Virtual reality narratives in foreign language pedagogy

Awardees: Nicole Mills, Rus Gant (FAS), and Chris Dede (HGSE)

Summary: Awardees will engage foreign language students in cultural and linguistic immersion through virtual reality (VR) film narratives.

Senior Preceptor in Romance Languages and Literatures Nicole Mills, inspired by a tour of the Visualization Lab during HILT’s Learning Spaces Week in 2015, piloted a virtual reality (VR) project for students in Beginning French II: Exploring Parisian Life and Identity with the support of VR Technology Specialist Rus Gant. The video project allowed students to engage in four brief VR tours of Parisian quarters. Initial feedback from student surveys showed that the VR experiences made them “feel” as if they were in Paris and captured a part of Parisian daily culture that often can’t be described in words (i.e., the sounds, the atmosphere, etc.).

The team will expand upon the initial pilot by hiring five Parisians from different neighborhoods to document and share their lives with a VR camera over the course of one to two months. Students will be immersed in the practices and sites of Paris that may be unexplored or unexpected including the exploration of little-known areas and customs and different perspectives, backgrounds, and ethnicities.

Awardees hypothesize that virtual reality will allow language learners to have perceptual, empathetic, and culturally immersive experiences in multiple sensory modalities (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) that will enhance their vision, perceived value of language and culture learning, and willingness to communicate. Under the direction of Professor Chris Dede, graduate students in the Technology, Innovation, and Evaluation program at the Graduate School of Education will participate in a mixed methods evaluation of the VR project and its implementation in the Beginning French II: Exploring Parisian Life and Identity course.