Dr. Vassiliki Rapti, Preceptor in Modern Greek, pushes the boundaries of digital media instruction in her classroom by engaging her students in new ways and challenging traditional language teaching methods. DARTH Crimson spotlights her work as an example of the successful integration of technology into course design. Dr. Rapti’s approach allows for greater creativity in the classroom, and this experimentation has resulted in a direct positive response in student enthusiasm and performance.
In one assignment, Rapti instructs her students to set up Facebook profiles for the class. They use the Greek language user interface setting and correspond entirely in Greek. The student responses she has collected have emphasized their enthusiasm for utilizing the language in an immersive, everyday manner, giving them routine practice in a practical space. Some students have chosen to keep their accounts set to the Greek interface indefinitely to hone their skills further.There are also more artistic assignments that provide the opportunity to use technology for self-expression. This approach has earned her recognition, including an Elson Family Award for the integration of the arts into the curriculum. “I realized that allowing the students to be creative is a great motivation for them to improve their language skills,” Rapti said, going on to describe the most ambitious project she tackles with her language students: film inspired by the chorus in Greek tragedy.
All of Rapti’s Modern Greek classes produce a film as a final project. Students participate from every step along the way through research, scripting, acting, filming, and post-production. There is a job for everyone, and English subtitles make the all-Greek performances easily accessible to all audiences. She devised this project while seeking “a more creative and lasting way to teach Modern Greek, and one which could be assessed beyond the final exam.” Although students were receptive to replacing a final exam with an ongoing project, Rapti knew it would be a challenge. “I wondered how I could assess my students in all four language skills (writing, reading, listening, speaking) both in their individual and collective contribution. I was looking, in particular, for a collective experience that would naturally engage each student separately and encourage all students to give their best.”
Rapti found help in the Media Production Center, who continually offer their expertise in film production at Harvard, as well as the Language Resource Centerin Lamont Library. Rapti stresses the importance of finding resources within the community to support ambitious ideas such as the film project and also recognizes her other collaborators: Rhea Karabelas-Lesage, Head Bibliographer of the Modern Greek Special Collection; the Woodberry Poetry Room, which has rare materials in Modern Greek; the Sackler Museum; the Arts @29 Garden; the Greek Film Society at Harvard; the Harvard College Hellenic Society; and the Greek Institute. (We maintain a listing of resources here at Harvard on the DARTH Crimson website.)
It does not stop at film either. Students have produced other creative projects as well. One student painted a plate in imitation of an Ancient Greek relic, incorporating a well-researched Greek text. Another developed a playable board game around the Odyssey. Others have designed video projects and slideshows that blend Greek poetry with self-made imagery.
Digital media technologies are more accessible than ever before, and Rapti has shown them to be effective tools for cultivating creativity and self-expression in pedagogy. Her courses engage and enthuse, raising the bar where traditional methods fall flat, because when given the opportunity students will surprise you with their ingenuity.