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- For The Love Of Latin: Promising Apps for Latin Teachers In and Out of the Classroom - September 9, 2015
I have not taught Latin for three years so when I was asked one week before the start of this school year to add Latin to my full load of high school Literature classes I felt a bit overwhelmed. In addition, I was told the class consisted of middle school students whose abilities ranged from beginner to advanced. On the first day of class I realized this was not an exaggeration; some students were spellbound as they tilted their heads in quizzical nods at the pronunciation chart and others broke into open monologue readings of Virgil’s Aeneid adding their own fully postured parsing systems. Later, as I drove home I knew I needed more resources to balance and meet the needs of the class.
That evening I opened my computer and began searching for relevant YouTube videos, lessons, and articles. Over and over I read and watched and researched but couldn’t find an adequate bridge to balance the ranges of student levels. After a few hours of very little progress I realized I hadn’t thought about Smartphone and iPad/Computer Apps. I opened the app store, typed Latin, and no less than 1300 apps appeared. Which was fine, I had coffee. I began to read reviews, download demos, and purchased some. The next two days I spent about 14 hours into selecting apps and thinking about their viability in and out of the classroom.
Two weeks later- the classroom environment is already different. Students feel empowered, enjoy researching through the applications, and are embracing individual and cooperative learning in new ways. Most importantly they are taking ownership of their education and their range of abilities are all challenged while cooperative learning takes place.
As an added tool, the apps have become beneficial inside and outside the classroom. I am so impressed with how their use motivated my students I had to write an article highlighting the best apps I found in order for others to save time and money. I hope my fellow Latin teachers and learners find this helpful and time/money saving.
App: SPQR Latin Dictionary and Reader
Publisher/Author: Paul Hudson
Cost: $6.99 (no in app purchases)
This app really has everything. It calls itself “the ultimate Latin learning tool” without exaggeration. It contains a dictionary, word parser, collection of quizzes, flashcards, important ancient texts and quotes. Though the app is visually very busy there is an entire section on using the app and it becomes quickly navigable. This is a must for Latin teachers, and the app’s website (www.romansgohome.com) provides a 50% discount to teachers.
The only negative drawback of the app is that I wouldn’t want my first and maybe second year students using it because it is overwhelming at first. The app’s author, Paul Hudson, anticipates this and has a few other apps (that will be mentioned later) that are more user/game friendly. This app is really for the serious student of Latin.
App: Latin Vocabulary Quiz
Publisher/Author: Always Ice Cream and Clever Dragons
Cost $1.99 (no in app purchases required)
This app made its way onto the list because it is extremely simple to use. Any first year Latin student that isn’t at the high school level yet will enjoy and learn from this app. It is a straightforward vocabulary app that focuses on common words in Latin. The quizzes are connected in a competitive way to other users and in doing so can make playing more fun and meaningful. Also correct answers are given to students when they mess up so they can learn from their mistakes. The quizzes level and become progressively harder with added options to adjust the difficulty. Overall it is a visually pleasing and simple app for first year students.
App: Latin Lexicon Dictionary
Publisher/Author: Offline Wiktionary LLC
Cost: $0.99 (no in app purchases)
The Latin Lexicon Dictionary is just that. It is a reliable dictionary that can be accessed with/without wifi connection. It holds an extremely large database of Latin words and is visually stunning. This app is the go to for the 1-3 year students. It is easily navigable and the layout really makes learning sense. Where SQPR is overwhelming this app is very simplistic in use but contains a lot of data as well. The one negative aspect of the app is when searching for words it often doesn’t take declension into account. This forces students to figure out the root, which may deter some students from pushing for the answer and giving up. For less than a dollar, however, it is a great tool. It also captures visually the process of declension and conjugation better than SQPR as well.
App: Latin Phrases
Publisher/Author: Elegant Recursion
Cost $0.99 (no in app purchases)
As a teacher I really love this app. I added it to my selected app list for students thinking it the least viable. Though it is little else than a bunch of Latin idioms and phrases with their explanation, I was completely wrong. Everyday 2 or 3 students use one of the many phrases in a humorous or contextual way during class. This app is a favorite from the beginners to the most advanced students. Besides, there is nothing like a student spouting “Dum uita est spes est.” during class while pretending they are Julius Caesar.
App: Latin Learning
Publisher/Author: Hartismere School
Another competitive app, Latin Learning, is a timed flashcardish based game. It is very straightforward easy to use, and entertaining. Students also consistently refer to this app because they think it is fun and challenging. The app is vocabulary and translation focused so it is intended for 1st or 2nd year Latin students, but even I enjoy seeing how well I can do in the timed quiz mode. Students also spend a significant amount of time on the app. It has that addictive entertainment quality within the quiz structure.
App: Latin, Latin Hangman, and Latin Parser
Publisher/Author: Paul Hudson
Paul Hudson, the author of the SPQR application has others as well. These three are excellent. Both Latin and Latin Hangman are competitive and playful and great at helping students learn vocabulary, conjugations, and declensions. The Latin Parser is exactly that- a parsing tool. Teachers can get these free from Paul Hudson website as well.
Though I realize many students may not have a smartphone or iPad in most Latin classes, don’t let it deter you from using the apps. A friend of mine teaches Latin at a low income area school and since less than half of her students have smart devices she put the apps on her own iPad and attaches it to a projector for students. They play the games at least twice a week now and she says the excitement and focus from students on those days is incomparable.
Learning a language is no easy task, teaching one may be even more difficult. Luckily we live during a teaching period where the creativity of technology can really assist in teaching and developing a love for learning. Perhaps even for the love of Latin.