On 22 Nov 2017 the #ELTchat was on the topic of ‘Virtual Reality In Use’. This is a written summary of the chat, while an enhanced video showing some of the sites mentioned and a chat between the joint summary writers is at the end.
The question to kick start was about the VR headsets available in the market. One of the participants mentioned Google Cardboard Box, the affordable Google VR set for schools. As there were doubts because some participants were not familiar with this VR possibility, this site was suggested for quick research. Google Cardboard is a VR headset that you put your phone into. There are various VR apps which can be used on the phone and seen through the Cardboard headset, noted @carolrainbow. She pointed out that some other apps or sites related to school subjects as geography and biology could be found, but not specifically for ELT as far as she knows. @fionaljp shared a link to some educational resources from Class Tech tips for using VR, as well as some tips for getting started with 360 photos.
ELTchat newcomer, @paulinobrener said he hadn’t used VR in the classroom but would love to use VR in his online classes. He would meet students in virtual spaces such as this. Like we used to do in Second Life suggested @angelos_bollas, who added that it was better for online classes but maybe VR is better in face-to-face ones. @carolrainbow still meets people in Second Life. You can’t get anything more immersive than a virtual world in her opinion. Marisa_C agreed and felt @carolrainbow was a virtual worlds guru and mentor, with thousands of great SL photos of virtual trips, holodecks and more! @paulinobrener felt Facebook Spaces is arguably more immersive. It’s like SL but not in front of a monitor but with VR goggles in an immersive environment.
The chat moved on to what was actually the main purpose of the exchange, which was how to integrate the VR possibility to meaningful ELT classroom usage. @Marisa_C contributed with a blog on the theme of VR integration with elt syllabus from the LTSIG blog archive – here, written by @Rach_Ribeiro who was also taking part. @Angelos_bollas mentioned the possibility of ‘virtual trips’, while @fionaljp shared a link with some suggestions and asked about the 360° camera and VR headset. @Paulinobrener contributed with this link on VR integration and later on made his point that VR as entertaining as it is, doesn’t replace the teacher. @fionaljp brought up @Paul_Driver‘s idea of using VR for CELTA observation, as described in this link. She also shared Paul’s excellent presentation for Cambridge University Press – ‘A new perspective: Virtual Reality and Transmedia Spherical Video in Teacher Training.’ Paul later joined the chat. @Rach_Ribeiro shared more ideas from a blog post she wrote for Teaching English British Council.
Another doubt had to do with what kind of video to use and where to find some options. @Marisa_C shared some YouTube samples which were recorded with a 360° camera. @fionaljp said she was interested in 360 filming for observation. @Rach_Ribeiro suggested that a ‘gopro camera ‘ or a mobile enabled to film 360° is necessary to create this – such as this one with elephants. You can use Google Street view to do 360° on a mobile device, offered @carolrainbow. The discussion later came back to the more technical aspect of using VR in relation to the equipment: smart phone, videos recorded in 360° or VR ready apps. The need of some specialised training, as well as the fact it is just another tool, came up in the interaction between @paulinobrener and @angelos_bollas. The former shared a publication on the uses of mobile learning by @Shaunwilden, who was also present. Shaun mentioned one of his favourite 360° sites – Google Spotlight Stories.
@Angelos_bollas asked whether a new teacher would need some specialised training to use VR? @paulinobrener replied that all teachers have (or should have) a strong foundation for teaching languages. VR is just another tool. @angelos_bollas was talking more about VR training. @paulinobrener added that like any new tool you want to you, you need to know the teacher very well before implementing. Or an old teacher, suggested @sueannan or any teacher added @seburnt. @sergiolm21 said from his point of view no, but I would recommend you to try some Apps, experience it and see for yourself.
@sergiolm21 stated that students love to use Google Expeditions when they have to do a writing activities describing places. But what do they do whilst exploring? asked @carolrainbow. After the tour every group describes the place and finally present their tour orally to rest of the class, replied @sergiolm21. It depends on the students’ levels, suggested @Rach_Ribeiro – you can ask students what they see. @Shaunwilden argued that this could be done just as well using video on a phone, the immersive element doesn’t add to the language activity. Marisa_C agreed, adding that immersion tends to generate descriptive language while Second Life interactions can generate more genuine social ones. @sergiolm21 stated that with AR or VR you can get more info than with a video, students can walk around the class and ‘explore’ what they are watching. Another positive aspect is that AR & VR could increase motivation. Experienced educational technologist, @Paul_Driver, pointed out that the current limitations in the use of VR in ELT are mostly down to a lack of imagination more than anything technological.
@Shaunwilden says there is a little on 360 videos in his book on mobile learning, which was mentioned in the chat, but he remains unconvinced of VR in language teaching. @angelos_bollas asked why he was not sold on the idea. Shaun stated that, at the moment, it is no more than a glorified video player for language classes.
@Marisa_C highlighted a key factor, that the teacher needs to scaffold and promote language use while the ‘trip’ is happening, which was strongly supported by many participants. Furthermore, in her wrap up note, @Marisa_C also reminded everyone of the LTSIG Pre conference event on 9 April 2018, which will be on the field of VR and AR researches applied to teaching EFL or ESL where both @Paul_Driver and @Rach_Ribeiro, along with other speakers will be sharing their experience and clarifying doubts the audience may have.
About the summary writers:
Raquel Ribeiro is already a keen advocate and experienced user of virtual reality in the classroom. She will be presenting at the Learning Technologies Special Interest Group PCE at the IATEFL Conference in Brighton. She recently received a donation of 30 Google Cardboard boxes from Google London and will be bringing some along to the event.
Phil Longwell has just purchased his first VR headset, ahead of the LTSIG PCE. He hasn’t got much experience of virtual reality, but did attend Kevin Spiteri’s session on this at ELT Malta. A clip of that session is here.
Here is an enhanced video showing some of the sites mentioned above and a chat about the topic between the summary writers:
An extended version of the chat between the summary writers, which has a further discussion of the topic and the possible uses of VR in education, is here.