New Survey for Teachers in Ancient World Studies

Figure 1: Generative AI in the Ancient World Studies Classroom Teacher Survey –
https://forms.office.com/e/NdTnesja9i

Do you teach any topic related to the ancient world? Do you have thoughts about generative artificial intelligence? Researchers in the Department of Classics at the University of Reading want to hear from you!

Thanks to a University of Reading Research Collaboration and Impact Fund (RCIF) grant, Jackie Baines and Edward A. S. Ross are carrying out survey research into the impact of generative AI in wider ancient world studies classrooms. If you teach about any aspect of the ancient world (broadly conceived), please take 10 minutes to complete the survey here (Figure 1).

Figure 2: iGAIAS: Investigating Generative Artificial Intelligence in Ancient World Studies.

This research is part of Jackie and Edward’s wider project iGAIAS: Investigating Generative Artificial Intelligence in Ancient World Studies (Figure 2). Their work explores ethical and effective applications for generative AI in ancient world studies to make them more accessible for classicists and the wider public. This includes an upcoming temporary exhibition in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology on inherent biases about the ancient world in generative image AI. Research for this exhibit is supported by undergraduate students Shona Carter-Griffiths, Hannah Gage, and Jacinta Hunter.

Jackie and Edward have also recently published a new article on the first phase of their generative AI research in the Journal of Classics Teaching. This article discusses the generative AI ethics training sessions for ancient language students and teachers over the Autumn 2023 term.

Summer Term 2024 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Summer Term 2024, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 24 April, we welcome a diverse group of speakers in our Departmental seminars. Our Summer seminar series will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm (unless otherwise stated)! Attendance is free and open to all! To attend please follow this link: https://bit.ly/3UkPo10. Below you can find a poster with all titles.

Full list of titles

24 April

Shaohui Wang, Northeast Normal University, China, and University of Cambridge, ἰὼ, ἰή, ἰέ – a survey of ritual cries and emotions in ancient Greek religion and the parallels in Chinese religious practice

1 May

Chris Pellin, University of Oxford, I want to be Great too – but how? Alexander, Augustus, and Livy

8 May – Postponed

Mathura Umanchandran, Exeter University, Race, Empire, and Decoloniality Seminar

15 May

Jordan Miller, University of Cambridge, Under the Bed and among the Dead: Monsters in Ancient Egypt

29 May

Polly Low, Durham University, Nothing to see here? Inscriptions and the early Athenian Empire

 

All (unless otherwise labelled) starting at 16:00 in Edith Morley 126J

For more information contact e.m.m.aston@reading.ac.uk

Classics and Generative AI: New Resources and Opportunities for Staff and Students

Figure 1: Baines, Jackie, Edward A. S. Ross, Jacinta Hunter, Fleur McRitchie Pratt, and Nisha Patel. Digital Tools for Learning Ancient Greek and Latin and Guiding Phrases for Using Generative AI in Ancient Language Study. V2. March 12, 2024. Archived by figshare. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.25391782.v2.

Over the past year, Jackie Baines and Edward A. S. Ross have been researching the ethics of generative AI in teaching Classics and ancient languages as part of their Teaching and Learning Enhancement Project (TLEP) “ChatGPT: A Conversational Language Study Tool.” Their work on this project has initially led to the Classics Department’s AI guidelines and citation guide, and now Jackie and Edward have produced a guiding phrases document and aseries of tutorial videos for staff and students about ethical and effective uses for generative AI.

The guiding phrases document is a compilation of digital learning tools, including generative AI tools, for learning Ancient Greek and Latin. With the help of undergraduate students Jacinta Hunter, Fleur McRitchie Pratt, and Nisha Patel, the Classics AI Testers for the project, Edward and Jackie prepared and tested 10 “copy-paste”-able prompts to streamline generative AI use for supporting ancient language learning. These guiding phrases are tailored for students of elementary, intermediate, and advanced Ancient Greek and Latin at the University of Reading, but they are also couched with tutorials on how to customize them for a more personalized experience.

