travel out that way.  They were lovely happy, warm, kind people, full of life and plans for the future, a future that was never to be.  JC friended me on Facebook so I was able to watch her progress travelling round Europe before heading back home, to see pictures of her visiting a zoo, and of Ben paddling in a lake in Estonia, and I was also able to follow the dawning realisation among her facebook friends that JC, Elisabeth and Ben had been flying home on MH17, the plane shot down over Ukraine.  This still seems impossible to me and there are no words to describe the awfulness this loss must mean to anyone who knew them and especially their family waiting for them back home.  It is just unbearably sad …

I am posting here a link to my twitter story of the conference, including tweets from JC and pictures of her presentation: Mine is mentioned there too on the Monday afternoon.

Here, also is a gallery of pictures from Antwerp:

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As the conference closed, Jozef Colpaert, visibly moved by its significance for him, put up a slide of the final verse of Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’:

‘May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young ..’

JC tweeted a picture of it with the words ‘We will meet again’. I hope we will somehow JC, and Ben and Elisabeth.  Until then, ‘May God bless and keep you always …”



iLatin and eGreek Conference

Yesterday (01/02/2014) saw the first iLatin and eGreek conference in the Open University Regional Centre in Camden.  I say ‘first’ because I would really like there to be more, and there seemed to be enough enthusiasm from our speakers and attendees to make  a regular event possible.  In fact, we had ‘sold out’ a couple of weeks before the conference took place so perhaps we will need a bigger venue next time.

Here is the schedule and a bit of a description of our aims and sponsors.  As you can see, we encouraged ‘tweeting’ the conference with the hashtag #iLeG and we now have a detailed ‘story‘ (created with Storify) including speaker slides and eventually videos. I will be adding these as I get them processed and approved by each speaker.  We also had a presentation made over the internet using google hangouts.  I was really quite worried how that would go, but everything went very smoothly – our speaker, Bartolo Natoli was very well prepared and quickly established simultaneous connections – one for the slides and one for his webcam so that we could show both at once (slides in the main area and webcam below).  After the presentation we brought up the webcam so he could talk to the audience.

At the end of the conference, we adjourned to the Devonshire Arms, which is apparently a goth pub, but they seemed very happy to make Classicists welcome too 🙂

I had a wonderful day, but it was made really special by the number of friends who came and helped out and supported me.   You know who you are and a big thanks for being there.  Here are some photographs (one of the many things friends organised for me) so you can look out for familiar Classics faces.  Enjoy!

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Remote Conference Participation – a Successful Pilot

Strangely, this is the post that nudged this blog into existence.  A fellow eLearning enthusiast asked if I was going to blog about my recent experience of convening a conference with both a remote speaker and a remote audience and, not having anywhere appropriate to make that post, and realising that I hadn’t started blogging my new(ish) PhD journey, led me here.  So here goes …

I am based in the Centre for Education and Education Technology (CREET) at the Open University, and, early this semester, I volunteered to convene the CREET Work in Progress seminars along with fellow student Joe De Lappe.  To begin with, we kept things pretty simple: just two speakers per event, and only the room, the IT equipment (PC and large screen) and tea and coffee to organise.  The idea is that students practice in a supportive atmosphere for participation at more formal events.  All that has worked very well, and it has been a great way to get to know other students and staff around the university, but this week we really pushed the boat out with a Work in Progress conference.  There was a keynote speaker (our Director of Studies) as well as lunch and a couple of coffee breaks.  The biggest breakthroughs though were with the twin challenges of bringing in a speaker and an audience from remote locations.

First, the speaker.  Theron Muller works in Japan and is doing his PhD part-time, but he wanted to be involved and to make a presentation at the conference.  To add to the interest, Theron runs Linux on his laptop while the Open University software is all Windows based.  We tried out the video-conferencing equipment and MS Lync in advance of the conference without success.  First, we only managed to make an audio (not video) connection to the video-conferencing equipment, and then, when we tried MSLync to MSLync, where the video and projection of Theron’s powerpoint presentation did work, we found the sound quality was very poor.  We weren’t sure about the capability of Skype (which also worked) to share presentations so we settled on google hangouts as our means of connecting. This worked wonderfully though we only used it to carry voice and powerpoint while Theron presented, and voice and Theron via camera during the Q&A session.  At the conference side, we had a marvelous piece of ’round table’ equipment which sat in the middle of the audience horseshoe.  When a member of the audience spoke, one of the six cameras on the device tracked to their face so Theron could see and hear them asking their questions.  I believe the Polycom CTX 5000 is ‘optimised for use with MS Lync’ but it worked just fine with google hangouts.

Next the remote audience.  For this conference we had invited along all the EdD (doctorate in education) students, but, as this is a course usually undertaken by teachers while they work, few of them were able to attend.  We therefore asked our audio-visual unit if they could broadcast the conference live over the internet.  They came in and set up sound equipment and a camera (with cameraman) and  we also had a link on the website where the watching audience could send in questions or comments for the speaker.  This also worked very well indeed.  There were watchers in Europe, Malaysia and the USA and a couple did join in by sending in live questions and comment.  The conference presentations and Q&A sessions were also processed and posted to the website afterwards and can still be viewed by clicking here (scroll down to find two recordings, one for the morning and one the afternoon). It is still possible to send messages in to the speakers via the ‘Post a Questsion or a Comment’ button.

All in all it was a very successful event and the double excitement of bringing in a remote speaker and a remote audience without problems made it really memorable.  This certainly expands the possibilities for interaction at future conferences or seminars here and perhaps I can claim for it some sort of demonstration of the affordances of technology for communicating scholarship.