An Assessment of Pedagogy and Digital Tools in a Classical Mythology Course

ITP student Jared Simard (Classics) reflects on his independent study project 

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An Assessment of Pedagogy and Digital Tools in a Classical Mythology Course

The most recent advances in pedagogy have come about as a result of the integration of digital technology into learning environments in a manner that helps teachers move their pedagogy forward. Unfortunately, not every scholar views research in pedagogy and teaching as scholarship. If conducted with broad applicability in mind, however, the teacher can assess his or her own specific pedagogy, while contributing to larger debates in their academic disciplines. Audio-Visual departments across university campuses are equipping classrooms with a variety of technologies, presumably to aid the teacher in the classroom. Thus, now more than ever, assessing the techniques for using and creating digital applications and tools for the classroom is an important endeavor.

In a traditional classical mythology introductory course at Hunter College, CUNY, the current project sought to assess the use of images of mythological art in tandem with an online database called Mapping Mythology and a comprehensive final project which integrates both images of myth and the website. The study took part over two Fall semesters in 2011 and 2012. Below, the project is described, placed in the context of digital humanities scholarship on technology and pedagogy, and followed by a results and analysis section.

 

Classical Mythology

 

This project is an assessment of the application of various digital technologies in a traditional Classical Mythology course. Mythology courses usually involve the reading of certain sections of Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, as well as Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and a selection of Greek tragedies. The primary course objectives were to demonstrate a familiarity with the characters of mythology as read in the primary sources and to assess that knowledge through standardized tests, usually midterms and finals. My pedagogical approach differs from this traditional model. Many Classics departments have stand-alone courses on Homer’s works. The characters in the Iliad and Odyssey are limited and the larger concepts of mythology are not as evident to warrant their inclusion in course readings.[1] Instead, my students read nearly all of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, out of order, along with three tragedies representative of the genre and mythology, and a sampling of smaller, but well-known mythological stories from a wide range of Greek and Roman authors. Homework assignments are rarely more than twenty pages of reading, and as a result, every student is expected to have read and taken detailed notes on each story and to be prepared to participate and contribute to classroom discussions.

The overall course objectives are that students become familiar with the major deities and stories associated with classical mythology, and to enable students to discuss them in more thoughtful ways other than mere storytelling. To that end, they focus on broad similarities across stories, namely archetypes,[2] and demonstrate basic theoretical approaches to mythology through discussion and testing. In contrast to traditional mythology courses, special emphasis is additionally placed on the reception of mythology in artistic media: sculpture, architecture, painting, digital art, newspapers, etc. A broader exposure to the ways various generations and cultures have read the same classical myths enables students to better understand and engage with the story read in class, and provides an avenue for each student to relate mythology to contemporary society and their own life. This is achieved by showing pictures of myth in art three times per semester, after enough stories have been discussed and read and iconographical attributes of the major gods and characters have been learned.[3] These image showings are pseudo-test environments, and students gain secondary skills in learning how to “read” and “look” at art, and discuss it beyond simple description.[4] For example, students may observe that certain plots or iconographical elements have been altered by the artists, and learn to discuss what they are and why that might be the case, especially how it might show a different, nuanced perspective of the myth. The image showings build up to a Picture ID exam, where students are shown numbered pictures, asked to identify specific figures, and to state why that is the case based upon their iconographical attributes.[5]

The images of art shown not only reinforce the stories discussed, but also help students remember and discuss them with a more nuanced understanding of how literature and mythology in particular can play an important role in shaping one’s outlook on the world.[6] Further, students explore the ways myths are connected to one another and how mythology reveals a central facet of the human condition across cultures.[7] Students see how pervasive such myths remain in human cultural production, be it literary or artistic. Lastly, then, the course finishes with a final capstone art project that encourages and leads students to engage on a deeper level with the reception of mythology in art, engage with that art in person, and discover and think about that art in the contemporary urban environment of New York City.

The final art project replaces a traditional final exam, since smaller quizzes throughout the semester will already have assessed their acquisition of course material, and it is a primary course objective to have students learn about the larger concepts of mythology and the various ways cultures have expressed those concepts, mainly through the production of literature and the visual arts. Appendix B is a copy of the instructions for what is called the “Classical Mythology & Reception in Art Final Project.” The project’s goal is to have students engage with art in person and on their own by using the skills they learned in classroom showings of images of mythic art, and to determine to what extent they can successfully accomplish a large project and discuss myth and art when faced with images and perhaps myths they have not read about before. The project is broken down into a series of steps, the first of which is to have students view and use the Mapping Mythology website.

 

Mapping Mythology

 

Mapping Mythology was first conceived as a pedagogical tool during the core course sequence for the Interactive Technology & Pedagogy Certificate program at The Graduate Center, CUNY. It was subsequently built at the New Media Lab beginning in 2011 and has continued to undergo development. The site features mythic art, called items, across New York City in the diverse media of public sculpture, architectural sculpture and relief, and paintings at local museums. Students and others alike can browse images of art by artist, myth character, place, or media, to name a few.[8] The site is demonstrated in class and students are encouraged to begin using the site in preparation for the final art project. A key feature of Mapping Mythology is its integration of mapping and timeline features that will eventually enable students and researchers alike to visually depict clusters of mythic art production in specific locations and times across the three media represented. As the website’s database of art grows, it will begin to show that myth has always been a part of western culture in very deep and lasting ways that have inadequately been explored by scholars to date. Thus, the site is a good example of how pedagogical tools designed for in classroom use can also serve a larger role in producing innovative scholarship in the digital humanities.

In subsequent steps, students are asked to visit three to four public sculptures featured on Mapping Mythology and then 1. identify the myth/myth characters based on their iconographical attributes; 2. link the myth or character to stories read in class; and 3. discuss whether or not the sculptor has changed, altered, or emphasized the iconography in some unique way, and what this might convey to the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, and their appropriation of iconography in their own time. All three parts of the assignment replicate classroom activity, and although part 3 is the most challenging, because students may not know enough about a given time period or artist to adequately discuss changes in that context, they can still discuss and identify the changes and come up with ideas, which is the objective of the exercise. In addition, students are viewing public sculptures already analyzed on the website in the exhibits section, so they have a discussion to refer to in case they are stuck with how to proceed. The final steps of the project have students repeat the above format but visit 1. Rockefeller Plaza to engage with architectural sculpture and relief not discussed on Mapping Mythology; 2. explore New York City and find one or two new mythic art images; and 3. explore painting exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the end of the project, each student is asked if they had a smartphone when completing the project, and the extent of their use of Mapping Mythology in completing the final project. This data on smartphone usage helps assess how useful the website is as a resource for use in the field and helps determine which areas of the website need additional development. The project is submitted via a Google Form that replicates as closely as possible the worksheet provided to complete the project. Students are asked to send via email attachment any photographs they took of the artworks.[9]

One last feature of the course has students write their own myths. This creative writing assignment is very open-ended and is completed within the first three weeks of the semester, after they have been introduced to the basic archetypes and concepts of mythology. Students are asked to write a short three and half page myth, whose only required feature must contain an original etiology.[10] The purpose of the assignment is to have students engage with mythology from the perspective of the myth creator, in order to provide them with an added perspective on the abstract concepts of mythology, and the decisions that are made when crafting a myth. Students are expected to use these new perspectives in the rest of the course to deepen their discussion of classical mythology. The assignment is another way for students to relate to and explore mythology from their contemporary perspective. Students generally come up with unique and creative etiologies.

