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Kindles in Greek Class and Anki Flashcards

June 22, 2011

We’re halfway through the INTENSIVE introductory Greek class I am working with this summer, using Kindles as a supplement to the textbook and as a little experiment to see what resources work on them.  I did a big background round-up of digital texts for Greek in a post a bit ago, and more recently I wrote a little guide to using the Kindles for the students as well.

We decided to ask them to purchase a koine Bible from Amazon, for $2, and we’re doing daily sight-reading from John as a warm-up.  We chose this version because it has an accurate text, with breathing marks and accents (many digital koine texts omit these), and as a bonus it includes the Septuagint and Apocrypha as well.  The professor has also made her personal supplementary notes to the textbook (UGA uses Athenaze) available to the students in .pdf, and has placed additional readings in the course management system (UGA uses eLearning Commons) .pdf as well.

I learned a little more about the nexus of file types, the Kindle, and Greek fonts as we got the class started.  There are two ways to read a .pdf or .doc file on the Kindle. You can read the text in its native format, as a .pdf or .doc, in which case you see the text just as it looks on your computer screen, but it’s tiny, because it fills the Kindle screen which is quite small.  Or you can convert the text to a Kindle format, by emailing it through the Kindle email account and using the word “convert” in the title of your email.  Unfortunately this messes with the formatting a bit, especially if there are tables in the original document, and for this class the documents did contain tables – very natural, when setting out paradigms!  We also had troubles with the Greek coming through okay, especially if we converted .pdf files.  The Kindle v. 3 (small grey one) fully supports Unicode, unlike previous Kindles, but it seems like .pdfs do not necessarily support Unicode Greek.  So, the students in our experiment have straight .pdf files on their Kindles, with very small type, but they are young and hardy – they’ll survive!

A great digital tool for flash cards that unfortunately doesn’t work on the Kindle is Anki software.  It’s free to download to yous computer, and there is an iPod app but it apparently costs $25, and so far none of the students has seemed willing to pay that much.  Once I had the software installed in the computer, I searched for Athenaze in the set of existing flashcard decks and found a deck of cards for the first 6 chapters.  The program gives you a vocab flash card, and you can show yourself the answer when you’re ready and then rate how soon you need to see this card again – from “immediately” for things you don’t know at all, to “never” for stuff that’s deeply in your brain.

Anyone know of other good flashcard programs for smartphones that support Greek (and are inexpensive)?  One of the points of using the Kindle in this class is to give the students a lightweight tool to carry with them at all times, so they can study in odd moments (waiting for the bus, etc.)  It would be great to have a flashcard program for the Kindle, but Kindles are so locked down that it’s unlikely that will be possible.  But most students seem to have smartphones these days…

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