We are beyond delighted to announce that we have been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for our Small Business Innovation Research proposal, Aztech Games.
Today, I’d like to answer four questions:
- What is Aztech Games?
- Why would the Department of Agriculture fund a game that teaches math, social studies and English?
- How is Aztech Games like an automatic door?
- Don’t you know the word Aztec doesn’t have an ‘h’ at the end?
1. What is Aztech Games?
Briefly, it is computer games that teach math, history and English vocabulary as players move through time and across the continents in a virtual world. Sound cool? We think so.
2. Why the Department of Agriculture?
Two reasons. First of all, Hispanics (who make up 95% of students who are English language learners), used to be concentrated in a few states. Now many rural places like North Dakota, Iowa and Missouri have seen a dramatic rise in the number of Hispanic residents. It’s a dramatic rise from zero in many places, so, the districts have limited resources for the 5, 10 or 25 kids in their schools who don’t speak English as a native language. Second, rural schools that have a predominantly Hispanic population can have great variation in the English proficiency of those children, from those who are native speakers to students who arrived in the country last week. While districts in rural California might have teachers who speak Spanish and Spanish language curriculum they are no richer than school districts in central Missouri and somehow they need to cope with this variation.
If you are a rural school and would like to participate as a test site, we would be super-thrilled to provide you a game license for free this Christmas when our beta version is done. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll hook you up.
3. How is Aztech like an automatic door?
I was thinking of this while at a conference last week with our booth babe/ office baby, pushing a stroller when I came to a door that had a button design to allow accessibility for people in wheelchairs. It also provided access for a person with a small baby in a stroller. Last week, we were talking with Annie, a teacher from Missouri, and Jovi, from central California . After Jovi finished talking about the wide variation in English proficiency in classes in her school, which is 98% Hispanic, Annie commented:
I have that problem every single year, even though some years every child in my class is a native English speaker!
4. Don’t you know Aztec doesn’t have an ‘h’ in it?
We had our first design meeting a week ago and José, one of our consulting teachers, brought up as tactfully as possible,
“You know, the people were called Aztec, right?”
We assured him that the name was deliberate based on our application of technology.
He appeared very relieved.