Fall Project: Real World Spanish

For an assignment in my fall class Implementing Technology in Global and Local Contexts with Chris Dede, I was asked to come up with an intervention to move an existing school system towards 21st-century learning outcomes.

My proposal is a VR mission-based Spanish class designed for Brighton High in Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

The experiences of students at Brighton high, like those of most US high schools, is largely defined by “teaching by telling / learning by listening” instead of more active forms of learning. My hypothesis is that if we could give students an exposure to true active learning for even one class, they’d never want to go back to the rote learning and memorization method.

Meet Real Life Spanish

So here’s my proposal:

  1. Each week students spend one class session on a VR mission. The setting is the life of a secret agent…so each mission looks a bit different depending on whether she is trying to sneak her way onto a train or tracking down an enemy of state.
  2. Each mission requires a different vocabulary. And of course the more grammar you know the more you’ll be able to say.
  3. The classes leading up to the mission help you prepare for the vocabulary and situations you might encounter.
  4. Classes include teacher-led activities, self-study, and group games. The main goal is to let students take responsibility for their learning as soon as they get a few tools for doing so.

Here you can see a wireframe for the course’s website and a letter showing how it could be pitched to a local school board member.

Background

Of course I’m biased, but I would love to take this course. I modeled it after my experience of learning Polish in the Missionary Training Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each week would end with a teaching appointment (with real people) in which we had the opportunity to teach in Polish. Having signed up for two years of missionary service, we were obviously keen on sharing our message…and thus each week we were motivated to prepare to do our best (which was admittedly terrible) at the lesson.

Technology

In terms of technology, I don’t know if the world is quite ready for this course. Siri can barely understand me in English as a native speaker, so I’m not sure how she’ll do with student-level Spanish. There are interesting digital puppeteering technologies like Mursion that could be used if the class could afford actors. But let’s see how things go — as voice recognition and artificial intelligence continue to improve this type of language-based, role-player game will become more feasible.

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