What Makes Us Human?

by: Kathleen Jasonides, Janet Karvouniaris and Amalia Zavacopoulou, Academy Faculty, ACS Athens

Ethos Magazine, Winter 2013, Vol 8, Issue 1

What makes us human? Is it our creativity, our intelligence, our dreams? Or is it our ability to directly influence and shape our future? Focusing on this essential question, the Honors Humanities course encourages students to exercise their critical thinking skills as they tackle complex ideas through an interdisciplinary approach. Emphasis is placed on independent learning tasks, innovative assignments and creative use of 21st century technology. As this instructional model has much in common with the innovative web-facilitated i2 Flex design, it comes as no surprise that Honors Humanities is one of the first i2 Flex courses being offered at ACS.

A “modern classic,” the Honors Humanities program was created 40 years ago as an innovative, interdisciplinary, team-taught course that examines essential questions through literature, visual and performing arts, philosophy and history. From the beginning, Humanities field study trips in Greece and Europe have encouraged students to become independent learners, while also developing their critical thinking skills and cultural awareness. Visiting the museums and monuments, experiencing the artifacts up close and exploring the masterpieces studied in class, these experiences provide students with opportunities to think, imagine, conceptualize and create. Humanities students are guided by their teachers to develop the tools to envisage the future through the study of human civilization; the tools to build the future as “Architects of their own Learning.”

From its inception the ACS Honors Humanities program has developed and adapted without sacrificing the four attributes which made the prototype unique. Above all, it offers a student-centered, authentic, interdisciplinary and flexible educational experience to ACS students.   These attributes have contributed to a smooth transition in the journey from a traditional face-to-face course to the i2 Flex model. The diagram below shows how the integrity of the core attributes have been enhanced by the i2 Flex model.

Traditional Face to Face Humanities course The i2 Flex model
Student Centered – Students find their own way into the course. Assessment is diverse to address a variety of individual learning styles and each student brings a unique approach to the field study component. Independent investigation in flex-time gives students some control over time, place, pace and mode of learning.


Authentic –The Honors Humanities course is an original ACS Athens course, which was designed specifically for our international student body. i2 Flex is another authentic ACS innovation geared towards improving teaching and learning.


Interdisciplinary –The team-taught and completely integrated interdisciplinary approach develops high-order critical thinking skills. The i2 Flex model opens up a wider range of multimedia resources across the disciplines and develops high-order critical thinking in the online environment.


Flexible – The Humanities program has not only evolved to meet the needs of 21st century learners, but also offers opportunities for greater personalization of the learning experiences.


The i2 Flex model provides a framework for continuous improvement of teaching and learning which includes an ongoing process of reflection and revision of the web-based flextime modules.

Significant benchmarks on the journey toward the i2Flex model were the development of two on-line courses with field study components in Europe: “Classical Humanism in the Italian Renaissance” and “Classicism and Romanticism in French Art and Thought.” Another milestone will be the inauguration in February of a new on-line course, “Reason and Faith: Classical Humanism and Byzantine Spirituality.” This course aims to bring students from Greece and abroad together, first digitally through online activities, discussion forums and independent research, then in person through an extensive field-study trip within Greece, where students will visit sites of cultural and historical importance.

At each stage of the journey, the goal has been to create and enhance courses that challenge students academically while utilizing the best existing resources and taking advantage of new technology. The i2Flex approach provides students with the flexibility, skills and tools to tailor their future according to their needs, interests and skills. In the new i2Flex paradigm, Honors Humanities is becoming a “modern digital classic.”

So, what is it that makes us human? Perhaps it’s our ability to imagine the possibilities of a better future and gain knowledge and skills to adapt to the unknown. Models like i2Flex enable teachers and students at ACS Athens to do just that.