In order to increase generative AI literacy and make current guidelines more accessible, Jackie and Edward have also prepared a number of tutorial videos about the ethics of using generative AI and proper methods for using these tools. A playlist of these videos is available here.

Figure 2: #STOPandTHINKbeforeyouGENERATE

Alongside these videos, Edward and Jackie will be hosting a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshop on methods for using a variety of generative AI tools to support ancient language teaching and for introducing generative AI ethics to students (Figure 3). This event is funded by a Council of University Classics Department (CUCD) Education Grant and is completely free to attend. There are also some travel grants available for local teachers intending to participate in-person. Please email Jackie Baines (j.baines@reading.ac.uk) if you are interested in a grant. If you are interested in attending, please sign up for in-person or online attendance here.

Figure 3: Using Generative AI to Support Ancient Language Teaching CPD Workshop.

Jackie and Edward have also surveyed staff and students in the Classics Department over the past year about the impact of generative AI on their studies. The results of the initial surveys will be published in the Journal of Classics Teaching shortly. The results of the second set of surveys will be presented at the Digital Humanities and AI conference.

The next stage of their research, now funded with an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) grant, will focus on the biases present in generative image AI, specifically those related to the ancient world. The pilot study for this part of the project was completed by undergraduate student Shona Carter-Griffiths, and we are currently hiring a second-year undergraduate student to continue this work over Summer 2024 (Figure 4). If you are interested in applying for this role, please find the full details and application requirements here.

Figure 4: Gerard Butler with a Spear: Locating Modern Stereotypes for the Classical World in Generative Image AI

Spring Term 2024 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Spring Term 2024, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

Our seminar series will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. Seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams – links to follow. Attendance is free and open to all! Below you can find a list of all titles.

 

7 February

Fiachra Mac Góráin, UCL, Gender euphoria: La Cerda on Virgil’s Camilla, Joining link https://bit.ly/49iVvYr 

21 February

Maeve McHugh, Birmingham, Finding the Ancient Farmer in Fables and Bones, Joining link https://bit.ly/3UrXIN6

14 March – 17:00

Irene Lemos, Oxford, Euboeans at home and abroad in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages (in person only), to be held in Palmer Building, room 108

 

All (unless otherwise labelled) starting at 16:00 in Edith Morley G25

For more information contact e.m.m.aston@reading.ac.uk

Classics students visit Athens

On Saturday 28th October we set off on our odyssey to Athens. After a good night’s sleep from a full day of travelling, we dove straight into the agenda for Day One, which consisted of walking around the Kerameikos site, as well as the Agora, along with their respective museums. After a very short excursion at the Epigraphic Museum, we finished off our first day wandering around the National Archaeological Museum, home to some unique artefacts.

To kick off Day Two we made our way over to the main attraction, the Akropolis, a jewel of Athenian architecture. Once we made it to the top, the view of Athens was absolutely incredible, so obviously many photos were taken. An aspect of Greek theatre came into perspective as we stopped off at the Theatre of Dionysus on the way down, one of the numerous sites on the slopes of the Akropolis. Then after some lunch and shopping, we were shown around the Akropolis Museum, before heading back to the BSA to be treated to a lecture of “Redressing Aphrodite on Lord Hamilton’s Meidias hydra” by our very own, Prof. Amy Smith.

On the morning of Day Three in the Greek capital we walked around the Panathenaic stadium and were even lucky enough to see a vast collection of all of the Olympic torches to date, which was a memorable experience. That afternoon we leapt forward in history and visited the Byzantine and Christian Museum, and it was absolutely fascinating to learn about the impact that Christianity had on the development of the ancient world. For example, the ideology of the gods was completely reshaped and many of the myths and stories lost their influence on people in the ancient world. It is now so interesting to see the various aspects of antiquity that still exist in modern religion today.

