The Dodo returns

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Cambridge Latin Course E-Learning Resource

pound;39.95 + VAT for the DVD of Book 1 (Book II available in 2005); pound;30 + VAT for an annual multiple-user site licence Tel: 01223 330579 www.cambridgescp.comlatinclcclc_home.html and http:uk.cambridge.org

After many trails and revisions since the early 1970's, the Cambridge Latin course has evolved to become the most widely used Latin resource in UK schools. The course has now been joined by a DVD.

The Cambridge Latin Course E-learning Resource is the work of Granada Learning, Cambridge University Press and the Cambridge Latin project itself. It was funded from conception by the DfES, initially as a pilot scheme for the Government's online curriculum.

The course is rich in video, the graphics are clear and colourful, and the didactic bit is nicely done with plenty of helpful activities. Will Griffiths, the project's director, insists: "We've probably got more grammar than anyone now."

Although such defensiveness is understandable, they may have missed a trick. There could have been more games with words and syllables and word-endings -technology can make these activities fun.

The overall variety on offer has plenty for different interests, and the social and cultural material looks impressive. Some of the clean-cut visuals are so clear they are almost too much of a good thing. Digital creations of Pompeii's houses and streets are geometrically sound, which is what computers do well. The dramatised scenes "up Pompeii" may lack a certain you-know-who, but the clear-toned Latin voices alone are worth a listen.

Early feedback for the key stage 3 resource for schools with or without specialist Latin support is promising. Classics teacher Julie Wilkinson has trialled the software at Nower Hill High School in Pinner, Middlesex where the GCSE uptake has more than doubled.

Will Griffiths and his team are also pitching the material into schools with no specialist Latin support where the program works by a combination of digital material, book, e-tutor, video-conference and an on-site "facilitator". English teacher Rowlie Darby started an after-hours Latin club at Patcham High School in Brighton, because he knew no Latin himself. "I wanted to fill a gap in my own knowledge," he says.

"And the pupils really like it. I started with 13 students, and I've still got 13 students." A futuristic world indeed: staff learning with pupils; twilight studies; a distant teacher (Frater Magnus?) on two-way video; and the subject at the fore of this adventure is dead-as-a-dodo Latin. Mirabile dictu.

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