 

The Role of Digital Humanities Pedagogy in Mapping Mythology

 

This assessment project was completed with numerous perspectives drawn from digital humanities scholarship on technology and pedagogy. Having come into its own as an emerging discipline from what was earlier known as humanities computing,[11] the explosive growth of the internet and powerful internet software with simple, easy to use front-end interfaces has led to a growing number of scholars and laypeople alike engaging with technology in new and exciting ways. While much of that engagement has focused on innovative uses of technology in the pursuit of new research questions to ask of traditional primary sources, a growing cadre of digital humanities scholars exists that seeks to apply the very best of the digital humanities to improving classroom teaching and pedagogy. What follows is a discussion of theoretical approaches to learning and education, their intersection with digital humanities, and how my overall pedagogy fits within these two models.

To start, the National Resource Council’s summary[12] on how people learn provides important concepts and analyses of the relationship between understanding learning and good pedagogical practices. Some of the first concepts promoted are critical thinking, self-learning, and the novice-expert spectrum.[13] Training people to think critically is one of the most important tasks of education. Although my course is only introductory, I seek to do exactly this sort of critical thinking training by teaching my students to thoughtfully read and analyze classical mythology in literature and in its reception in later art both historically and as found around them in New York City. In my view, very little is gained from traditional approaches to mythology that reduce mythology to a mere memorization of myths and characters. Rather, I seek to promote a broad understanding of mythology through the specific instance of classical mythology. Part of that learning outcome is achieved by promoting self-learning through the third part of the final art project, which, as described above (again refer to Appendix B, Step 2C), has students engage with new mythic art images on their own, and discuss the iconographical attributes and scene depicted in the context of class readings and larger myth concepts. The concepts of literary mythology are not the easiest for members of contemporary society to understand, since we use some of the same concepts much more loosely. This is what the NRC report might refer to as students’ preconceptions.[14] I engage with my students’ preconceptions from day one, by immediately questioning what they think classical mythology is, is about, what “myth” means to them, how we define “hero,” and how we use the concept of “myth” in contemporary life. The ultimate goal is to provide a common denominator for our own experiences with myth, so as to accurately compare that with how the Greeks and Romans formed a different concept of mythology. In the final art project, then, students are forced to separate and then merge their own preconceptions about mythology with those learned in class.

The NRC report also devotes a large amount of space discussing what might be called the novice-expert spectrum. Researchers are particularly concerned with how the thinking of a novice differs from that of an expert, and how one progresses from novice to expert.[15] In my classical mythology course, I assume a novice level for everyone, thus equalizing the playing field, and slowly bringing everyone up to a basic level of knowledge of mythology, both classical and the larger principles. Students can then take and use this knowledge to understand their own use of myth, that of other culture’s, and even to understand literature which may not be categorized as myth. Expertise in mythology is just as much about knowing who Medusa is and what happened to her as understanding what Medusa represents in Greek society and how later cultures take, adapt, and engage with the concept of the “other.” Part of students’s progress into expert status is achieved by engaging in classroom discussion, and by showing pictures of myth in art three times before they get the final art project to complete on their own outside of class. In effect, my students are led to expertise in mythology by incorporating two of the characteristics of expertise the NRC report cites, namely “patterns of information” and “adaptive expertise.”[16] Students are continually expected to engage with the larger abstract concepts of mythology, in class and during the final art project (that’s the pattern of information). They must also learn how to engage with mythic art they have not seen before or which may have been altered in severe ways by the artists and judge for themselves what it may mean (that’s the adaptive, self-learning part).

John Dewey, in Experience and Education (1938), argues for another theoretical approach to pedagogy and learning.[17] Dewey raises the problem of relating past “static” events to the present; more to the point, how studying the past can develop more tools to engage the future more effectively, i.e. the study of history.[18] I hope that I am doing exactly that. Classics as a discipline is not so different from the kind of history Dewey is discussing. Mythology is ever present in contemporary society, the concepts of myth, especially of heroes or something not to be believed (the mythos, story part), and the iconography of mythic characters, are all around us, being used in various ways.

Dewey also discusses what he calls “the Nature of Freedom” as a key finding in terms of how to engage student-learners.[19] Dewey states there is a false notion of freedom as freedom of movement only; more important is the freedom of thought or intelligence. Dewey warns progressives (those who support the new system of learning), that a teacher, one who has more experience, cannot guide younger “immature” students to possible outcomes with the materials put before them.[20] Dewey’s “meaning of purpose” further takes up this matter, as he puts it, “the way is, first for the teacher to be intelligently aware of the capacities, needs, and past experiences of those under instruction, and secondly, to allow the suggestion made to develop into a plan and project by means of further suggestions contributed and organized into a whole by the members of the group.”[21] I try to offer the best of the progressive tradition, by providing a range of art media, myths portrayed in them, and then through the showings of images of mythic art three times in class discussion. We talk about them by example, and then students go off to complete their final art projects independently. They still have steps 1 and 2 of the final project, however, that deal with images on the website and which are already curated as examples of how to thoughtfully engage mythic art. Students are less familiar with only steps 3 to 5 of the final project. By the time they begin work on their final projects, however, students have past experiences to draw upon in order to talk intelligently about the art pieces they have chosen. No doubt, they will chose pieces in which they either recognize key concepts they know they should talk about (easy) or ones that seem to generally interest them in some other way.

Lastly, Dewey ends his long argument in favor of this new school of thought on education by flatly stating, “but the achievements of the past provide the only means at command for understanding the present.”[22] This is his largest support for history. Indeed, so it is with mythology, and the final art project begins to bring home the possibility for students to see that myth has continued to remain a potent method of communication of complex and abstract ideas, things like political slogans (the Obama campaign’s sunrise over farmland, for example), and archetypes which are continually evoked in contemporary society. An understanding of mythology can help the contemporary individual become a better, more informed citizen.

