In the initial grant proposal to the NEH for the VRoma Project, we wrote the following statement about the goal of the summer workshops: "These workshops will forge a community of scholar/teachers based on common goals and shared technological expertise that will give the project its initial impulse. . . . The workshops will provide, as it were, the will and the limbs of VRoma, animating it with their commitment to employ its technological wizardry in the service of humane learning and enabling it to reach a wide audience through practical applications in classrooms across the country." After one year of experience with VRoma, we believe this statement is more true than we knew at the time. Our hope is not only to help you acquire and develop various technological skills, to forge effective ways of using these skills in teaching classics, and to develop varied types of on-line teaching materials (including a virtual recreation of ancient Rome), but also and especially to create a community of VRomans that will give life to VRoma.
With that in mind, we would like to share with you some pointers that we hope will give you a clearer idea about the structure and content of the workshop and enable you to begin thinking about your role in it. We have put on the web a preliminary agenda so you can see how we have planned the day-to-day activities, though there is room for some modification if this becomes desirable. The agenda reveals two related activities that will be a major focus of the workshop: one involves the MOO and the virtual recreation of the city of Rome, and the other involves developing and working on various types of on-line materials--your projects. In case you want to contact any other participants before the workshop, here is a list of their e-mail addresses.
A significant part of the VRoma Project involves constructing a virtual Rome--that is, creating virtual spaces in the MOO environment that elucidate the study of specific buildings and sites, organizations and activities, and their related cultural materials (e.g., the Curia and Ciceronian speeches; the Circus and Ovidian amatory poetry; the Palatine and sculptural representations of the Imperial family, Suetonian biographies, etc.). You will all get the opportunity to learn how to contribute to this portion of VRoma and we hope that you will see this as an important way to create and reshape materials related to the study of ancient Rome. This "virtual Rome" can also be a metaphor for the way we collaborate in our study and presentation of the material--a space for us to "walk" and enter into "dialogue" about the remains of Roman society. As Catharine Edwards put it in the foreward of her recent book Writing Rome (Cambridge, 1996): "The city of Rome is built not only of bricks and marble but also of the words of its writers. For the ancient inhabitant or visitor, the buildings of Rome, the public spaces of the city, were crowded with meanings and associations. These meanings were generated partly through activities associated with particular places, but Rome also took on meanings from literature written about the city. . . . Ancient writers made use of the city to explore the complexities of Roman history, power, and identity." We hope that our virtual city will similarly enable virtual visitors to explore Roman language, civilization, and culture.
To this end, we are asking each of the workshop participants to choose one historic building site in VRoma that you will begin constructing during the workshop. Look over the list of potential sites and decide which of these interest you (one point to consider is whether any of the sites have particular relevance for your intended project). Please email your first, second, and third choices to Barbara McManus (email@example.com) no later than June 30. If you have no preference, let us know that and we will choose a site for you. You will then receive a building permit from the praefectus urbi. If you have time, you can begin thinking about your building and gathering information and images, but we will make sure that sufficient "building materials" are available for your site during the workshop. If you would like more information on what MOO building entails, consult the introductory sections of our tutorial.
Although we had asked you to submit an outline for a specific project that you would also work on during the workshop, it is our hope that VRoma opens up new possibilities for you, ones that will take you in a variety of directions you may never have anticipated. Therefore you need not be constrained by your initial proposal. The technological aspects of VRoma are the means to expose your students to exciting new ways of engaging classical antiquity. You will not be assigned to a particular group or collaboration. What we have done is glean from the applications some like interests (social history, language pedagogy, literature, architecture, etc.) and will offer the collective group the opportunity to slide effortlessly in (and out) of half-a-dozen subgroups such as those mentioned above. If you wind up in a collaboration with some folks, so much the better. VRoma is designed explicitly to encourage and facilitate collaborations--among faculty, among students, among faculty and students--that were previously either unexplored or not possible. The technology is exciting, for in facilitating collaborations it creates connections between sets of data (e.g., texts and images, commentaries and lectures) that just never occurred to the user before. It also allows for both synchronous and asynchronous communication among users, which means that unexpected collaborations can arise improvisationally, and we certainly hope that such will occur during the workshop.
Another activity during and after the workshop will involve planning for outcomes assessment, since one of the purposes of the project is to gather evidence and evaluate the role of technology in the teaching and learning of classics. You will shortly receive in the mail a few articles that will start you thinking about the potential and actual pedagogical functions of internet technology. Further description of these articles as well as links to other relevant articles that are on-line are available on a separate page. Feel free to read or skim whichever articles interest you and fit within your own time constraints; the purpose of these readings is to stimulate thinking and provide general background rather than to supply specific facts.
You will receive more information later about what kinds of personal supplies to pack, but it would be good to begin thinking now about what materials you have that you might want to draw upon for your building in VRoma and whatever project(s) you have in mind. These materials may include copyright-free slides, photos, or drawings; books or articles not available in the Miami University library, where you will have full borrowing privileges; syllabi and various types of teaching materials, etc. Also, if you know of other resources that you would like to use, let us know as soon as possible and we will try to make them available during the workshop.VRoma Directors