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Maia Atlantis: Ancient World Blogs -

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    In my last post back in July I wrote about the development of a set of APIs and an interface for geographically querying historical places and their annotations, which allows users to browse a long lost territory and retrieve information about historical artefacts. However, even an application as simple as a map visualisation wouldn't be possible, if services, data, and tools weren't made available to the community by a number of different parties. Naming all those upon whose work I have built is no easy thing. But the following have been especially helpful:
    Even this short list gives a measure of the collaborative nature of research and development in this area. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who have provided the above resources and obviously to all of those who enabled them to do so. Below I go into a bit more detail about my finishing touches to the interface for retrieving geographical information about the ancient world. But, for those of you impatient to see the result, you can go straight to the heat map by clicking here.

    Correction of box annotations

    A few corrections have been made on the annotation API in order to return only annotations for which the actual geographical context was a point. It was in fact made known to me, thanks to Leif Isaksen, that in many maps the heat spots were strangely clustered at the intersection of nodes in a grid.    

    Grid effect on heat spots
    The effect is quite clear when visiting a province like XI, in Italy, where the spots are seen clearly positioned in an organised grid. Not only. It seems in fact that for regions like these, the majority of the annotations are grouped in this way. Clearly, the presence of numerous annotations like these undermine the purpose of having a heat map in the first place since the information about the original place associated to an annotation is lost and the contribution from the precise annotations is somewhat shadowed.

    For this reasons all annotations whose geographical context is not a point has been ruled out as contributors for the final heath map, obtaining as a result a more informative map where hot spots are grouped around historical settlements like in the figure below.

    Heat map without box annotations

    Integration of Historical tile sets

    An interesting addition to the interface is the adoption of a particular tile set for historical regions developed by Johan Åhlfeldt in his project Regnum Francorum Online (a description of his work can be read in this blog here). The tile set allows users to provide a background for historical maps which includes names of ancients settlements and depicts also well known roman roads (like the Appian way) alongside known mines and sanctuaries.

    Seeing the actual historical landscape with the original names and connections among settlements can only increase the allure of exploring archaeological artifacts and in fact provides the best context in which to put what can be accessed via the different APIs from the Pelagios data galaxy.

    This work has been supported by Pelagios and I'd like to thank Leif Isaksen, Elton Barker, Rainer Simon and Johan Åhlfeldt for sharing their ideas, support and resources.

    Gianluca Correndo
    Research fellow WAIS group Electronic and Computer Science University of Southampton

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    Proto-Elamite tablet Sb 15083.  Image: CDLI

    New technology has allowed researchers to come closer than ever to cracking the world’s oldest undeciphered writing system.

    Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Southampton have developed a Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) System for Ancient Documentary Artefacts to capture images of some of the world’s most important historical documents.

    Proto-Elamite tablet Sb 15083 (ca. 3100-2900 BC), Susa. Excavated 1905. Image: CDLI Proto-Elamite tablet Sb 15083 (ca. 3100-2900 BC), Susa. Excavated 1905. Image: CDLI

    Script now available online

    These images have now been made available online for free public access on the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative website.

    Among the many thousands of documents are manuscripts written in the so-called proto-Elamite writing system used in ancient Iran from 3,200 to 3,000 BC and the oldest undeciphered writing system currently known.

    By viewing extremely high quality images of these documents, and by sharing them with a community of scholars worldwide, the Oxford University team hope to crack the code once and for all.

    Although proto-Elamite was borrowed from Mesopotamian systems, its ancient scribes devised their own symbols that have made it impossible to read.

    There also have been no bilingual texts to use for comparison nor any lists of symbols or primers to use as a reference. In addition, scholars don’t know how the language was spoken and thus lack phonetic clues that might have helped their work.

    Dr Jacob Dahl, a co-leader of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative and a member of Oxford University’s Faculty of Oriental Studies, said: ‘I have spent the last ten years trying to decipher the proto-Elamite writing system and, with this new technology, I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough.

