I wanted to touch base after having used your VR program to give you some feedback. The students LOVED it. They thought it was incredibly eye opening and most came back from the experience almost (or actually) in tears. I have used it with both my 10th graders and my students in my History of the Holocaust class last semester, and one of my colleagues will be opening it up to her AP World History students, as well.Marissa BongoBallston Spa HS filmed some of the students experiencing the journey and also interviewed them afterwards.
During my introduction I tested both games and videos, and I was quickly drawn to the documentaries. Because VR places viewers in the middle of the action, the documentaries are more enjoyable and the educational material is more impactful, than in video. Viewers are exposed to minute details without distraction, making VR a powerful tool for sharing information.
For example, I was always curious about the palm oil industry, but I didn’t quite understand the dilemma until I experienced The Curse of Palm Oil. Here, I was welcomed into the Orang Asli community of Malaysia. I stood with them on the edge of the forest and experience the habitat devastation. Not only was the message of the documentary more poignant, but I also gained a deeper appreciation of my international neighbors, their way of life, and their local environment.
Such documentaries inspired me to utilize this technology to spread awareness on physically distant issues, and I figured there was no better place to start than right here on campus. The Global Languages and Cultures Room is in a prime location between business and policy students, and its open accessibility of VR has the potential to enhance social change.
Two avenues of interest for me are environmentalism and mindfulness. I am planning on hosting an Earth Day event in April to share VR experiences that educate the viewer on environmental topics. I also hope to use VR mindfulness experiences to invite our community draw on the benefits of technology and well being.
I used the Global Languages & Cultures Room to show students the reality of a refugee camp through the VR “Clouds over Sidra”. Watching a video in class would not have given everyone an individualized experience. The VR really let the student get closer to the main character and experience her life in a refugee camp. I prepared specific questions on the video so students’ attention could be guided before even starting the video and we all debriefed together so their individualized experience could be shared together. At the semester debrief, students suggested that I should add more VR experiences in future iterations of the class, as it really helped them understand the reality of refugee camps and thought it would put a clearer picture of life in developing nations. Overall, it was an awesome experience! ” Sophie Le Blanc – Adjunct Instructor, Institute for Politics and Strategy
A Russian Lesson using Google Earth VR
This session was led by Olga Klimova-Magnotta Professor in Slavic Languages and Literature. After initial discussion and a useful visit to the room, we settled on a series of activities for her two Russian classes looking at “People: Appearance and Personality” (Int.) and Family Photo album (Elem.)
The brief to students was to “…travel to Moscow using Google Earth VR to meet with our Russian pen pal, with whom we have been corresponding through emails/social media.” Ahead of the session we visited specific places on the map in advance and created a short narrative about what their Russian friend looks like and what they might be wearing. Our hope was to have the students find these people on the map using a series of descriptions (and the info for the location of the meeting). In class, they would be working in pairs helping each other to find this person. We also planned a “pretend” phone call from this Russian friend and describing the people next to them in order to better help the American student in finding them.
We thought about the length of time that this might take and how useful it would be as an activity. One of the issues in preparing the session was that the information in Google Earth (for desktop) was inconsistent with Google Earth VR, so sometimes made finding the people quite challenging. On the whole the session was very successful with most groups finding at least two or three of the four people. They were able to describe what people were wearing and celebrated when they found them.
- Students commented that they had some challenges, including getting use the VR where they had no previous experience.
- It was difficult to find the exact frame depicted on streetview, this required a degree of skill with Google Earth VR.
- Comments were that this was a fun engaging session
- Students were using their language skills
- Some students went “off piste” to visit other landmarks, including the inside of a gallery and a church (whilst remaining in Moscow).
My name is Yuxi, one of the student worker in the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Culture room. I’m a first-year undergrad student from the Big Apple currently studying business here at Carnegie Mellon.
First Experience With VRWhen I read about the Global Languages and Culture Room, I was very intrigued. When I thought of VR, the first thing that popped up in my mind were games. I was surprised that VR technology can be used to educate students on culture and promote global experience. On top of that, I had never tried VR before arriving, so I was very excited. To get started, Stephan introduced me to the “First Contact” VR tutorial on the Oculus Rift. It featured a friendly robot guide who showed the user the basic of using the controllers and how the user can interact with it. Through fun little virtual objects like butterflies and rockets, I learned to use the controller to perform actions like picking up an object or pushing a button. Though the tutorial was short, I was able to learn all the basics I needed to start exploring the other programs Oculus has to offer. Since then, I have had a lot of fun trying out all the different experience the room offers, such as Google Earth VR, Coco VR, 360 music videos, as well as numerous documentaries.
Visitor ExperiencesAs a student worker, part of my job is to show visitors around the room. I especially love showing them the VR experience and often, they come into the room never having experienced VR like me.
