The backbone of this project is a focus on a natural context, outside the classroom, for the study of Spanish, and the development of materials for use in that context. We chose the Los Griegos neighborhood in Albuquerque/Los Ranchos for its connection to the spanish language, documented history, diverse use and architecture, and walkability. We used information collected from neighborhood contacts, documentary archives, and a thesis written about the area, as well as multiple site visits from which to build the story and setting for our game.
Our idea and hope that academic study has a lot to benefit from associated local contexts (and vice versa) has been greatly supported by observational data of participants in our study.
In classroom observations, on-site gameplay observations, and participant interviews we saw a very significant, almost universal, desire on the part of students in our two trials to engage in local contexts like the Los Griegos neighborhood in the service of learning spanish. Students were very motivated by the idea that this project focused on a local neighborhood, were excited to go to Los Griegos, and greatly preferred the on-site portion of the game to the off-site portion, and after the game were interested in extending their connection to that place, it's history and present.
Furthermore, we believe that connecting classroom learning to local lived contexts is not only important for the academic development of our students. These efforts can also serve to connect the university to its surrounding communities in important ways.
In the future we are hoping to extend either our game or develop new content to encompass parts of Los Griegos and adjacent areas which we have not yet incorporated into the present game. In particular, we wish to make use of the branch library on griegos, the acequias that run through the neighborhood, and to create content that lies between Los Griegos and Candelaria and possibly at the Rio Grande Nature Center. We are also hoping to create situations where students themselves are gathering and reflecting upon information about these small communities within communities as part of their overall design efforts in the project. We believe this sort of locally-centered design, of which our current efforts are just a start, can do much more than spice up a Spanish 202 class.
Like student design, this is an area in which we have been only able to make limited advances. We have made a few good contacts in the area, including the instigator of the mystery in the game, Adelita, a blogger who writes about the neighborhood at Duke City Fix, and Joe S. Sausage, whose green chile pork sausage is hard to beat. There are natural areas of overlapping interest and shared goals to be found, but this work takes more time and effort than we have been at present able to afford.