The concepts discussed so far related to education and learning directly connect to some of the scholarship produced in the digital humanities. To begin, Lisa Spiro’s article “‘This is why we fight’: defining the values of the digital humanities” sets out to explore the values that are expressed within the principles and approaches of the digital humanities.[23]   One of the core values that Spiro argues for in the digital humanities community is “openness.”[24] In quoting Jaschik,[25] Spiro argues that digital humanities should bring scholarship and scholars in contact with larger audiences than academic journal readership, and should act as “public servants” participating in public exchanges and thereby increasing their own visibility.[26] I totally agree, which is why Mapping Mythology is open-source, free, crowdsourced, and seeks to focus on myth in public art, whether sculptural or architectural, in order to engage the larger community to think about the art and myth in their environment. Indeed, such a project fosters the opportunity for universities and classrooms to link with larger community organizations and cultural heritage foundations.

Spiro’s also values “experimentation,” which she directly correlates to the classroom and pedagogy, arguing that we should use experimentation to “transform traditional approaches to teaching and research.”[27] In thinking about new ways to connect to today’s youth who wish to explore the environment they live in, teaching them to think critically about the built environment, how it was shaped, by whom, for what purpose. In addition, students are encouraged to contemplate myth’s connection to their environment, its essential role as a communicator, as a vehicle for abstract ideas and cultural topics otherwise too taboo to discuss. Students are simultaneously engaged on the visual level; and because so much of today’s society is about the image, thus, an understanding of myth can help them see the uses of myth in contemporary society. The values of openness and experimentation have their place in pedagogical practices and research, and allow fellow educators to learn about each other’s methods and try them out for themselves, and hopefully, further contribute their own findings.

Matthew Wilkens’ article, “Canons, close reading, and the evolution of method,”[28] also brings up important questions about what is gained and lost in some digital humanities approaches to larger corpora of data, itself a challenge to any canon.[29]   Classics is also very much a servant to its own canon, which has led to countless commentaries on a few dead Greeks and Romans, mostly historians, philosophers, or poets. Classical mythology in particular is traditionally a set of readings from Homer, Iliad (or Odyssey), along with Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I break from that canon, as discussed above, by giving smaller snippets and a broader range of myths, in order to show similarities among myths and the archetypes of mythology. This approach helps students understand mythology’s influence and reception in various media, in particular literature and the visual arts. In many ways, I am more concerned that my students understand the concepts and abstract qualities expressed in mythology, rather than remember specific instances of classical myths, although that is a common starting point. The canon of myth is a set of archetypes, for example the concept of the hero; it is not specific instances of their expression, for example, Hercules. Both Mapping Mythology and the final art project seek to have students engage with the archetype and their expression in specific instances in myth in the visual environment around them—and done in a way that brings an immediacy through visual images that brings to life, personifies written text in entertaining and functional ways. This creates a space in which to explore mythology, its concepts, and its traces as an artifact of human construct. Digital methods enable and enhance that process.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, in “The humanities, done digitally,” discusses the power of scalability of large collections and their analysis as an example of what makes the digital humanities so exciting in terms of using technology to analyze more traditional humanities materials.[30] Suddenly, the possibility of linking pictures to texts and primary sources in Mapping Mythology forces students to engage with myth in an entirely different way. It forces them to see the complexity of humanity’s use of myth as a means of understanding their environment and human personalities. Fitzpatrick makes a second powerful point that interdisciplinary, and I would add multi-disciplinary, digital humanities projects are more productive.[31] Mythology is a great example of that potential. Its reception in a host of western cultures and non-western cultures alike, affords comparative mythology a place of study in itself. In particular, mythology’s reception in visual material, how it is used today, and the very process of meaning making (for example personifications like Columbia and her associated symbolism) are all topics more readily analyzed with digital tools and through the perspective of many disciplines (Classics, Art History, American History).

Lastly, despite a natural connection to the digital humanities, pedagogy cannot be taken for granted. Stephen Brier’s article “Where’s the pedagogy,” offers numerous examples of digital humanities definitions and projects that do not even mention pedagogy, let alone teaching and classrooms.[32] Brier cites the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Brett Bobley’s definition of digital humanities, among others, for its inclusion of the classroom: “digital humanities is really applying digital technology to doing traditional study and also trying to determine how do you use technology best in a classroom setting. So it’s really about the research and the education.”[33] Brier notes that one vision for the future of the digital humanities is a discipline deeply engaged with the quality of teaching and its links to learning outcomes and course objectives. That is to say, one that seeks to use technology to improve the classroom environment or supplement and enhance learning potential.[34]  Brier goes on to discuss a plethora of diverse examples of digital humanities projects that combine digital scholarship and digital pedagogy.[35] Mapping Mythology is one such endeavor in digital research and pedagogy, and the larger project that is being assessed seeks to bridge that divide for my own discipline, Classics.

 

The Assessment

 

The final sections of this assessment report the findings of two surveys of classical mythology students taken in the Fall semesters of 2011 and 2012 at Hunter College. Appendix C includes a copy of the blank survey form used in both semesters. Students completed the survey after grades had been submitted. Responses were voluntary and anonymous. The survey sought to assess to what degree students thought various key components of the course helped them understand the core course objectives. The key components are the creative writing assignment, the showing of images of mythic art, the frequency of that showing, the Mapping Mythology website, the final art project, engaging artworks in person, Smartphone access to the website, and the overall impression of the course. The survey includes a final open text box for additional unstructured responses. Survey results were tabulated on a per question basis and are provided in Appendix D (Fall 2011) and Appendix E (Fall 2012). Results for Questions 1-8 have three columns of information, from left to right: Likert response scale, Number of Corresponding Responses, Percentage of Corresponding Students. Percentages are calculated based on the total student population for the course, not the number of students who responded.

In brief, for the Fall 2011 Classical Mythology course, 47 out of 55 students, or 85 percent of students responded to the survey. For the Fall 2012[36] Classical Mythology course, 51 out of 58 students, or 88 percent of students responded to the survey.

 

An analysis of the results follows.

 

Question 1

In Fall 2011 78 percent of students stated that the creative writing assignment helped them understand the basic concepts of classical mythology. For Fall 2012, that percentage increased to 81 percent of students. This reflects a predicted outcome, considering nearly every student does very well on the assignment, and when put in the context of “to write a myth helps you understand one and how to read one,” the assignment directly reinforces course objectives. It also helps that it is early on in the course, forcing students to think through the archetypes, etiologies, and how myths function as literature.