    ‘The quality of the images captured is incredible, and it is important to remember that you cannot decipher a writing system without having reliable images because you will, for example, overlook differences barely visible to the naked eye which may have meaning. Consider for example not being able to distinguish the letter i from the letter t.’

    New technologies allow further study

    The reflectance transformation imaging technology system designed by staff in the Archaeological Computing Research Group and Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton comprises a dome with 76 lights and a camera positioned at the top of the dome. The manuscript is placed in the centre of the dome, whereafter 76 photos are taken each with one of the 76 lights individually lit. In post-processing the 76 images are joined so that the researcher can move the light across the surface of the digital image and use the difference between light and shadow to highlight never-before-seen details.

    RTI system and (right) tablet beneath the dome. Image: University of Oxford RTI system and (right) tablet beneath the dome. Image: University of Oxford

    Potential to transform how we understand early writing

    Dr Dahl believes this writing system might be even more interesting than previously thought. He said: ‘Looking at contemporary and later writing systems, we would expect to see proto-Elamite use only symbols to represent things, but we think they also used a syllabary – for example ‘cat’ would not be represented by a symbol depicting the animal but by symbols for the otherwise unrelated words ‘ca’ and ‘at’.

    ‘Half of the signs used in this way seem to have been invented ex novo for the sounds they represent – if this turns out to be the case, it would transform fundamentally how we understand early writing where phonetecism is believed to have been developed through the so-called rebus principle (a modern example would be for example “I see you”, written with the three signs ‘eye’, the ‘sea’, and a ‘ewe’).’

    Proto-Elamite tablet script. Image: University of Oxford Proto-Elamite tablet script. Image: University of Oxford

    Some features of the writing system are already known. The scribes had loaned – or potentially shared – some signs from/with Mesopotamia, such as  the numerical signs and their systems  and signs for objects like sheep, goats, cereals and some others. Nevertheless, 80-90% of the signs remain undeciphered.

    The writing system died out after only a couple centuries. Dr Dahl said: ‘It was used in administration and for agricultural records but it was not used in schools – the lack of a scholarly tradition meant that a lot of mistakes were made and the writing system may eventually have become useless as an administrative system. Eventually, the system was abandoned after some two hundred years.’

    Source: University of Oxford

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    Agriculture represents a drastic change in the evolution of complex human societies. Archaeological data collected regarding this period attests to a wide ranging adaptive responses including changes in sociopolitical structures, population size, mortuary patterns and health. In the southeastern United States, prehistoric groups varied in the extent of their use of agriculture and therefore in how … Continue reading »

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    Mapparoject partecipa a: I fiumi e la città. Geoarcheologia urbana…

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    La carte nationale des sites archéologiques et des monuments historiques : feuilles 1/50 000

    Responsable Scientifique et Administratif : Mustapha KHANOUSSI
    Responsable NTIC : Ali DABBAGHI

    1. Nature: Projet présidentiel
    2. Références 
    - décision du Conseil Ministériel Restreint sous la présidence de son Excellence le Président de la République du 21 Juillet 1991.
    - décret n°1443-1992 du 03 août 1992
    . Cadre général
    Malgré la diversité des projets d'inventaire dès la fin du XIX ème siècle, il n'y a pas encore un inventaire général et exhaustif des sites archéologiques, des monuments historiques et du patrimoine vernaculaire.
    4. Contenu
    La carte nationale des sites archéologiques et des monuments historiques a vu ses objectifs clairement précisés par le décret n°1443-1992 daté du 3 août 1992 :
    Article premier. – Il est institué une carte nationale des sites archéologiques et des monuments historiques en terre et en mer dans le but d’établir l’inventaire général des lieux et édifices qui constituent une partie du patrimoine culturel national.
    Article 2. – Pour le recensement des sites et des monuments, il sera procédé à l’établissement et à l’impression des documents suivants :
    - carte au 1/50 000e comportant la localisation des sites
    - plan au 1/2000 comportant la localisation des monuments et des tissus urbains traditionnels.
    - fichier comportant une description des sites et des monuments, une évaluation des superficies, une couverture photographique et, dans la mesure du possible, une enquête foncière préliminaire. »

