A Learning Resource For the Future

Published Tue Nov 17 00:00:00 EST 2015

By Michael Harrison, Ph.D

What would a 21st century learning program look like if we could start from scratch?

Recent surveys show that up to 75% of today’s students are classified as “non-traditional,” meaning they often are part-time learners, working parents, and/or commuters. Let’s build a program that makes learning, practice, and skill development accessible 24/7.

Education is no longer exclusive to private and public institutions of higher learning. With smartphones, tablets and wireless access available to so many, students need a program that leverages today’s mobile technology proliferation. One size does not fit all. Let’s build a program that takes the individual learner into consideration, adapting in real-time to the progress we each make as we navigate our unique learning curve.

Already, doctors, pilots and engineers are being trained using immersive, 3D virtual reality environments. Let’s move from static, skill-and-drill practice activities presented in a vacuum, to hands-on, immersive, learn-by-doing, visual interactions with new concepts to build meaningful, real-world applicable skills.

Sure, we can build a program that works in a high school or university classroom. But why stop there? Let’s build a program that anyone can use, making learning accessible to everyone with the motivation to learn, practice and grow.

We teach our kids how to read with books about dinosaurs and faraway lands, how to write with colorful crayons in coloring books, and how to build with Legos. Let’s activate that imagination in all learners by making learning fun for kids of all ages, including that 50 year-old once addicted to Nintendo way back in 1984.

Learning should be anytime, anywhere, and by everyone. With Practice Spanish: Study Abroad, the first multiplatform, 3-D Spanish learning video game, McGraw-Hill Education makes this aspiration a reality. Anyone interested in learning Spanish can now develop their Spanish language skills anytime, anywhere, using any device.

Practice Spanish: Study Abroad can be played online from any computer or via mobile apps in iTunes and Google Play. In a classroom environment, game play (and the learning that takes place as part of it) can be assigned and closely monitored by instructors, with an eye toward specific skill development. And with “Self Study Mode”, learners can access and play the game without being enrolled in a traditional campus language course.

The game is set in Colombia, where players live, problem solve, communicate, and navigate through a variety of cultural scenarios and adventures as they “study abroad” in a fictional Colombian town. Players design their own avatars and interact with game characters as they complete real world tasks: find and attend classes, plan weekend excursions, buy souvenirs, and interact with the fictional host family and new friends. Each real-world task is preceded by a series of short mini-games focused on the necessary vocabulary and grammar to play the game, earn points, and rewards. These pre-task mini-games are tailored to the individual learner and must be mastered in order to “unlock” the full virtual experience, ensuring that all players demonstrate a degree of core competencies before playing each Quest.

Just as every student’s learning process is an individual one, each student experience will be unique, as students will be asked to make individualized choices that will lead to differing paths and experiences as they accomplish their tasks. Students can play the game as many times as they’d like to uncover new challenges, opportunities, and experiences, all while strengthening and expanding their Spanish language skills.

By building a program which provides immersive, imaginative, accessible, and targeted language learning tools for a wide variety of language learners, learning can indeed be anytime, anywhere, and by everyone.

For more information on Practice Spanish: Study Abroad or McGraw-Hill Education’s other award-winning Practice products, please visit www.mhpractice.com.

r

About the Author

Dr. Michael Harrison

Assistant Professor of Spanish at San Diego Mesa College