 

Question 2:

81 percent of students in Fall 2011 and 87 percent of students in Fall 2012 stated that being shown images of artwork featuring mythological subjects helped them understand the basic concepts of classical mythology. Further note: percentages for both semesters reflect a 100 percent positive feedback on the showing of images from those that responded. This corresponds to colloquial feedback in class that indicates students are engaged when looking at the images, and actively learning about myth and acquiring new skills in how to “look” at art. These image showings break up the class discussion in more dynamic ways than the regular classroom discussion.

 

Question 3

In Fall 2011 48 percent of students agreed that images shown more than the three times in class. In Fall 2012 that number increased to 54 percent of students. It is interesting to note that in Fall 2011 only 14 percent of students indicated “very much” in response to the question compared to the Fall 2012, which had 20 percent of students indicating the highest response value. In the Fall 2011 20 percent of students selected undecided, while by comparison in Fall 2012 only 8 percent did. 25 percent of students in Fall 2012 indicated the showing of images three times was sufficient, and just 10 percent indicated “Not at all.” Thus, Fall 2012 students were far more polarized which may reflect their desire to discuss the literature more than the mythic images. That said, both classes still had a majority or near majority of students saying more image showings would be better, and reflects the enjoyment of that classroom activity, which requires no reading to prepare for and just that they come knowing the iconographical attributes already discussed.   The relatively high percentages of those students responding for undecided or not at all could also be attributed to a necessity to attend class 100%, since iconographical attributes are discussed only in class lectures, and that information cannot be found easily elsewhere. Either way, Question 2 supports images being shown overwhelmingly, and the number of times is now up for debate.

 

Question 4

Perhaps the most important question, question 4, provides feedback on how much

students thought the final art project was worthwhile and helped them understand the larger course objectives. 76 percent of students in Fall 2011 reported positive feedback on the project helping them understand course concepts. In Fall 2012 that percentage increased to 81 percent of students. In each semester, only one student respondent replied “very little” and both Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 have only 3 and 2 students “undecided.” Thus, an overwhelming majority thought the project helped them in the course. Fall 2012 was again a bit more polarized with 63 percent stating “very much,” while Fall 2011 was more evenly split with only 40 percent responding “very much” and 36 percent “somewhat.” This corresponds to colloquial impressions of classroom discussion and a few more art history and artistic students in Fall 2012 that personally would come up to me and state their enjoyment. On the whole, classroom discussion was more engaging and better in Fall 2012.

Question 5

Seeing artwork in person also had a majority of students stating “very much” and

An overwhelming majority of students saying that the in person part of the project was engaging for them on a different level. For Fall 2011 75 percent of students responded favorably to the in-person artwork portion of the final project. For Fall 2012 that percentage increased to 80 percent of students. Both semesters had only two respondents reply “not at all” or “very little.”   It isn’t known to the PI whether studies have been done by art historians or museums to support this, but that a large part of the project is spent not in museums but moving around various locations in the city, for locals who don’t get the chance to see other parts of the city, this might be a new, enjoyable experience. Further metrics, for next time, would be to distinguish Metropolitan Museum of Art viewings from those in the public environments.

 

Question 6

Question 6 focused on the usefulness of the Mapping Mythology website in learning course objectives. It should be noted, the only difference in semesters is what was public on the website at the time students completed their projects. Fall 2012 had some Metropolitan Museum of Art materials and architecture materials, while Fall 2011 had a more limited narrative for public sculpture only. That said, in Fall 2011 75 percent of students replied that the website helped them in the course. In Fall 2012 that percentage was 76 percent. Further metrics might be what specific portions of the site helped the most: exhibits (narrative), basic search for items, or collections (medium focused). This would help the developer put more time into those sections that have positive feedback. I would predict it is both the simple ability to search for a god, or randomly sample images in the “items” section, as well as narrative sections that help frame each artwork in the context of mythology are two sections that students find most helpful. Further, the site affords the only opportunity for students to view vetted images outside class, unless they search “Google images” on their own, in class is the only time they can see images of myths.   Further, classroom images, from which the Picture ID ones are chosen, are not duplicated on Mapping Mythology. Thus, for the purposes of the test, and practicing iconographical attribute recognition, a further metric might be to ask if the narrative section, where I also talk about iconographical attributes, is most helpful or not. One might think that students liked that section the most because they can self-quiz.

 

Question 7

In Fall 2011 57 percent of students responded that Smartphone access to Mapping Mythology helped them complete their projects. In Fall 2012 that percentage was 53 percent. Better metrics would be to follow-up and ask which sections they looked at while on the go, and cross reference with question 6’s follow-up and see if the data agreed. This would show which sections are most helpful to students just learning about all of this, while the basic database search and collections might be more useful to researchers. In both cases, while a super majority of students clearly had access to smartphones, still 20 percent of students in Fall 2011 and 17 percent of students in Fall 2012 were undecided on the usefulness of smartphone access. Again, follow-up metrics stated above could help clarify the data. It may be that the site is useful for studying for Picture ID exam and self-quizzing, more than it is for completing the project, which by that point in the semester most students have acquired the skills to answers all of the questions in the project on their own without reference to outside material, even their own notes.

 

Question 8

In Fall 2011 85 percent of students reported positive feedback. 76 percent of students indicated “very much”. In Fall 2012 85 percent of students reported positive feedback and 79 percent of students indicated “very much”. This again reflects that Fall 2012 was slightly more engaged on the whole and more polarized than Fall 2011, but both semesters show an overwhelming response to the course and one might say teaching and instruction. Only Fall 2012 had one “not at all” response, and while this person did not write further in the textbox, there was a first negative response on “rate my professor” for the course, and I imagine that this is a case of sour grapes over a grade. It should be noted that students had the grade prior to the responding to the survey. Classical mythology is by nature a course that interests people. I hope the extra layers I have added continue to interest further classes.

 

Question 9

Fall semester 2011 had 24 write-in responses (43 percent of total class); 7 responses gave direct critical and constructive feedback on various portions of the course.[37] The remaining responses are by no means worthless. Many give positive general feedback both on the course and the instructor himself. Overall, it is clear the students enjoyed the course!

The 7 constructive responses gave specific feedback on course elements. Two students commented on gaining an understanding of myth, but one wished to have more discussion of the underlying philosophies or approaches to myth. This student thought such knowledge would help them better connect to the culture that produced the myth. In terms of showing pictures and the final art project, many specifically wrote they enjoyed both course elements. One student mentioned the picture ID exam was interactive. Another suggested that more time be given to the final art project.[38] Another student thought the pictures helped students relate to the stories better and particularly enjoyed the “hunt” aspect for mythic art in the city. A third student said the picture ID was great for learning iconography and visiting the MET was their favorite part. A separate student suggested that fewer pictures be shown more often throughout the course. Overall, these show that the Picture ID is welcomed and liked, as seen from question 2 about showing images in class. A few highlighted the interactive quality this brings to the course, whether in class with images, or the “hunt” in the city.