    And see also:

    Carte Nationale des Sites Archéologiques et des Monuments Historiques 

    Les feuilles prospectées dans le cadre du projet carte nationale des sites archéologiques et monuments historiques

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    conservation session flyer

    Click to Enlarge

    By Suzanne Davis and LeeAnn Barnes Gordon

    This year we are pleased to announce a new workshop session for the ASOR Annual Meeting, Archaeological Conservation Strategies in the Near East. Both conservators and archaeologists tend to present research within their own fields, effectively segregating the disciplines. But this year, thanks to ASOR, we have an opportunity to foster collaboration and promote information sharing among conservators and archaeologists working in the Near East. As conservators who work on excavations in the Near East, this topic is important to us and we hope you’ll find it interesting and important, too.

    The workshop contributors will present multi-disciplinary projects and research on archaeological heritage from Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Iraq. Topics examined will include regional trends in conservation, balancing preservation and access, site management, treatments of challenging materials, and collaborations with local conservation and archaeological communities. Moderated discussions between the presentations will engage the contributors as well as the audience, creating an ongoing dialogue that we hope will ultimately improve preservation for archaeological materials and sites in the Near East. If you have questions, insights, or just an interest in these topics, please join us.

    The first two presentations of the session will focus on site work. Hiroko Kariya will discuss the Luxor Temple Fragment Conservation Project, which includes the documentation, treatment, and monitoring of tens of thousands of sandstone fragments.  Kariya’s presentation will address two particularly challenging aspects of the project: the protection of a massive number of semi-portable, inscribed fragments and providing accessibility to the collection on site for a high volume of visitors. In the following presentation, “Getting What You Came For: Conservation and Research at Tel Kedesh, Israel,” Suzanne Davis will demonstrate how on-site conservation activities can successfully contribute to archaeological research. This talk will also introduce the important discussion topic of how to balance the expectations of local conservation and archaeological authorities with the on-the-ground realities and priorities of international project teams.

    Case studies presented by Krysia Spirydowicz and Catherine Foster will discuss the challenges of preserving two exceptional and fragile archaeological collections. Spirydowicz will outline the methods used to conserve ornate, wooden furniture from the royal tombs at Gordion. This presentation will highlight the difficulties of preserving ancient wooden objects, while addressing the particular conservation problems posed by the charred and fragmentary Gordion furniture. The focus of Foster’s talk will be the preservation of the Nimrud ivories, which resulted from a joint Iraq-U.S. project undertaken at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil (the Institute). The project initiated a program of conservation and improved display of the famous ivories, as well as provided training to Iraqi conservation professionals. The final presentation by Vicki Cassman will elaborate on the history and goals of the Iraqi Institute. Institute participants receive training by international conservation experts, as part of an effort to build a sustainable conservation community that will serve preservation needs at sites and museums throughout Iraq.

    This workshop session will be held at the 2012 Annual Meeting on Friday, Nov. 16th from 4:20 – 6:25 pm.


    All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any link on this blog. ASOR will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information. ASOR will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. The opinions expressed by Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of ASOR or any employee thereof.

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    Yesterday in my class on religion and science, we discussed the notion of “acts of God” and divine action. I started us off with the phrase “acts of God” as used in the realm of insurance policies, which led nicely into a discussion of whether people take that language literally, and if so, what it applies to.

    It quickly dawned on me that, since some religious believers view everything as an “act of God,” if they sign an insurance policy that says they are not covered in the case of “acts of God,” then they are effectively paying a lot of money for a policy that doesn’t ever cover them for anything.

    Or is it only the religious views of the insurance company that matter when it comes to coverage? If so, hadn’t we all better start asking what they are before we sign on the dotted line?