One faculty member tried Coco VR because her son was a big fan of Coco and he was going to be dressed up as the main character, Miguel, for Halloween. After completing the Oculus VR tutorial, she was ready to explore the world of Coco. She excitedly pointed out the familiar characters and settings as she walked around the virtual town. A friend of mine also explored the room. He was especially excited about Google VR and was able to ‘fly over’ his mom’s hometown in Korea using the HTC Vive. It was not only nice for him to be able to virtually visit Korea and it was also convenient because the Vive was able to accommodate his glasses. He also enjoyed the rollercoaster game on the Oculus and described it as feeling very real. I believe there are endless possibilities when it comes to the future of VR and everyone should definitely give it a try! Be sure to visit the Global Languages & Culture Room during our open hours.
Introducing faculty to first-time use of Virtual Reality in the Global Languages & Cultures Room.
Over the last few weeks we have run a program of introductory welcome sessions for the Modern Languages Faculty, inviting them to an hour long workshop to familiarize themselves with the new room and some of the technology it contains.
First StepsFor many this was their first visit to the Global Languages & Cultures Room and it was important to provide a short overview and discuss some of the objectives of the space. This flexible space allows for different configurations of tables and chairs and in this workshop we grouped four units together to make a longer boardroom style table to comfortably sit 8-10 people. Pens are paper were left on the tables and used to record comments, keywords and even to highlight concepts, including time-lines and diagrams.
Pre-conceptions of VR
We talked as a group about the promise of VR, whether they had encountered headsets before. Some people had tried Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear experiences, some reporting how they initially felt some dizziness and disorientation. We talked about how widely the term VR is used in the media and often how it is a short-hand for innovation and new technology.
Many of the keywords were technical, thinking about 3D, immersion, transportation, motion sickness – but less about the experience itself or the content they had viewed.
Journeys into VRThe group tried a variety of experiences, often in pairs with one person watching the (2D) screen and helping to orientate the viewer. There is a particular disconnection between what is viewed externally and what the wearer is actually experiencing. This often lead to miscommunication – “look to your left” “go down a bit” “over there” from the 2D external viewer against “where?” “oh, behind me” “where should I go?” from the wearer. Many were unfamiliar with the controllers and experienced a degree of cognitive overload as they coped with the range of visual stimuli, learning the mechanics of the experience (flying, dragging, zooming etc), understanding the use of handheld controllers and coping with the limitations of the headset itself. Once over the initial disorientation, many were able to fly and zoom in Google Earth VR, or experience a documentary from one of the many channels – Within or LittleStar or try a game or even the introductory tutorial. This last experience was incredibly useful to many who had never tried on a headset. “The wow factor shouldn’t be denied, it’s pure enjoyment and great fun!” It should be noted too that there was much fun and expression of enjoyment in the room, laughter and amazement.
Returning to EarthWhen we came back together as a group and discussed our experiences, much of the language changed to experiential and emotional, thinking about the quality of the content, the feelings that it had induced in the wearer. We discussed some of the possibilities and opportunities, thinking about other experiences that the group would like to try out and importantly, which experiences would be valuable to learners. Some of the group talked about the frustration of having to understand the controls and quickly learn the mechanics of movement and navigation. Some with Google Earth VR found the tutorial useful and would have liked to spend more time. Some were happy to wear the headsets for a short time and some found the whole experience slightly disconcerting and disorientating, preferring to pass the headset to the next person. Some of the group talked about the frustration of having to understand the controls and quickly learn the mechanics of movement and navigation. Some with Google Earth VR found the tutorial useful and would have liked to spend more time. Some were happy to wear the headsets for a short time and some found the whole experience slightly disconcerting and disorientating, preferring to pass the headset to the next person.
Session TakeawaysThe sessions with academics were useful for a number of reasons.
- Creating a process for first-time experiences
- Exploring preconceptions of VR
- Identifying the “wow factor”
- Thinking about the use of content in VR
It was nice to connect the in-class readings and discussion to a more immersive experience. Remi A. Van Companole – Associate Professor – Second Language Acquisition and French & Francophone StudiesI think there are some really interesting possibilities for learners as well as for the educators in terms of exploring content that is current available but also (and maybe more importantly) creating new content. One student is working on an idea for a senior thesis in linguistics following their visit to the room. Students reflected on the surprising nature of the experience, for all of them, this was their first experience of using VR. They enjoyed the immersion and the sensation of flying in Google Earth, but more importantly appreciated the ability to pinpoint exact locations and explore them from different vantage points. We shared these experiences as a group and it was just as important for the students to enter into discussion and “exit” the experience in a thoughtful way, much like a diver decompressing before rising to the surface.