Fall 2012 had 19 responses (32 percent of total class); 5 were the most helpful constructive criticisms.[39] Like Fall 2011, the rest were overall positive about the interest and engaging level of the course. The 5 constructive responses were on the whole quite specific in their course recommendations. Two, numbers 11 and 18 gave specific feedback to show pictures targeted to stories after discussing them in class. This would directly reinforce the story material, as well as increase the net number of times pictures are shown in class. These students thus both clearly liked the mythic art element of the course, wanted it increased, and thought the best way to do that would be to show mythic art for each story.[40] I am seriously considering taking up their suggestion. I think it would better integrate mythic art into the course objectives and also provide for great discussion. In order to show comparisons, I would want to add in pictures of ancient mythic art as well, so students could see how Greeks and Romans depicted their own stories compared to later artists.   One student wanted to learn more about myths from other cultures.   I don’t do much of this since the Classics department does offer a comparative mythology course which students can take after they complete Classical Mythology. Another student liked the creative writing assignment and a different student liked the engaging quality of seeing artwork in person.

Like Fall 2011, some students in Fall 2012 felt that seeing the images directly linked to the stories would be helpful. The exhibits section of Mapping Mythology does exactly this, and thus, might also help explain why students find the website so helpful. Including the metric that I suggested above to ask a follow-up question on which sections of the website were found most helpful, would again, in light of these responses, help improve future pedagogy and instruction. I predict that the exhibits sections are most popular because they directly link to a story and iconographical attributes are given, which enables self-study.

 

Conclusion

 

Pedagogy becomes better through reflection. This assessment of both a unique approach to teaching mythology and the use of digital tools for its facilitation have helped shape the ways in which I will approach this type of digital humanities pedagogy in the future. The most important insight is what I learned from teaching with technology, both the practical and the theoretical concerns.

On the practical side, technology, even when implementing the simplest of tasks, does not always work out as planned or at all. One example I encountered frequently early on in this process was the task of showing high quality photographs of paintings and sculptures to my students. Such a simple task would seem fail proof, but, as I learned the hard way, it is not. One hurdle was the technology in the classroom. The projector was mounted to the ceiling and thus I could not access the manual controls, and the Audio-Visual department would not give me a remote control. Their reasoning was that I was the only instructor having problems with the projector, every other teacher only showed powerpoint presentations with text and the projector was optimized for that, not for my high quality pictures. The pictures showed darker than normal and one could barely see a thing. This situation presented me with a problem; I could not show the pictures through powerpoint, because I needed to be able to zoom in on the iconographical attributes of characters in the photographs. My only solution was to learn how to manipulate, edit, and add text to photographs in order for them to be tinted the right way to show clearly using the ceiling projector. But, as a result, students were shown a tinted black and white photograph of a wonderfully colored painting. How can they locate the peacock if it looks black and white instead of brilliantly colored blues and greens in its feathers? And on, and on. Part of the solution was to build Mapping Mythology, so students can view images on their own as well as in class. Another solution, but one that adds to the hassle of teaching and that is not always available, is to check out a separate projector and VGA hook-up which rolls on a cart and wheel that to class from the Audio-Visual department every time I want to show images. This would afford me access to the manual controls in case I needed to adjust the brightness of the projector so that the high quality color images could be shown as they are. Unfortunately, teaching at Hunter College in the busiest time of the afternoon and trying to get an elevator in time for class, adds an extra thirty minutes to pre-teaching arrival, and an extra thirty minutes after class, which for a graduate student adjunct for whom Hunter is not his main campus of research can present a quandary. Not to mention, the Audio-Visual department does not give me priority for an extra projector since my classroom already is equipped with one and they would rather reserve the cart projectors for those teachers who are in classrooms with no projector.

On the theoretical side, teaching with technology also alters the classroom environment. Ideally, the teacher can see the screen and observe the students at the same time. Displaying photos directly from the computer, not in a powerpoint, forces manual slide operation and at times, my back is to the classroom. The ability to show pictures and face the classroom while using a remote to scroll through pictures would be more ideal. In addition, anytime a teacher wants students to use a specific website or digital tool, class time is inevitably used to demo the site and guide students through how the tool operates. I have had to do this with Mapping Mythology, especially in order to show students the best places to find information on the website that would be helpful for them and their final art project. An ounce of encouragement for self-exploration at home goes a long way.

Thus, one challenge for technology in the classroom is to integrate it with classroom discussion and engagement. Even a small writing prompt either low-stakes in-class writing, or some form online, perhaps through a simple blackboard post, could help students scaffold to the final art project. This is one useful addition I would like to implement for the next semester. An additional exercise to further engage students with mythology might be to have them find references in newspapers, magazine, music, or digital art. Students can either write up smaller responses to what they find, similar to the final art project; learn how to contribute information to Mapping Mythology (they will learn then the connection between teaching, research and publication of one’s ideas); or engage in more traditional comparative mythology found in English literature. The benefit of the digital tools would allow students to share their discoveries in a meaningful way in class and builds a responsibility for collaboration into classroom assignments, while simultaneously exposing them to myth in other media.

A final idea for further incorporation of technology in the classroom could be through smaller evaluations immediately after a viewing of mythic art. Spread throughout the semester, it would provide me with results to better enhance how I have students engage with the literature and mythic art at the same time. The course objective is always to have students think critically about the connections between ancient mythology as read in literature and in the mythic art of subsequent more modern generations, even down to their own lives.

In terms of assessing a course in its totality, including a specific set of projects or course elements, and the extent to which they promote the course objectives, the evidence supports the conclusion that all of the course elements do in fact promote the course objectives. Students are overwhelming positive in their feedback that all these elements, the creative writing assignment, showing pictures of myths in class, the comprehensive art project, and the Mapping Mythology website provide an interactive component to the course, which they like to take on the go with their smartphones and which make for a more enjoyable course.

