As a learner, teacher and a logophile, I like to explore the language from different aspects and observe how it deeply affects our lives. Language learning is surely empowering, helping one become a functional member of a society or part of a wider conversation, opening doors to a wide range of careers leading to a brand new life in another country. It even refreshes and renews us allowing us to express ourselves in a richer lexical dimension, which often goes untranslatable in our mother tongue, which has a predominant effect on our modus operandi.
On the other hand, language learning is a whole package involving cultural, social and even anthropological aspects to be understood. Gaining the ability to use a language comes with its challenges due its multi-layered dynamics. It requires a knowledge of its basic structure, reading the cultural codes through non-verbal expression and understanding the lexical nuances which will sooner or later be confronted in daily life.
Would it be possible to expose a learner to all of this without him/her being physically involved in a real setting?
It seems like YES! Technology renders it always more possible for both learners and teachers to share the experience of real-life situations using a VR tool-kit. Upon receiving an Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Training grant I was able to experience this in person thanks to VIRAL for Communities project.
A group of educators and intercultural specialists from Italy, Poland, Romania, Greece and I, representing Ozyegin University and Turkey, came together for an Erasmus+ Project based on creating an innovative tool-kit for, largely migrant and low-skilled learners of language, aiming at facilitating their integration process. As part of my training, I joined the team for the hands on VR technology implementation. The tool-kit is still going through some improvement works before it is ready for public use.
What is VR Technology?
Virtual Reality (VR) literally renders it possible to experience anything, anywhere, anytime. Yes, you know what I mean especially if you watched Black Mirror series. It probably is the most immersive type of reality technology that can persuade the human brain to perceive an environment or a set of events that are physically inexistent. A fully immersive experience becomes possible through the simulation of authentic experiences provided by a VR device.
During the training in San Miniato (Pisa) I experienced how effective a VR movie could be through the display of real- life cases with a variety of focuses. The focus may change depending on the purpose of the VR movie. It may be purely on language acquisition or on social codes and manners to convey a moral message.
What do you need to create a VR video?
There are some steps to be followed before putting the VR technology into action. As part of the technical training we needed some tools to prepare our own VR movie.
1.A high quality camera making 360 Degree videos look sharp,
2.An invisible stick and a bag that could help hide the invisible stick
The movie created by the tool-kit aims at creating an interactive environment by creating hotspots, which appear as choices within the movie. Those of you who watched the interactive Black Mirror episode ‘’Bandersnatch’’ can relate to the experience. The effect created with hotspots is very similar. Through the hotspots, the viewer is provided with choices that lead to a different unfolding of events. The two images below are from the video created by me and my group mates. The aim is to provide the basic linguistic skills alongside with survival skills needed for buying a bus ticket. The motivation behind these videos is not necessarily to provide impeccable communication examples, but rather to present often challenging situations where the issue is not merely the lack of linguistic skills, but also social and cultural differences. This helps the viewer to grasp a realistic understanding and can empathize more thanks to the use of VR.
Choices from the VR video: ‘’How to buy a Bus Ticket’’
Choice 1. Ask for Info Choice 2: Go left Choice 3: Go right
VIRAL for local Communities project brought us, people from different life stories and fields of expertise, together with the intent of making a significant impact on an individual’s life through the use of technology.
I’d like to give my heartfelt thanks to Carla Sabatini, Gloria Dei, Livio Carella from NKey srl. and other collaborators of this wonderful project from the University for Foreigners of Perugia, Kamila Kamińska-Sztark, Agnieszka Janik from University of Wrocław, Apses Romania, Eirini Lympousi and Anastasia Meimaridi from Higgs Greece, Luca Norelli from Associazione Dog, the Municipality of Santa Croce sull’Arno and the Municipality of Montaione, Italy.