Steve takes a look at a rarely covered subject but one he has personal ties to - Latin. IN this feature he outlines down the best apps available to Latin teachers as well as suggesting how some of the more commonly used cross-curricular apps can be harnessed in the classical languages classroom.
I studied Latin at school. Yes it was a quite a posh school. I always enjoyed Latin far more than French, mainly because I was eager to learn about classical civilisations, their people and their stories. It also helped that I found it incredibly easy to learn. Seeing as so much of modern language is influenced by older tongues like Latin, it's surprisingly easy to master. Case in point - I took the GCSE a year early, finished it in half the allotted time and got an A* grade. Not bad huh?
The lessons were so dull though. Seriously both Latin and Maths were my strongest subjects and in theory those that I should have taken forwards onto Higher Education but they were always delivered in such a dry way. When I first became a teacher, I promised myself that I would make sure that my Maths lessons were engaging. These days, beyond ICT and all things tech, I consider Maths to be my speciality. A few years back I completely ditched the use of worksheets and textbooks in favour of games, student-led challenges and constructivist pedagogy. Mobile technology then rolled into town and allowed me to take things in yet newer directions...
Of course as a primary school teacher I don't get to teach Latin but I can't help but think I would have taken the same approach to teaching as I have with Maths. Recently I was contacted by the developers of the Lingua Latina app and asked for feedback. To be honest, I hadn't even considered apps for classical language learning and began to trawl through the App Store looking at its wares like a Roman in an agora.
What I present here is a summary of my findings: apps specifically designed to support the Latin curriculum as well as some ways to harness our favourite cross-curricular apps in the Latin classroom.
LANGUA LATINA NOUNS
I would be remiss not to start with Langua Latina since it inspired this article. Plus it's genuinely very good!
The app focuses on learning and practising Latin nouns and is presented with an engaging, cartoony Roman theme. Students can elect to learn, play games or take quizzes. Vocabulary, declension and gender can be practiced using a multiple choice format or through the range of five games on offer. These are simple but effective, ranging from a word search to a pairs game and even a Frogger type activity.
Options like time limits and volume of answers needed can be tweaked via the settings screen too which is a welcome addition that facilitates differentiation quite handily. The app is clearly a labour of love and definitely a good place for any Latin master to begin redefining delivery of lessons.
Alan Peat's crossword building game has been released in a variety of different languages now but I must admit to being both surprised and impressed to see a Latin iteration has hit the App Store. As described in my recent feature on Alan's apps in general, this can make for an excellent lesson starter activity to get the students' brains in gear. Differentiate by having weaker students work in pairs and work at their own pace whilst more confident linguists compete against each other for high scores!
Ok so not technically a Latin app but if you're looking for an engaging, child-friendly way to frame the teaching of the language, Kids Discover have you covered with their interactive ebook app on Ancient Rome. Use this to contextualise the learning - for example you could share information about an aspect of Roman culture then have students research the vocabulary associated with this. More advanced students could then compose sentences or even a block of text about it. Not only does this create a real-world frame for the Latin learning but it's allowing them to engage with history.
THE PAUL HUDSON APPS
If there is one person who has become synonymous with digital Latin learning, it's Paul Hudson. With a dozen apps available from Paul specifically for Latin, it can be daunting knowing where to start. He actually offers a 10 app bundle via the App Store if you are looking for a wide range. Some are game apps similar to those found in Latin Lingua (word scrambles, pairs etc) however there are a couple that stand out as completely unique and deserve their own mention:
SPQR- Without a doubt the most comprehensive Latin app available on the App Store. Dictionary, flash cards, grammar tests, historical details and more - this app is jam-packed. It even contains the complete Aenied and dozens more full texts from famous writers like Cicero, Horace and Virgil. More expensive than some apps but cheaper than pretty much any textbook! If these apps were Roman, this one would be Caesar.
LATIN BUILDER - This one is a novel approach to language learning that more MFL app developers should take a look at. Build translations word by word as you read classical stoires across over 1000 levels of play! This is an app that could easily be embedded into regular classroom practice. A top pick here - very engaging and easy to interact with.
LATIN + - A vast and comprehensive Digital Latin dictionary with over 180,000 entries.
SPEED LATIN - With six difficulty levels and a range of question styles, this quiz app is definitely a worthy choice.
I'd recommend checking out Paul's website Romans Go Home (great Monty Python reference there!) for full details of all of his Latin apps. Latin teachers and students can save 50% too via this link. He even takes suggestions if you're looking for something different in a Latin app.
CROSS CURRICULAR APP IDEAS Obviously the apps highlighted above are quite specialised. We've spotlighted several apps that can be used across the curriculum here at iPad Educators and many of them can readily be applied in the Latin class. Here are just a few ideas:
PUPPET PALS 2 - Use the Roman costumes to send your students back in time for some Digital storytelling Latin style! The original Puppet Pals was always my go-to but now you can add your own backgrounds (and scale them) in the sequel, I'd definitely pick this as the animation is slicker on the characters.
MORFO - At this point Morfo can pretty much be referred to as an oldie but a goodie! A great idea here would be to give life to a bust of a famous Roman and have them speak some Latin.
CHATTERPIX - A simpler option than Morfo but still a good choice. Don't write this off as an app just for the very young.
STICK AROUND - Tony Vincent's excellent puzzle creator takes the pedagogy involved using the quiz apps to another level as students can generate their own quizzes. Superb for peer-led learning, the variety of quiz constructs will allow for a wide range of content to be covered.
CLOUDART - create word clouds during lessons or across a unit of study. Could be used to make a revision aid too.
POPPLET - Still our favourite mind mapping app. Why not use it to build a vocabulary bank across a unit. Alternatively it could be used to reinforce verb conjugations or noun declension.
TRADING CARDS - Another favourite app of ours here at iPad Educators, this actually has a word card template meaning that vocabulary cards can be generated.
EXPLAIN EVERYTHING - Naturally.
TELLAGAMI - Can be used in a similar way to Puppet Pals for some digital storytelling/ spoken language practice. Also makes for a great formative assessment tool if you collate their creations afterwards via Dropbox.
COMIC LIFE - A Latin comic? Tell me that isn't a great idea!
BOOK CREATOR - Like EE, it's kind of the obvious choice but I want to share just one core idea for using the ubiquitous Book Creator in the language classroom. Namely, use it all year. Rather than make a small book as a part of a single lesson or two, collate all the topics covered (and multimedia content) into the book. At the end of the year, the students will have an unparalleled revision guide made by themselves!
And with that, I will depart. Hopefully you've found something of use there. Feel free to get in touch with any other suggestions.