The course elements were designed with larger theoretical and technological principles in mind in order to create the most likelihood of their desired effectiveness in the classroom and as teaching tools. Other mythology instructors can replicate nearly every course element and the entire study, adding to the research and vastly improving mythology instruction. Of the tools under review in this study, the showing of pictures, the Mapping Mythology website, and the comprehensive art project that combines elements of the previous two, were seen by students as very beneficial, enjoyable, and helpful in learning course objectives. The course elements together are designed to train a beginning student to think critically about mythology, beyond description, and effortlessly takes them from novice to expert in their ability to engage not only with the standard literary texts of mythology, but adapt and explore how myth changes when received in artwork, across generations, cultures, and media. Further, the students themselves provide the evidence that being exposed to certain elements, mainly pictures directly after story discussion, is better for learning outcomes, and enjoyed the interactive quality of exploring or going on a “hunt” in their own urban environment, which they may not have thought of in that way before.

Incorporating various principles from Dewey’s Experience and Education helps demonstrate to students that mythology has always been present since even before written literature, and is fundamental to how humans and society’s construct meaning for their environments and the people and phenomena in them. Indeed, it is only by learning those common truths, by studying historical mythology, and its permutations across time and cultures, that one begins to understand why we study the past, why history matters.

I would add that the exhibit portion of the site, predicted to be the most helpful to students, is also the most web 2.0 portion of the site as a whole, incorporating tagging and linked data principles. As Brier and Fitzpatrick point out in their discussion of digital humanities, the Mapping Mythology website can be viewed as both a powerful pedagogical tool and a vast inter- and multi-disciplinary project that articulates a shared and wider vision of the humanities from the perspective of mythology.

Finally, by incorporating Wilkens’ discussion of canons, I think there is much to gain in terms of approaching the teaching of mythology in this diversified manner. As the website grows with data, I would argue students will find it even more helpful. By adding Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibits and architectural sculpture, Fall semester 2012 showed a more polarized and positive response to the site and the art project. I anticipate that would grow even more when student recommendations are incorporated into the course, especially a targeted showing of pictures after discussion of the stories. No one is suggesting to take away the canon of classical mythology, but by using such digital tools for pedagogical purpose, and closely linking them with course objectives and learning outcomes, assessed through studies such as this one, it is the hope that mythology will become even more instructive for students as a reference tool in their everyday life.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Brier, Stephen. “Where’s the Pedagogy? The Role of Teaching and Learning in the Digital Humanities.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 390-401. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

 

Dewey, John. Experience and Education. Simon & Schuster and Kappa Delta Pi, New York: 1938 and 1997.

 

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “The Humanities, Done Digitally.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 12-15. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

 

National Research Council. “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition.” The National Academies Press, Washington, DC: 2000.

 

Spiro, Lisa. “’This is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 16-35. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

 

Wilkens, Matthew. “Canons, Close Reading, and the Evolution of Method.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 249-258. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

 

Appendix A

 

 

6. a. Who is the male on the right? __________________________________________

 

b. How do you know? __________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix B

 

Hunter College – The Classical & Oriental Studies Dept

Classical Mythology – CLA 101

Jared Simard

NAME:________________

 

Instructions for Classical Mythology & Reception in Art Final Project

Step 1: Explore the website www.mappingmythology.com

You can explore “Browse Items,” “Browse Exhibits,” and “Browse Collections.”

The Search function is also a great way to find artworks.

Step 2: Visit 3 to 4 public sculptures from the collection on the website. Most are in Manhattan.

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time? NB: Each “Item” on the website lists the dedication of the sculpture.

Step 3: Visit Rockefeller Plaza, a large complex of several buildings. Without doing any research

beforehand, explore the architectural sculpture of the buildings in the Plaza. Identify three mythological figures or deities. Repeat Steps 2A-C above for each figure.

3A: Also, record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Step 4: As you traverse New York City, pay attention to the architectural sculpture on buildings and any

public sculptures you encounter. Can you recognize any of the iconography of classical mythology? Do any of the sculptures look like deities or mythological figures? Repeat Step 3 above for two pieces of artwork you find.

Step 5: Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visit any of the following galleries: (1st Fl.) Medieval Art,

Modern and Contemporary Art, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, (2nd Fl.) Drawings and Prints, European Paintings, 19th– and Early 20th Century European Paintings and Sculpture AND/OR visit the Greek and Roman Art Galleries. Do any of the pieces of artwork depict mythological figures or deities? Find three that do. Repeat Step 3.

NB: Complete Step 6 after doing Steps 1-5.

Step 6: Do you own a smartphone with internet connectivity? (Yes/No) Circle One. If yes, skip to 6A. If

no, skip to 6B.

Step 7: Please fill out your answers on the electronic form located here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?fromEmail=true&formkey=dHFKNkItMWg1dGdhU18xZzNINjl1bXc6MQ

–you may wish to print out the blank form below to bring with you and fill out, and then type in your final answers at the end. You must fill out the electronic, official, form at the end, only after finishing the entire project. You cannot do it piecemeal and save as you go.

Step 8: EMAIL as attachments any photos that go along with the project, taken either from your smartphone or digital camera. Please indicate in the email which photo goes with which answer.
Classical Mythology & Reception in Art Project Student Response

 

Sculpture #1 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sculpture #2 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

Sculpture #3 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sculpture #4 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

Architectural Sculpture #1 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

 

Architectural Sculpture #2 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Architectural Sculpture #3 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

 

Architectural Sculpture #4 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Artwork #1 for Step 4

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

 

Artwork #2 for Step 4

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

MET Artwork #1 for Step 5

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

 

MET Artwork #2 for Step 5

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

 

 

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

 

 

 

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

 

 

 

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

STEP 6:

 

6A: If you own a smartphone with internet connectivity, did you pull up the website as you found and viewed the artwork? Was the information on the website helpful in forming a point of view on the sculpture and relating it to the myths read in class? In what ways was the website helpful or not? Be specific.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6B: If you do not own a smartphone and thus had no connection to the website while you were viewing the sculptures, did you view the website before embarking to visit the sculptures? If yes, was the information on the website helpful and how? If it was not helpful, explain why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6C: Did you print out “Item” pages for the monuments you were going to visit? Was a printed version helpful or did you want access to the interactivity of the website?

 

 

 

Appendix C

 

Appendix D

 

Fall 2011 Survey Results

 

Question 1: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Creative Writing Assignment (create your own etiological myth)

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 3 5 %
Undecided 1 2 %
Somewhat 5 9 %
Very Much 38 69 %

 

Question 2: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Showing images of artwork featuring mythological subjects

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 8 15 %
Very Much 37 67 %

 

Question 3: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Images of artwork were shown three times during the semester.   Would you wish images were shown more often than three times during the semester?

