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Lafayette High School students design Spanish video games

Students at Lafayette High School had the opportunity to express their Spanish skills in a new and creative way this week.

Scott Jimenez, the Spanish teacher at LHS, started using Bloxels, a color-coded teaching tool that allows students to design their own video games. Jimenez said the concept behind Bloxels fits in well with his teaching style.

“My teaching methodology revolves around comprehensible input as opposed to a traditional chapter-based textbook,” he said. “We spend most class periods using student-created characters to create a story in class, then use that story in a number of ways in order to reinforce the language.”

Jimenez said he first learned about Bloxels while attending a technology workshop, where he realized the potential the technology had to be incorporated into his lessons as a new form of expression for students.

“These characters and their problems allow me to incorporate vocabulary that is applicable and personal to the students,” he said. “In the past, students only had the text or illustrations of other stories. Now students can read through the stories of their peers while playing a video game and it doesn’t quite feel as tedious.”

Bloxels consists of a set of multicolored plastic cubes, which groups of two or three students arrange on a black plastic grid. Once the character or component of the video game is complete, the student can log in to an app on their phones, scan the design and customize it. The students working with Bloxels have created characters ranging from a strawberry, to a file folder, to a Mario-inspired man. Characters are similar in appearance to vintage 8-Bit video games.

Referencing the character’s background story allows students to explain their character’s problem, personality and obstacles they face in the game.

“Our character is a strawberry, and her family got picked, so she’s got to find her family,” said Karlie Anderson. “She’s going through Strawberry Land, and she’s going to encounter a lemon, an orange, stuff like that so they can talk and help her find her family.”

All the text in the games will be in Spanish, so after the students create the games, they can play them to practice their comprehension skills.

Katie Sicks, a junior in the class, said outlining the story in full before developing the game makes using the technology more fun.

“Once you get down the Spanish words and the characters we’ve been doing for awhile, it’s easy,” Sicks said. “He’s taught us well enough that we’re able to write down an entire story in a day.”

The class only has one classroom set of Bloxels at the moment, but Jimenez said he’d like to obtain more so other teachers can incorporate the technology into their lessons and keep students engaged.

“Like any technology, it all depends on how the teacher uses it in order to enhance student learning or proof of mastery,” Jimenez said. “I think it’s always worth it to introduce technology into the classroom with the current generation of students who are practically attached to their cell phones.”