Undoubtedly, virtual reality has been one of the most discussed topics between educators since the past year. Multiple applications try to exploit its characteristics in order to enhance students’ learning process.
VirtualSpeech is an application which through scenarios and a wide range of language situations, aims to use the virtual reality to teach foreign languages. Besides English the user can choose between the following languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Chinese. Russian, Japanese, Italian and Korean are soon to be released.
Originally the app was developed to help people learn English through simulations of the English culture and landmarks. The idea behind this was to create a more exciting way of learning in a virtual environment. Research shows that visual representations help in maintaining information and learning new vocabulary (Jones, 2010). In addition the use of images helps in making abstract ideas more specific to students.
Below are listed the categories that the user can pick from.
Experience Culture: Virtual Reality (VR) is the possible solution for creating genuine language learning environments in EFL countries for a variety of reasons. The most beneficial part of using VR is the creation of those situations that simulate the physical environment through digital representation (Chen & Chen, 2016). London, Cotswolds, Warwick, Cornwall and many other British places are available to visit.
Vocabulary: The user is asked to locate various objects in beautiful and well-designed rooms. Despite the fact that we really liked this option it should be mentioned that the free version of the app includes only room.
Audiobook Chapters: The user can choose to listen to renowned books such as Treasure Island or Alice in the Wonderland. Of course, it would be an addition if moving or static images could be added as to enhance the student's involvement.
Basic Tenses: The player interacts with different shapes and objects trying to put them in order while creating sentences. Each object represents a single word. At the moment the user can choose from Present Simple, Past Simple and Future Simple.
Numbers: A realistic space ship simulation game in which the player tries to maneuver his spacecraft to the right number. It's not just a language learning game, but it certainly enriches the whole experience.
Roleplaying Speeches: It is a fact that through virtual reality it is possible to simulate situations that would be either too expensive or unfeasible to perform (Dávideková, et al., 2017). On this axis the user can simulate a speech, an interview, make a reservation for a hotel etc. It is a fact that there is no feedback based on what is said, but this may have had dubious results and would certainly require some financial consideration such as the purchase of the application.
Rewards and statistics: Finally, it is possible to record some of the user's achievements which are earned after completing certain activities.
Language VR will help teach English language and culture by providing photorealistic virtual reality environments to students to talk, listen, interact, and ultimately play.
The application is fully compatible with Google Cardboard and is available for Android, IOS, and GearVR devices. You can find out more here https://virtualspeech.com/
Chen, X. and Chen, M. (2016). The Application of Virtual Reality Technology in the EFL Learning Environment in China. Proceedings of the 2016 International Conference on Sensor Network and Computer Engineering.
Dávideková, M., Mjartan, M. and Greguš, M. (2017). Use of Virtual Reality in Education of Employees in Slovakia. Computer Science, 113, pp. 253-260.
Jones, A.D. (2010). Science through photography. Science through photography. Science and Children, 47 (5), 26-30.
Google Expeditions is a virtual-reality teaching tool. It gives students an opportunity to explore a variety of amazing environments and areas that they may never have the chance to visit in person. You can swim with sharks, visit outer space, walk through a museum, and more without leaving the classroom.
There are over 500 Expeditions trips available at the moment. Everything from the Great Wall of China, to the Buckingham Palace, and even the outer space are available as destinations for your students. Each Expedition is a 360-degree experience that allows students travel to an amazing place while being guided by a teacher.
To join an expedition, each participant needs a Wi-Fi-connected tablet or smartphone. Teachers choose the content that they want to show to the devices connected on the same Wi-Fi network and can pause, play, or change what students see.
Virtual reality provides an interactive, immersive experience. Instead of sitting passively, students stand up. Instead of looking at one aspect of an image, they literally turn their heads and move their eyes to view angles of a scenery. Instead of remaining aware of their classroom environment, they are immersed inside of a virtual reality setting.
How to use in classroom?
Teachers can use Expeditions to supplement their current curriculum with VR field trips.
The teacher’s role is to ask questions, pinpoint important things on the tour, etc. Giving time for students to explore each scene first and then highlighting points of interest can help enliven the content for your students. It is also worth mentioning that extensive support materials are provided for each scene, such as leveled questions and pre-determined points of interest.
The teacher guides his students through the use of a tablet he is handling. The role of the teacher is to provide the students with the necessary information regarding the scene they are watching while still being in charge of changing the scenes. It should be time-saving and problem-solving if each expedition has already been downloaded before the lesson's begging.
A mobile phone between 4,5 - 5.99" with a gyroscopic sensor must be placed in every single cardboard. It doesn't have to big something fancy. As long as it possess a gyroscopic sensor it will get the job done.
Each device needs to pre-install the Google Expeditions app, which is free and can be downloaded to the mobile phone via the Playstore or iOS.
Internet Connection / WI-FI
A special advantage of Google Expeditions is that there is no need for the student's mobile device to be connected to the Internet but simply to the school's local Wi-Fi. All in all, no internet connection needed during the lesson as long as the teacher has already pre-dowloaded the Expeditions of his choice at his own device (ideally a tablet as mentioned before)
HMD ( Head Mounted Display)
The HMD is the device that will host the smartphone allowing the viewing of the 3D scenes that it generates.
There is a huge variety of HMDs out in the market ranging for a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. A solid option is the official Google Cardboard that can be bought from the official Google stores online and cost around 20 dollars.
Despite its disadvantages (mainly in relation to the degree of limited immersion and the dizziness that can be caused to the user because of the prolonged use), the device seems to be an opportunity to integrate VR into the classroom's setting given the wide spread of smart phones and its positive elements. It is certainly a tool that would help boosting the students’ engagement while at the same time helping them gain a better understanding of the lesson.