Revista Horizontes: primavera/otoño 2011 | Año LIV Núms. 104-105

26 Puerto Rico de cara al CAFTA-RD. Washington, DC: Research Division, U.S. International Trade Commission. Verbit, G. P. (1971). Técnicas en los convenios comerciales para países en desarrollo. México, DF: Editorial Limusa-Wiley. BREAKING WITH TRADITION: VIDEO GAMES AS AN ALTERNATIVE TOOL FOR ESL INSTRUCTION IN PUERTO RICO'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS Prof. Kenneth S. Horowitz Department of English and Foreign Languages Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico Abstract Puerto Rico's public school system has been teaching English as a second language for more than a century, but has been unable to increase proficiency rates among students at all levels. A lack of physical and economical resources, combined with a disconnect at the governmental and educational levels, have resulted in an island population that not only does not speak English, but sees the language as little more than a tool for employment. Many Puerto Ricans have little or no opportunity to actively connect what they learn in the English classroom to their daily lives due to the absence of a true English- speaking environment. It is possible that video games may serve to bridge the gap between academic content and home life by offering persistent opportunities to use English in authentic contexts and in real time. Puerto Rico's educational system suffers many of the same flaws as other government agencies, such as a lack of funds and equipment. However, it is especially flawed where learning the English language is concerned. The Department of Education has been unable to raise proficiency scores in English beyond 34% or improve the 87% of its schools that are unable to achieve adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals, and English has consistently lagged behind other subjects in this area (PR Department of Education, 2011). A constant change in leadership and policy after every four-year election cycle has consistently derailed all attempts to implement a solid and transformational reform that will bring the public school system into the 21 st century (Ladd & Rivera-Batiz, 2006). Research on this very subject goes back almost three decades, and virtually all of them address the same problem of Puerto Ricans being unwilling to accept the English language as a part of its culture and national identity. The changes made to the Puerto Rican public school system since 1949 have returned classes to an almost entirely Spanish-speaking environment, but they were unable to erase what is believed to be an underlying resistance to the English language. The population has increasingly espoused the need for English as a vital tool for employment while simultaneously separating it from daily island life. Resnick (1993) and Vélez (1996) discussed these phenomena almost two decades ago, indentifying the population's island-wide "motivated failure" to embrace English as a silent means of cultural resistance, while it simultaneously recognizes the importance of learning the language in order to find better jobs. Vélez argued that the problem lies with Puerto Rico's acceptance of bilingualism on an individual level, when it should instead aspire to achieve it on a societal level. According to Baleghizadeh (2008), colonialism typically leads to societal bilingualism; however such was not the case with English in Puerto Rico, most likely due to the hands-off approach of the U.S. government towards assimilation after the failure of Americanization. Despite this increased level of cultural and social autonomy, after a century of English instruction as both a first language (EFL) and second language (ESL), Puerto Rico should undoubtedly be more proficient in using it in all forms. Lamentably, this is not the case, and as of 2010, less than 85% of the total population indicated that they speak it “less than very well” (U.S. Census, 2010). The Department of Education has been consistently unable to make any headway with English in the public school system, and traditional teaching methods has proven to be unsuccessful in increasing English proficiency or changing the attitudes towards the language. Students today are also quite different than those of previous populations in that they have greater access to technology. Christened "digital natives," by Marc Presky in 2001 (as cited in Wilson, 2012), they are accustomed to a world that has high speed internet, virtually all information with reach of a Google search, and most of their media, such as movies and music, in a predominantly digital format (Bennett, Maton & Kervin, 2008). They take this technology with them everywhere, and many are more adept at using it than their parents. Unfortunately, for economic reasons this technology is not available to all learners, which thus prohibits the adoption of an attitude of non-digital educators versus digital students. In light of this situation, it has become apparent that new approaches to English language teaching must be examined, if English language educators hope to keep their students motivated and positive towards language learning. Efforts should perhaps be made to make such technology available through the classroom to those learners who do not have access to it at home or in their communities (Thomas, 2011). This would open a new dimension of learning to