IATEFL presentation : Virtual Reality in the EFL Class

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By Raquel Ribeiro

While formal education has historically been confined to the four walls of classrooms, mobile devices can move learning to settings that maximize understanding.

(Unesco, Policies Guidelines for Mobile Learning,2013 p. 18)

In IATEFL Glasgow, I presented a talk about the usage of the affordable Google Cardboard Box as a tool to bring the virtual reality to class.  I’d like to get started by contextualizing what encouraged me to pursue this experience with students from different ages and levels.

The year was 2015 and the Cardboard had just been released. I remember watching this video on Youtube, explaining the Expeditions project :

It seemed to show a lot of potential, but the kit with one cardboard and one device per student seemed to be too expensive. I was impressed by the tool, but still trying to figure out how to adjust that to my teaching reality.

Some months later, in November of that same year, I was invited to watch a trial class here in Sao Paulo where I live, with the creator of the Cardboard Box who had come from The US and was visiting schools in many countries. That was great and watching a real class motivated me even more. I was decided to find a way to give it a try within the EFL scenario. Some key questions were still on my mind:

How could I integrate VR with the teaching of English as a foreign language?
Would it be well accepted in all age ranges?
How would my students react to the idea?

The following year, in 2016, I integrated it into one class for each level I was teaching. There are some lessons, expecially the ones about distant places and realities, that can be enhanced if a degree of hands-on experience is added. Learner experience LX as much as user experience UX is a certainly a powerful feature to  explore in the 21st century.
When integrating VR into class curricula & content, it’s a given that the use of technology must add substance to the learning experience. As an EFL teacher, I thought of the following ways of integrating VR  into the different levels and age ranges that I teach:

Kids – Visit castle Neuschwanstein in Germany

(key vocabulary : Homes, they had just watched an animation called‘ Hotel Transylvania and boy lives in a castle’ ).

In another lesson the key vocabulary was wild animals. They could ‘visit’ a real forest with Google Cardboard Box and while doing so, speak the name of the animal they saw. E.g.: lion, tiger…

Teenagers & Adults C1 level – They were supposed to use a variety of adjectives to describe landscapes. I divided the students in trios and each group visited a different location: Fort Qaitbey, Alexandria; Zeus Cave, Aydi; Cappadocia, The Fairy Chimneys and Pyramids of Giza, Cairo

Another class of C1 Adults – They were studying the Passive Voice for reporting. The idea then was to visit an unknown place for them and describe it using the proposed verb tense.

Teenagers A2 level– Reading passage about The Milky Way and planets. We could ‘visit’ it and drop by the Moon (Apollo 17) ! In another class we could also visit some rooms in Buckingham Palace!

Google Cardboard Box made it possible for the students to experience the ideas proposed in the designed classes and in their coursebooks. That was more intense and meaningful than just looking at a photo. Afterwards, while doing the follow up task, they could still recall the sensation of having been to the place.

In order to really register the experience, beyond being just a memory, I quickly created a padlet wall where each group had to share a photo from the place they had visited. Students accomplished the task quickly. Then, I filmed the padlet wall and shared it on my Instagram account ( I keep an open, teacher account where I share everything related to my teaching practice) and asked the students to use the comments to post information about the place they had visited using the target language : passive reporting of verbs to give the characteristics of the place and some info they had researched.

Here’s the final result of this particular activity :

My first goal in mind was to have students experience visiting the locations. As the activity happened and students were moving through the stations, I had this insight to use social media to register the activity and mainly to provide a need to use the target language of the lesson within a real context. I’m mentioning this because it’s important to consider that , even though we plan classes and activities and the use of certain tools, powerful insights can also come up as the plan is being delivered. We should not underestimate the fact that, more often than not, those ideas help us teachers to promote a more effective learning experience for our students.

Also, consider using social media and blogging to reach a number of other colleagues who can benefit and get inspired by your ideas. 💻

📎Presentation slides in pdf

📄 Digital hand out to the audience 

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/raquel-gonzaga/supplementary-resource-virtual-reality-efl-class

To wrap up, I feel the need to say that IATEFL is an amazing conference to refuel our teaching vision in the first place. There are SIGs which stand for Special Interest Groups. You can take part in the SIGs activities during the course of the year and also interact online. The one I belong is this, the LTSIG (Learning Technologies SIG) is about spreading successful teaching practices using technology.

There are other SIGs and I strongly recommend you find one that attracts you.

The full list is here:
http://www.iatefl.org/special-interest-groups/sig-list

Also, keep in mind that what is presented at IATEFL by teachers from the different parts of the world is their everyday practices , usually transformed into case studies. Your everyday teaching practice is precious! Consider taking notes and photos of the work you develop throughout the year and keeping a simple journal. Over some time, that can be developed into a presentation.

Who knows, I have a feeling you may be one of the teachers presenting at IATEFL 2018.

Bio: Raquel Ribeiro , EFL and EdTech teacher , Cambridge speaking examiner, Google Innovator and Mentor
2016 Learning Technologies Travel scholarship winner.
Passionate about the potential technology has to enhance the learning and to promote inclusion

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