In the midst of the trip there was an optional hike up Mount Lycabettus on the morning of Day Four, to obtain, as with the Akropolis, an outstanding view of Athens. This was just an early morning walk for anyone who fancied it and was certainly a great way to start the day.

After that we explored Hadrian’s Library, the Roman Forum and the Tower of Winds in the morning and then in the afternoon, we visited the Numismatic and Cycladic Museums. Being able to view a grand variety of ancient coins was just incredible. The detail depicted on the coins was outstanding, from images that referenced famous battles, deities, animals, historical figures to myths and scenes from epic poems. Some favourites included coins bearing: the chariot of the goddess Nike being pulled by four horses and the reunion between Odysseus and his dog Argus from Homer’s Odyssey was another fan favourite.

Moving away from all of the coins, our final site in Athens was the Cycladic Museum, where we explored various pieces of art from the ancient world, with Dr Rebecca Levitan from Kings College London, who turned our focus on the marble Cycladic figurines. These miniature figures mostly resembled women and there were very few that depicted men, with the design being very minimalistic and only showing a few select features, such as the nose, arms and breasts.

For our final day we exited the Athenian bubble, making our way over to Nafplio, and stopping at Mycenae to see the tomb of Agamemnon on the way. Our final museum stop was the archaeological museum, home to some fascinating artefacts such as pots, masks, armour and weapons.

Aside from all of the historical sites and museums we also had a lot of free time to explore the Greek culture along with its exciting cuisine, and although we had a busy schedule, we even managed to squeeze in a visit to the beach.

A week in Greece to be remembered. Many thanks to all involved in the organisation of this amazing trip.

 

Written by Henry Tandy 

Classics students shine at UROP showcase

At the UROP Showcase this Wednesday, people from across the University and the wider community had the opportunity to learn about the work that 100+ students did as part of University of Reading’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme, aka UROP. Each of the selected students was paid for a 6-week experience conducting real research for academics from across the University’s four themes. The three Classics projects noted below, working within the Heritage & Creativity theme, received funding and recruited select first- and second-year students to work with them. At the showcase each UROP student presented a poster explaining their research projects and discussed the results with interested persons.

In the Company of Monsters: New Visions, Ancient Myths. Shona Carter-Griffiths (shown above) and Megan Davies worked with Profs. Emma Aston and Andrew Mangham (English) in preparation of the labels and text for their exhibition currently on display at the Reading Museum, which project uses contemporary visual art to investigate the power of ancient mythology to engage modern audiences and to explore contemporary themes of identity and diversity.

Athenian Festival ware in the Ure Museum Lorena Rodriguez-Tunon (shown right) collected and analyses examples in Reading’s Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology of black-figure ceramics created and used as festival ware in ancient Athens. This was a testbed for a larger project for which Prof. Amy Smith and her collaborator Dr Katerina Volioti (Roehampton) are currently seeking funding.

Public interactions with Lowbury Hill. Working with Summer Courts and Prof. Amy Smith on the Mymerian Project (https://research.reading.ac.uk/mymerian/), Georgia Spriggs (left) gathered, analysed, and interpreted trends in modern and contemporary public perceptions of the archaeology and history of Lowbury Hill, Oxfordshire, through research in archives and print media, in preparation of a journal article on the subject. Stay tuned for this and other outputs!

When we popped by the showcase we caught we caught Dr Sally Fletcher from the British Museum interrogating Shona and Megan, while Georgia was discussing her project with Janice Galvin from the Alumni Office: she was particularly interested in Georgia’s work on Lowbury Hill because this year the University Alumni funded Georgia’s work! We are very proud of grateful to our students and delighted that they all found their research work so fulfilling. The UROP calendar has just begun again and staff are encouraged to dream up exciting projects on which students might research in Summer 2024.

Autumn Term 2023 Reading Classics Research Seminars

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Reading Classics Seminar Series for Autumn Term 2023, which will boost our Wednesday afternoons with constructive and stimulating lectures and discussions on various aspects of Classics research!

