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Bringing Textbooks to Life

Stephany Slaughter, professor of Spanish, brings history to life for students with her new role-playing book.

Stephany SlaughterALMA – Stephany Slaughter, professor of Spanish and chair of the World Languages and Cultures Department, helps bring history to life in her latest publication, Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920, with Jonathan Truitt, professor of Latin American History and Chair of the Center for Learning through Games and Simulations at Central Michigan University.

Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920 is published by W. W. Norton as a part of the Reacting to the Past role-playing games series. It is the first in the collection to focus on Latin American history.

“Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas,” according to the RTTP website. This allows students to take control of their learning through reenactment. RTTP was developed by Mark C. Carnes, professor of history at Barnard College, in the late 1990s and is used in a variety of levels in college.

Students act as historical figures from the Mexican Revolution as they assume the role of a character from the book, through making oral presentations or writing papers. They use critical thinking and primary source analysis to debate and make decisions to reform Mexico and create a stable nation.

Truitt was well established in the RTTP community when he invited Slaughter to work on the book, drawn to her dissertation work on the Mexican Revolution. She was unfamiliar with RTTP, but their different backgrounds only enriched the project.

“I think it resulted in a nice combination,” said Slaughter. “He was able to put what historians want to look for and I was asking what arts and artists we could add — some visual pieces to talk about memory in ways that I have used in my work.”

Slaughter enjoyed working with Truitt on a project that was not the traditional textbook, and with the RTTP community who was supportive and gave ideas throughout the process. She also loved the ability to include art and layers of intersectionality between gender, indigeneity, power and economics all within the game book.

“I think we both really shaped this project,” said Slaughter. “I am really grateful for his generosity with how much I was able to shape the project.”

Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920 took a decade to complete and has been heavily vetted. After the creation of the content, including a student game book, instructor’s manual and character sheets, the game went through a trial phase where it was tested by others.

Story published on March 27, 2020