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    One of the boards from the inner coffin of Ahanakht, with a piece of modern wood replacing the sample taken for a pioneering C14 studyHow cool is this?  While working on a post for our Artifact Lab blog, I Googled Ahanakht, the ancient Egyptian buried in an elaborately inscribed wooden coffin in our collection.  Besides learning that Ahanakht I was the first Middle Kingdom governor of the Hare nome (province) in around 2000 BCE, I got a result citing “Willard F. Libby – Nobel Lecture –”.  Intrigued, I followed the link and discovered that this artifact in our collection had played a crucial role in the development of C14 as a dating technique, for which Dr. Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960.  Libby used the cedar wood from Ahahakht’s coffin as one of the points in his ‘curve of knowns’ and specifically mentioned Ahanakht in his Nobel Laureate address on December 12, 1960.

    Graph taken from publication of Libby’s Nobel Laureate address, showing Penn Museum’s own Aha-Nakht[sic] as one of the baseline known dates.

    As Egyptologist Salima Ikram (author of The Mummy in Ancient Egypt: Equipping the Dead for Eternity) says “if you put [mummies] in museums, take care of them, and remember to recite the name of the deceased, then they are, in fact, having the kind of afterlife they wanted, because the whole point of an afterlife is to be remembered”.   Ahanakht can be considered to be having a very successful afterlife.

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    Open Access- Brukenthal. Acta Musei VII.1

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    I am currently working on putting together a colloquium, as a closing (and opening towards future research) event for my fellowship.

    More details will be posted here soon, but in the mean time, here is an overview.

    Interpreting Textual Artefacts: Cognitive Perspectives and Digital Support for Knowledge Creation


    Date: 11th & 12th December 2012 (early afternoon 11th to tea time 12th)

    Place: University of Oxford (Lecture theatre at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St Giles’ Oxford OX1 3LU)


    The reading of textual artefacts in cuneiform studies (Assyriology), papyrology, epigraphy, palaeography, and mediaeval studies is at the core of the creation (discovery, invention) of new knowledge of past cultures and civilizations. The artefacts in themselves are devoid of meaning, and it is their interpretation and re-interpretation that contextualizes them and turns them into conveyors of knowledge.

    This colloquium aims to convene scholars from a wide-ranging selection of fields in order to explore how knowledge is created through the act of interpretation of ancient documents. Each session will put into dialogue the work and methods, both digital and more traditional, of ancient documents scholars with findings from the cognitive sciences around the processes involved in the act of interpretation of ancient documents.

    Through this event, we aim to gain a better-integrated view of the cognitive processes involved in the interpretation of ancient documents as well as some ways of supporting them and facilitating them digitally. As a tangible outcome of this colloquium, the presented papers will be gathered into an edited volume.

    This 1.5 day colloquium will be articulated around the five following sessions:

    • Materiality and visual perception
    • Kinaesthetic engagement in reading
    • Word identification
    • Structural knowledge and context
    • Creativity and collaboration

    Do mark the dates! All welcome!


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    The final report of a small excavation of biblical Japhia (Josh 19:12) has been published. The excavators identified possible hiding places used during the Jewish Revolt but not the double fortification described by Josephus.

    Another stone workshop was excavated two miles north of Nazareth in the village of er-Reina. Remains date from the Persian to Late Roman periods.

    A final report was also recently published for Khirbet Keila near Zorah and Eshtaol, with remains from the Early Bronze, Intermediate Bronze, and Byzantine periods.

    A final report is now available for a survey along the northern part of the “Diagonal Route,” from Shaar HaGai to the Elah Valley. The survey included portions of Tel Bet Shemesh and the area around Beit Jimal and Moshav Zekhariya.

    Beth Shemesh and Sorek Valley aerial from southeast, tb010703219 ppt screenshot

    Beth Shemesh and “Diagonal Route”
    Labeled slide from Judah and the Dead Sea

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  • 10/23/12--08:53: From my diary
  • I’ve been doing some more work on the Mithras Project pages.  This has been entirely PHP and perl coding, tho.