In this series of lectures, starting on 4 October, we welcome a diverse group of speakers from both the UK and abroad in our Departmental seminars. Our Autumn seminar series will explore a variety of topics and periods of Classical studies. All seminars will be livestreamed on MS Teams; tune in every Wednesday at 4pm (unless otherwise stated)! Attendance is free and open to all! Below you can find a poster with all titles.

Full list of titles

4 October

Maya Muratov, Adelphi, With strings attached: Articulated figures in antiquity

11 October

Najee Olya, William & Mary, Re-visiting portrayals of Africans in ancient Greek art: Recurring problems and new questions

16 October – Gordon Lecture (17:00)

Véronique Dasen, Fribourg, Play or cheat?: Games in Greek and Roman antiquity

25 October

Anne Alwis, Kent, Model Ascetics?: Exemplarity in Theodoret of Cyrrhus’ Religious History, joining link bit.ly/3tmY5wL 

8 November

Lea Rees, Oxford, A landscape biography of Dahshur: Chronological, functional and social transformations, joining link bit.ly/48FjuS3

15 November

Summer Court, Reading, Playing at (demi-)god: Hercules’ club, mould-blown glass, and sensory experience

Andy Fox, Reading, The death grove at the heart of Seneca’s Thyestes, joining link: bit.ly/3tx1MjP

22 November – Locus Ludi Public Talk (18:00 EM 125)

Tim Penn, Oxford, More than just fun and games: Why study board games in Roman society?

Launch of a new Ure Museum exhibition

We are delighted to announce a new exhibition— Locus Ludi: Anyone can play!on display at the Ure Museum from 6 September until 30 November, 2023. Image of ancient game pieces from the Ure Museum
This new exhibition, inspired by the European Research Council funded project Locus Ludi: The Cultural Fabric of Play and Games in Classical Antiquity, led by Professor Véronique Dasen, is an opportunity to explore the rich collections relating to games and play in antiquity that are available not only at the Ure Museum but at other UK museums. The exhibition is co-curated by Jayne Holly (Ure Assistant Curator) and Summer Courts (one of our PhD candidates) and benefits particularly from Summer’s expertise in ancient games. We are most grateful to Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Reading Museum, The British Museum and the University of Reading’s Special Collections for the loan of important artefacts from their collections. Han

Another highlight is the game pieces and other contents of the Stanway Doctor’s Grave, a first-century AD tomb discovered by archaeologists in Stanway, Essex, in 1996. (NB you may have heard that ‘Doctor’ referred also as  ‘The Druid of Colchester’, for indeed it is unclear whether he was Celtic, Roman, or other, Druid or even doctor. Nontheless he was buried with a unique gameboard that still baffles experts. You can learn more about it with this video made by the Panoply Vase Animation Project (created with support from the University of Reading’s Friends and Arts Committee) and of course by visiting the exhibition in the Ure Museum!

We have planned several exciting activities and outreach events to coincide with this exhibition. All are welcome but please note that bookings are required for the first two events:

 

In the shadow of Hippolytos: Classical studies in honour of Professor Barbara E. Goff

Woman sacrificing on cup in Toledo Museum of ArtTo celebrate the work of our esteemed friend, colleague and Co-head of Department, Prof. Barbara Goff, we have planned a one-day conference in her honour, on the cusp of her retirement, Friday 22nd September 2023. We have assembled an international cadre of her colleagues, collaborators, (former) students and other associates to discuss the diverse range of inclusive and innovative Classical studies on which she herself has contributed so greatly to scholarship in our and related academic fields. The conference’s four themes, which engage with aspects of her teaching and scholarship are the following:

  • Drama, Theory, History
  • A Sporting Life
  • Broad(er) Classics
  • Re-roo/uting Classics

We are delighted to announce that we will be joined also by Dr Stella Keramida from University of Reading’s Department of Film, Theatre, and Television, who with her students is preparing a performance of (some of) Trojan Women. 