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 4 7 %
Very Little 6 11 %
Undecided 11 20 %
Somewhat 19 35 %
Very Much 8 15 %

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 4: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

“Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 20 36 %
Very Much 22 40 %

 

Question 5: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

During the project, engaging the artworks in person

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 13 24 %
Very Much 29 53 %

 

Question 6: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mapping Mythology website

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 2 4 %
Undecided 4 7 %
Somewhat 18 33 %
Very Much 24 44 %

 

Question 7: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mobile access (e.g. a smartphone) to Mapping Mythology helped you better understand and complete the “Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”.

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 2 4 %
Very Little 4 7 %
Undecided 11 20 %
Somewhat 14 25 %
Very Much 18 33 %

 

Question 8:

The Classical Mythology course was an engaging experience?

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 5 9 %
Very Much 42 76 %

 

Question 9:

Please use the following textbox to indicate any comments. Please note that the text box expands. (N.B. The numbers correspond to the nth response. 1 is the first student response to the survey and so forth.)

 

1. Give the Mythology Reception and Art Project to students way more time to complete. The assignment was given with about a month before the semester ended, and it was very difficult to plan out trips to Manhattan among all other obligations.
4. I really appreciated how the class was not stressful, and yet I learned just as much (if not more) from it than any work-intensive course.
5. I thought that the course was very engaging and also a great introduction to Mythology.
7. I feel this course was a very interesting course alone, but with Professor Simard teaching the course, the learning experience was so much better. His personality and live for mythology made me want to really learn about what the class had to offer.
8. I really enjoy the interactive aspect of this course. Picture ID was one of my favorite components of this class.
9. In all honesty, I fell in love with this course. Not only was the course descriptive towards mythological creatures but as well as an understanding of the classical gods and creatures.
10. I personally never had a strong interest for Greek mythology until I took this class. It was taught with such enthusiasm and all the myths we read were enjoyable to read.
18. you rock!
21. I enjoyed the hunt for other mythological art around the city. You made the class a lot more interesting with the project because if helped me relate to the different stories.
23. This course was fantastic. I learned an incredible amount in a fun and engaging way. The professor was passionate and inspiring, thus making class (and the learning experience) exciting and enjoyable.
26. Classical Mythology was one of the best courses I have taken so far. I learned I knew a lot less about mythology coming into the course than I thought I did. Honestly there’s very little to nothing that needs to be changed about this course.
27. I wished I could have taken another of Jared’s classes but they were filled and I had issued with registrar but as a whole Ihe. Are the class entertaining and enticed us. I would and have recommended him.  He’s what I call an ideal teacher..
29. I really enjoyed learning the classical myths. The picture ID exam  was great because it really made me learn mythological iconography. The project was a bit extensive and time consuming, but I enjoyed going to the MET. I found this class very enjoyable.
30. Taught very thoroughly and in an engaging manner.
31. I really enjoyed this class.
32. I love this course you don’t have to change anything
33. I think it would be more helpful to see fewer pictures, more often, as opposed to seeing many pictures on the projector all in one sitting.
35. The professor was very engaging and brought a lot of enthusiasm to the course. It would have been even more beneficial to discuss the philosophies behind the myths, because some of us might not know what the culture and thought was at that time.
37. Great class that really was informative and well-taught
40. this class taught me everything I know about mythology today. Professor Simard is a wonderful professor and has kept my interest in the class throughout the semester. Moreover, he has increased my interest in learning more about mythology

 

44. It was an interesting class and it helped me better understand the Greek mythological universe.
46. This was a wonderful class! I enjoyed it very much and wish to take another of Professor Simard’s courses. He is so personal and exuberant.
47. thank you Professor for such a wonderful class….I really enjoyed learning about the Gods/Goddess’ and the class was fun and interactive….one of the classes I looked forward to going to during the semester. Thank you

 

 

Appendix E

 

Fall 2012 Survey Results

 

Question 1: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Creative Writing Assignment (create your own etiological myth)

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 15 26 %
Very Much 33 57 %

 

Question 2: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Showing images of artwork featuring mythological subjects

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 5 9 %
Very Much 46 79 %

 

Question 3: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Images of artwork were shown three times during the semester.   Would you wish images were shown more often than three times during the semester?

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 6 10 %
Very Little 9 16 %
Undecided 5 9 %
Somewhat 20 34 %
Very Much 12 21 %

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 4: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

“Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 2 3 %
Somewhat 11 19 %
Very Much 37 64 %

 

Question 5: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

During the project, engaging the artworks in person

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 15 26 %
Very Much 32 55 %

 

Question 6: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mapping Mythology website

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 2 3 %
Undecided 5 9 %
Somewhat 23 40 %
Very Much 22 38 %

 

Question 7: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mobile access (e.g. a smartphone) to Mapping Mythology helped you better understand and complete the “Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”.

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 5 9 %
Very Little 6 10 %
Undecided 10 17 %
Somewhat 18 31 %
Very Much 13 22 %

 

Question 8:

The Classical Mythology course was an engaging experience?

 

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 4 7 %
Very Much 46 79 %

 

Question 9:

Please use the following textbox to indicate any comments. Please note that the text box expands. (N.B. The numbers correspond to the nth response. 1 is the first student response to the survey and so forth.)

 

2. Great class!
3. I loved your class. you were a really great professor and made learning about mythology and the Greek gods very interesting and entertaining.
4. Very informative class. Learned a great deal about Mythology. The professor taught the class with incite full knowledge
5. I really enjoyed your class. It was very insightful. Thanks for everything.
9. I had no problems with this class. Youre the best professor!
11. I think the art project/exams should have been spread over the semester to further engage us as we were seeing the stories. For example, showing a slideshow of the story’s images as we recapped in class. I had a great experience though.
13. This class (although not strongly applicable to my intended major), has been the most engaging and interesting thus far. I enjoyed the many tragedies and myths that we read and discussed in class. Overall, the class was very enjoyable.
14. The class was very enjoyable. I would have liked it very much if you had dedicated a week to myths from other countries.
17. Amazing course, amazing professor
18. I think pictures at the end of each story would make it easier to remember the story and characters. The pictures could be shown on class or posted on blackboard
26. I wish we had more time to read Euripides plays. I understand that one of things that you weren’t sure if you were going to include into the syllabus but I feel that its an important part in understanding the characters of Dionysus and Medea.
27. The class was great! the Teacher is super cool and makes it super fun
28. Loved this class!
32. Not only was the class well organized and put together, but you were a very engaging teacher. I say, change nothing!
35. The project which required us to go and visit mythological sculptures definitely engaged me as a student. Seeing examples of artwork in class was very helpful, but seeing a sculpture in person has a different effect that really captivates the viewer.
39. Taking the classical mythology course was a very enjoyable experience and very educative as well. I was able to learn a lot about mythology and professor simard was able to break down the readings in a way that is very humorous and understandable.
41. This course was very informative, my favorite assignment was the creative writing assignment.
44. It was a very fun and interesting class!
47. excellent teacher, very engaging

 

 

[1] There is also an issue of time and genre. To read even one of Homer’s works adds an additional 25-30 pages of reading per class, and detracts from the overall focus of the course. Homer’s works are also generally considered epics, both by ancient and modern literary standards. Elements of myth are present, but do not drive the plot in meaningful ways. Thus, only the selections that indicate mythic archetypes are incorporated into the course readings. Some examples include Odysseus’ encounter with the mythic monsters Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, and his journey to the underworld.

