Professor's Shakespeare App Shines Spotlight on Coding Program

October 8, 2018

Shakespeare App Anderson University James Duncan

A few years ago, Dr. James Duncan pored over a lengthy Shakespearian script book, marked with scribbles of adaptations, while attempting to learn his lines. Though his performance was successful, the experience with the paper booklet prompted him to consider a simpler means of memorization. 

The result is The Shakespeare App. Duncan, a professor of communication at Anderson University, created the mobile application to help actors memorize Shakespeare’s eloquent language—and to eliminate mishaps on stage. “No more lined-out, worn-out script books,” reads the description on the Apple App Store. 

The app is a transformative development for those directing and performing Shakespeare’s plays, making memorization easier for actors. 

“The core idea of the app is that it will present you the full text, but then it will hide text progressively as you get better at learning something,” Duncan said. 

Shakespeare App Anderson University James Duncan The app’s subtitle summarizes its purpose: “Read. Memorize. Adapt. Publish.” A sleek design allows users to swiftly navigate through the four sections, making it simple for casts and directors to create their own adaptions. Through an in-app purchase, users can upload their adaption to the cloud, making it available to the entire cast. 

With all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays included in the free download, directors and actors have quick access to the material they need for a successful production.Actors may even narrow the focus to their character and the adaptation they are performing.

Duncan’s Shakespeare App is an example of Anderson’s foray into coding instruction. Last year, the College of Arts and Sciences launched a new minor in coding, open to all students, in conjunction with Apple’s “Everyone Can Code” curriculum. Duncan is among the professors who teach the program’s courses. 

Dr. Wayne Cox, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said Duncan’s application demonstrates the value of coding across academic disciplines. 

“Professor Duncan’s Shakespeare app illustrates this aptly: we are practitioners in our fields, and this applied expertise informs our teaching and improves our classes,” Cox said.

“The tools I used to build it are the tools that we teach in the coding minor program,” Duncan said. “That’s part of why I did it—to practice what we’re teaching in the classes. In building it myself, I learned more about the process.”

Duncan’s accomplishment exemplifies Anderson University’s innovative spirit and commitment to excellence, Cox said.

“Degree programs in College of Arts and Sciences all include an emphasis on developing professional skills and preparation,” he said.“Research, intellectual rigor and critical thinking are part of our faculty’s DNA. We are teacher-scholars, and our faculty actively contribute to their disciplines.” 

In two semesters of senior capstone courses, coding minors are tasked with creating an app that confronts practical challenges, and Anderson’s coding faculty and university administration are broadening the curriculum. For example, school officials are working on a strategic partnership that would allow coding students to develop apps for the healthcare industry in general—and possibly a major healthcare provider specifically. 

But that’s just one industry in which coding professionals are needed. It’s a broad discipline, Cox said.

“A look at national employment statistics shows that while there are approximately 43,000 traditional computer science jobs available in the U.S., there are over 500,000 programming and coding positions available,” Cox said.

With the guidance of inventive professors like Duncan, coding students gain an invaluable skill that presents promising future careers. 

“The jobs of the future will be going to those students who can combine the technical skills they might acquire in a minor such as this with the soft skills they learn from the liberal arts,” Cox said.