Ancient Spaces: Student-driven reconstructions of ancient civilizations

TitleAncient Spaces: Student-driven reconstructions of ancient civilizations
Duration2 Year
Funding Details
Year 1: Project TitleAncient Spaces: A Student-Driven Experiential Approach to Teaching and Learning in Classical, Near-Eastern and Religious Studies
Year 1: Project YearYear 1
Year 1: Funding Year2005/2006
Year 1: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 1: Principal InvestigatorDietmar Neufeld
Year 1: Funded Amount31,107
Year 1: Team Members

Dietmar Neufeld, Professor, Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts
Jo McFetridge, MA Student, Classical and Near Eastern Archeology, Faculty of Arts

Year 1: Summary

WHAT: The department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies is a merged unit with a common chronological and geographical scope defined by the circum Ancient Mediterranean world. Numerous groups of people moved, lived, breathed, built, sculpted, painted and built monuments bequeathed to gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, rulers and divine humans. Glorious structures have survived the ravages of time and have been preserved for their historical, cultural and aesthetic importance. Many of the sites are In distant places of the world often out of reach for most students and the general public. In the class room, these monuments to human imagination, whether temples (Parthenon), commercial and civic centers (Agora), sanctuaries, buildings of governance, grand domiciles of the rich and famous, statues of the honorable, and grand urban centers can be projected onto a screen in a one-dimensional, static way. These static images do not do justice to the material remains and moreover do not permit an interactive learning environment.

New technology makes possible the rendering of these famous ancient places into a 30 format with the ability to engage in a virtual tour of them. Moreover, students will eventually be able to Interact with these sites by taking an active role in building the Parthenon, or reconstructing the Agora, the pyramids of Egypt along with virtually experiencing digs at the Lunt (Britain), Stymphalos (Greece), Monte Pollzzo (Sicily), the royal tombs at Abydos (Egypt), Hierakonpolis (Egypt), and Tell Achameh (Syria). Acquiring direct, hands-on knowledge via the virtual world along with a rich visual experience would be of benefit to every student in the department and, once fully developed, of benefit to the community at large to join a virtual learning community. These virtual class rooms would be models of learning, retention and, through virtual visits to these ancient sites, internationalization. In this regard, Ancient Spaces would enable students to reconstruct and re-experience the material cultures of the ancient

Mediterranean world in a collaborative environment. Ancient Spaces Is a student Initiated, student driven 30 reconstruction and interactive environment representing the ancient world. A trial phase of the project has been recently completed. Funding is sought for a full-scale development and implementation of Ancient Spaces into the curricula of the three major areas of study offered by the department in the 2005/06 academic year.

HOW: Students would build this Interactive world themselves, element by element Individually or in teams, by conducting academic research into the form and function of an individual ancient building, event artifact or ritual, and using pre­ made 30 objects to reconstruct the ancient element in 30. The result is a modular, digital world that can be used and reused to complement and enhance existing course curricula and as a digital forum (through wiki) for students to debate particular archaeological, religious, or historical reconstructions.

WHY: The project was designed Initially as an aid for teaching and learning in departmental curricula by presenting students with an alternative way of experiencing the ancient world, and allowing them to participate actively in its reconstruction. Ancient Spaces provides students with the opportunity to engage in experiential learning. The project also aids greatly in the acquisition of Information Technology literacy among Arts students. The project also seeks to provide digital forums for peer-to-peer and teacher-to-student academic discourse, and to promote the development of multiple learning channels for Humanities students.

Year 2: Project YearYear 2
Year 2: Funding Year2006/2007
Year 2: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 2: Principal InvestigatorUlrich Rauch
Year 2: Funded Amount80,780
Year 2: Team Members

Ulrich Rauch, Arts ISIT, Faculty of Arts
Dietmar Neufeld, Professor, Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts
Christopher Marshall, Professor, Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts
Linc Kesler, Professor / Director, First Nations Studies Program, Faculty of Arts
Marvin Cohodas, Professor, Art History, Visual Arts and Theory, Faculty of Arts
Michael Griffin, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford

Year 2: Summary

Ancient Spaces enables the undergraduate archaeologist to rebuild the monuments of ancient civilizations in an interactive 3D simulation. This new approach to 'constructive learning' in archaeology uses the creation of immersive computer simulations which draw upon e.g. archaeological excavations led by UBC instructors or existing records of excavations, to create an immersive process that allows students to engage with the recreation of physical artefacts, but also the recreation and understanding of the social and cultural environments in which artefacts became formed. The simulations are then reviewed in the academic community, and subsequently showcased and shared (via the Internet) as original undergraduate research. The project was initially conceived and led by students, with students leading the development of the interactive 3-D simulations. Academic support for the project came originally from the Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious studies, but has widened to include the First Nations Studies Program and the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory. Each class complemented by Ancient Spaces also produces a learning environment for the next cohort of students, affording undergraduates a leading role in experiencing new constructivist pedagogical approaches by interacting equally with subject matter, with peers and with supervisors. Having successfully piloted this approach in 2005 with the aid of initial TLEF funding, we now seek a fuller and multidisciplinary implementation of this learning environment. The project was in 2005 featured as exemplary in numerous presentations by a VP of Educause, and has been reported on the front page of UBC Reports in October 2005. Crossing institutional boundaries, the project is now co-developed in conjunction with the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford.

For this second round of TLEF funding we strive to enrich the archaeological component of (virtual) "digs" with information on the social and cultural environment that lent meaning to these "Ancient Spaces". To this end we will integrate an authoring platform, (Pachyderm) into Ancient Spaces for the development and delivery of media-rich web materials. Pachyderm, (co-developed by UBC/Arts) is designed for non-technical content specialists, i.e. students and instructors. The authoring tool allows easy access to a variety of rich media (e.g. videos, audio files, and images) and lets instructors or students use those materials to create discovery-based learning experiences. The results are visually compelling, make use of both sight and sound cues, and encourage a non-linear exploration of a subject matter. The coupling of Ancient Spaces with Pachyderm is a "perfect fit" as it permits learner directed study and a constructing of meaning in a virtual environment but also in a very real “pedagogical” context.