    Daryn Lehoux kindly sent me a copy of the paperback of his book, Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World.  CUP are now selling this on Amazon at USD$40.  It’s very excellent, and I shall have to spend some time with it, once my pile of books from last weekend diminishes!

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    Anthony Alcock has uploaded to an English translation of a 4th century Coptic apocryphon, The story of Joseph the Carpenter.  It’s here:

    The text, in the Bohairic dialect of Coptic, was published by Paul de Lagarde in Aegyptiaca, (Göttingen, 1883), which is online here, with a pointer to the Google books volume (inaccessible to non-US readers).

    The text was issued without a table of contents, and Dr Alcock has thoughtfully provided one:

    Joseph the Carpenter: 1-37.
    Dormition of Mary: 38 – 63
    Wisdom of Solomon: 64 – 106
    Ecclesiastes: 107 – 206
    Psalms: 207 – 208
    Apostolic Canons: 209 -291

    He writes:

    The principal text of Joseph the Carpenter is in Bohairic, with a complete Arabic text and fragments of a Sahidic text.

    The Arabic text, published by Georg Wallin in Leipzig 1722 with a Latin version, is in Paris (the Bibliothèque Nationale).

    M.R. James used the Latin version to provide a summary of the text for his Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1924) p.84ff.

    The Sahidic fragments are in Rome (Catalogus codicum copticorum 1782 no. 121). Only sections 14 to the beginning of 24 of the Sahidic version have survived.

    The English version is based on the Bohairic, and reference is made from time to time to the other two versions.


    The major study of this story was published in 1951 by Siegfried Morenz (Die Geschichte vom Joseph dem Zimmermann, Berlin and Leipzig).

    Marvellous!  Get it while it’s hot.

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    I’m considering using this image to advertise my course about Egyptian art & architecture next semester.

    Is this a meme that college kids get/know about?

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  • 10/23/12--09:36: Who Owns the Bible?
  • Over on her blog Love, Joy, Feminism, Libby Anne has joined in a conversation between Chris Hallq and myself which never really took off. Perhaps this time it will. Click through to read her thoughts about the diversity among the ways that fundamentalist Christians, liberal Christians, and atheists approach the Bible. And thank you, Libby Anne, for joining and continuing this conversation!

    As a reminder, below is the image that sparked Hallq’s post, to which I then replied here.

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    In response to the Government's Amended Complaint, my firm, Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC along with Michael McCullough LLC, have filed a renewed motion to dismiss.  The legal basis for the motion is addressed in this supporting memorandum.    Pursuant to the Court's September 7, 2012 order, the Government's response is due on or before October 19, 2012 and any reply is due on or before October 30, 2012.

    Update (10/17/12):  Here is a balanced article on the Government's unfortunate effort to convert this civil action into a criminal one.

    Update (10/23/12):  Here is our reply brief in support of Claimant's Motion to Dismiss.

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    In my Romans course today I lectured on Rom 7:1-25 and had a great a discussion with my students about the spiritual status of the speaker (“I”) in verses 14-25. Not surprisingly, prior to the reading and coursework they did in preparation for today, many of my students had never seriously grappled with the issue of whether the speaker in this passage represents a regenerate or unregenerate person; most had simply assumed that Paul was narrating his post-conversion struggle with “Sin”. Again, such is not surprising considering that this is the view taught in many churches and in some scholarly commentaries (e.g., Cranfield and Dunn). But this got me to wondering if this is the assumption shared by most readers of this blog. So, I thought I would post a poll so readers can vote on which position they find the strongest, also providing a third option (“both”) for those who do not believe the regenerate and unregenerate positions adequately cover the interpretive possibilities. Please do share your opinion.

    Btw, for interested readers, I recommend Jason Maston’s recently published thesis on Romans 7-8, Divine and Human Agency in Second Temple Judaism and Paul: A Comparative Approach (WUNT 2/297; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010).