[2] Archetypes are attributes universal to all mythology. Examples, to name a few, include creation myths; heroic sagas; monsters (often female); the role of feminine characters, especially goddesses, in relation to male heroes; magic; taboos.

[3] Iconographical attributes are the symbols associated with a given god or character. They are the symbols most commonly used by artists, both in antiquity and in subsequent generations, to accurately identify the character. They also represent some of the abstract concepts associated with a mythic character, as well as particular narratives in their myths. Artists have been continually faithful to the attributes, since otherwise, without labels, it would be an incredible futile task for readers and art viewers to determine the identity of a figure in a painting or sculpture.

[4] “Looking” (occasionally referred to as “reading”) is a tool and concept used principally by art historians and archaeologists. It refers to a set of procedures and principles that govern how one engages with a given object, be it a piece of art or some other unknown material artifact. In most cases, the types of questions asked lead one to develop a set of facts that eventually can become the foundation for the most basic metadata on that object. “Looking” can be viewed as an application of who, what, when where, why, and how questions to material culture. For my students in mythology, the iconographical attributes are the most important element, as well as other clues in the scene or sculpture that help the viewer determine who they are looking at and what is going on in the piece.

[5] See Appendix A for an example of a numbered picture and corresponding question.

[6] Some of the key sub-genres of classical mythology are etiologies (stories whose main purpose is to explain why something is the way it is, or how it came to be a certain way; the word is derived from the Greek aitia which means cause or origin), foundation myths (these center on a particular man who, in most cases, founded an important city; the citizens often have festivals in his honor or reenact key portions of the foundation myth; the higher the status of the founder the more clout contemporary citizens have compared to other city-states), creation myths (these are the most universal of myths, with almost every culture in material record having some sort of group of deity(ies) who created the Earth, mankind, womankind (ex. Pandora), and the rest of the world), and heroes (often certain characteristics make a given person heroic).

[7] This is best seen in the tenets of comparative mythology, which first set out to describe the similarities and differences, and then seek to relate those comparisons to explain larger abstract concepts usually conveyed in mythology in general. One of the most common sub-genres discussed in comparative myth studies focus on creation myths.

[8] Tagging is heavily used in order to ensure that someone wanting to see images of Minerva will also be shown images of Athena. That classical mythology spans two different cultures with different languages, not to mention how those names are transliterated into English, forces tagging as one of the best ways to preempt such user-end search problems.

[9] One difference between the two semesters is that in Fall 2011 students did not submit their final art project digitally via the Google Form, but rather filled out a paper version. They still had to email photographs. After handwriting became an issue, it was decided to use a Google Form and have students type their own answers.

[10] Etiologies were discussed in 6 above. The course readings are arranged so that students are exposed to general etiological myths early on. This provides them with a variety of examples of etiologies (foundation myths or the origin of an iconographical symbol) with which they can use to then create their own etiological myth.

[11] Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “The Humanities, Done Digitally,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 13. Fitzpatrick makes the case for digital humanities’ origins, and while I tend to agree, I think there is also room for earlier digitization and digital projects that helped certain disciplines embraces technology for both research and teaching.

[12] National Research Council. “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition.” The National Academies Press, Washington, DC: 2000.

[13] NRC pp4, 10ff, and Chapter 2 respectively

[14] NRC pp10ff

[15] NRC the explicit topic of Ch.2 pp29-50.

[16] NRC Ch.2 cites six defining characteristics of experts: meaningful patterns of information, organization of knowledge, context and access to knowledge, fluent retrieval, experts and teaching, and adaptive expertise. The first and last ones are the most important for one’s ability to “chunk” information and to “explore and expand” on current levels of knowledge when exposed to new information.

[17] Dewey, John. Experience and Education. Simon & Schuster and Kappa Delta Pi, New York: 1938 and 1997.

[18] Dewey 19-20 and 21-23

[19] Dewey Chapter 5, pg. 61

[20] Dewey 61-64

[21] Dewey 71-72

[22] Dewey 77

[23] Lisa Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 16.

[24] Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight,’” 24.

[25] Scott Jaschik, “An Open, Digital Professoriat,” in Inside Higher Ed., January 10, 2011 (3:00 a.m.). http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/01/10/mla_embraces_digital_humanities_and_blogging.

[26] Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight,’” 24.

[27] Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight,’” 30.

[28] Matthew Wilkens, “Canons, Close Reading, and the Evolution of Method,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 249.

[29] Wilkens, “Canons,” 255ff.

[30] Fitzpatrick, “The Humanities,” 12-13.

[31] Fitzpatrick, “The Humanities,” 14.

[32] Stephen Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy? The Role of Teaching and Learning in the Digital Humanities,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 391ff. One example cited is the definition of the digital humanities by the Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ): “Digital humanities is a diverse and still emerging field that encompasses the practice of humanities research in and through information technology, and the exploration of how the humanities may evolve through their engagement with technology, media, and computational methods.”

[33] Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy?” 391-392.

[34] Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy?” 392.

[35] Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy?” 393ff.

[36] There are only two substantive differences between the two semesters. Fall 2012 students had to submit their responses via a Google Form that replicated as closely as possible the printed instruction sheet they could use as they completed the assignment. As previously noted, this was to ensure legibility for the instructor. In addition, by the Fall 2012, a selection of paintings and sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a selection of architectural sculpture and relief were added to Mapping Mythology. Approximately 65 new art items were added. A sub-set of the architectural sculpture and relief was also preliminarily curated in the exhibits section.

[37] See Appendix D. The 7 constructive text responses to Question 9 discussed are numbers 1, 8, 9, 21, 29, 33, 35.

[38] This suggestion was taken into account for Fall 2012. I gave out the final art assignment much earlier prior to Thanksgiving Break and had mentioned it several times in class as well as on the first day of class when going over the syllabus.

[39] See Appendix E. The 5 constructive text responses to Question 9 discussed are numbers 11, 14, 18, 35, 41.

[40] These two comments are even more specific than the one student from Fall 2011 who wanted them shown over the course of the semester.