Everyone is invited to join us — whether in person or online — to celebrate Prof. Goff on this august occasion, but please sign up here. Please do not hesitate to contact doukissa.kamini@reading.ac.uk for further details or if you have any questions.

Amy Smith, Dania Kamini and Oliver Baldwin

The full programme is linked here.

Developments in Ancient Language Pedagogy

The following blog has been written by Jackie Baines, who organised a workshop on ‘Developments in Ancient Language Pedagogy’ held in the Department on Friday 19th May 2023. We would like to thank Jackie and all those involved for running such a successful event!

Steven Hunt – Edward Ross – Maiken Mosleth King – James Robson – Jackie Baines

On the 19th May I ran an international blended workshop on the topic of advances in ancient language pedagogy. The workshop came about as part of my research leave which, as a teaching intensive lecturer, has given me the opportunity to look at ways in which I might refresh my pedagogical ideas and practices. I am indebted to Edward Ross who assisted me with many aspects of the organisation of this event. The rationale for the workshop and the choice of talks and speakers came about as a result of experiences and observations over a number of years teaching Latin here at the University of Reading, which include the following:

Choice of Textbooks

For many years we used Jones and Sidwell Reading Latin as the main textbook with all its quirks and difficulties for complete beginners.  After looking at the suitability of many possible alternatives we subsequently moved to using Taylor’s Latin to GCSE which is very much more approachable in its presentation of grammar and its layout for 21st century students but has many drawbacks for moving on with speed and full understanding, to higher levels of Latin. 

Teaching Spoken Latin

This academic year (2022 – 2023) I am grateful to my colleague Professor Eleanor Dickey who organised weekly sessions of spoken Latin for colleagues, run by teachers from Oxford Latinitas. It was a revelation in a number of ways, principally, that there are definite advantages to learning to use a language, now considered ‘dead’ by many, as languages are normally used – that is to speak.  Latin was indeed taught orally until relatively recently, so why aren’t we doing more of it?  A subsidiary lesson for me was being returned to the position of student, at times most alarming and stressful when using a language I know well, but in a totally unfamiliar way.  I have set up a student focus group using Ørberg’s Lingua Latina per se Illustrata. I am impressed by the speed of vocabulary acquisition and grammatical understanding gained by reading and speaking using only (mostly!) Latin.

Online learning in the post-pandemic world

The pandemic has made us realise the possibilities of online tools for additional learning support.  The rise of AI, in particular Chat GPT is opening up a myriad of opportunities and unnerving problems, both for teachers and for the students themselves who need to have enough understanding to use such tools appropriately. Edward A.S. Ross has recently published an article discussing this further here. Edward and I are delighted to be able to announce that since the workshop we have been awarded Teaching and Learning Enhancement Projects funding by the University of Reading to investigate and trial ChatGPT as a conversational language study tool by codifying and standardising methods for using conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) models in ancient language classes.

Workshop talks

In the workshop we were treated to six stimulating and thought-provoking talks, listed below with abstracts available here. Speakers reflected on past practices and perceptions of ancient languages and how they have been taught along with learning how the emergence of new technologies and their use can be used to enhance our teaching. Thanks to all speakers for their contributions.

Emergent pedagogies in classical languages teaching in UK schools: Steven Hunt (University of Cambridge)

Capturing the Classroom: A Snapshot of Approaches to Latin Teaching in UK Universities: Mair E. Lloyd (Open University and University of Cambridge); James Robson (Open University)

Using Simple Grammar Videos to Flip the Classroom: Antonia Ruppel (Institute of Indology and Tibetology, LMU Munich)

Digital software as a pedagogical aid in teaching ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs: Maiken Mosleth King (University of Bristol)

A New Frontier: AI and Ancient Language Pedagogy: Edward A. S. Ross (University of Reading)

Living Latin in the Classroom: benefits and challenges of communicative approaches: Mair E. Lloyd (Open University and University of Cambridge)

 

Written by Jackie Baines