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    This is Open Access Week 2012

    AWOL is approching one million page views (992,605 as of today, to be exact), and has now surpassed 5200 subscribers by email, three and a half years after I deployed that function.  I'm gratified that such a large number of you find AWOL interesting enough to voluntarily add another piece of email to your busy queues.

    You may follow AWOL directly via News Feed (user count not easy to discover), via Feedburner (this are the ca. 5200 email subscribers - a thousand more than six months ago), on Facebook (881 likes),  or on Twitter @ISAWLibrary (522 followers).  You can also follow AWOL on Google+.

    AWOL' s Alphabetical list of Open Access Journals in Ancient Studies currently includes 1223 titles. We reached the 1000 title benchmark one year ago.

    The following graph charts the growth of traffic on AWOL over its lifetime:

    Since May 2010, Blogger has been keeping detailed statistics on usage of files hosted there. In that period the ten most frequently viewed AWOL pages have been:

    I invite you to make use of the full suite of Online Resources from ISAW currently available from ISAW and its collaborators under the terms of open licenses:
    Ancient World Digital Library Book Viewer
    The first fruits of an effort to accelerate and enhance access to the emerging global library of digital publications on the ancient world, the AWDL Book Viewer lets users read and search digitized copies of previously printed scholarly materials. In addition to page images of many digitized volumes, AWDL currently hosts an online version of Roger Bagnall and Giovanni Ruffini. (2012) Amheida I. Ostraka from Trimithis, Volume 1: Texts from the 2004–2007 Seasons.
    Ancient World Image Bank
    View and download over 2,000 free digital images of sites and objects from the ancient world, contributed by ISAW faculty, staff and friends.
    Ancient World Online
    Find out about all the latest online and open-access material relating to the ancient world, regardless of where it's published.
    Learn about the objects and cultures featured in ISAW's public exhibitions at 15 East 84th Street in New York. Even though these exhibitions eventually close or move on to other locations, the websites for them remain, providing permanent access to images, maps and other materials.
    ISAW Papers
    ISAW Papers is an open-content scholarly journal that publishes article-length works on any topic within the scope of ISAW's scholarly research.
    Search and browse over 50,000 ancient Greek and Latin documents preserved on papyrus and other materials. Images, texts, translations and descriptions contributed by scholars and institutions around the world. Get the latest project news via the Digital Papyrology Blog.
    Planet Atlantides
    News aggregators for ancient studies. This site gathers together news, commentary and other posts from a variety of blogs and sites around the web and provides the aggregate in an easy-to-read web page as well as in a variety of web feed formats.
    Use, create and share information about ancient places, spaces and geographic names. Over 30,000 places registered (and growing). Get Pleiades Project News here.
    Social Media
    You can follow ISAW on TwitterFacebook, LinkedIn,, Google+, or (via one of our web feeds) in your favorite feed reader or aggregator.

    I  also invite you to amuse yourself by browsing through Bookplates of Scholars in Ancient Studies. If any of you have additions, corrections or comments on that, please do get in touch with me.  I'm particularly interested if you can surface other interesting bookplates of scholars of antiquity.

    As always, comments - online or offline - about AWOL are welcome.

    Earlier administrative notes with user statistics have been posted in August 2012April 2012, March 2012, November 2011, October 2011July 2011, April 2011, January 2011December 2010October 2010, August 2010July 2010, May 2010, and  January 2010.

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    Those who’ve read my blog for a long time or followed some of the projects I’ve undertaken will know that I have a longstanding interest in using technology to create genuinely interactive teaching tools. You can see a prototype of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” textbook I created a number of years ago, by going to this address:

    Well, it seems as though Moodle has seen the usefulness of this approach. They have integrated all that you need to make a Choose Your Own Adventure textbook/course. Here’s a tutorial explaining how it is done, courtesy of the Center for Online Learning:

    Click here to view the embedded video.

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