Life on the Isle of Man is fabulous, great countryside, little to no crime and of course no OFSTED. There are however disadvantages to living here, one being that you can feel very cut off from the rest of the world especially when the wind howls and the boats and planes to the island are cancelled. This isolation does spill over into the classroom; there are a large number of our students who have never been off the island let alone to a foreign country and so it can make teaching languages both vital and at times, tricky. How do we show our students how rich and varied life in a foreign country can be and thus the benefits of learning a foreign language?
Enter technology, which can help students to experience foreign countries without even leaving the classroom! What’s more there’s no need for expensive new equipment you can simply use your iPads.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 Edition of UKEdMagazine
Google street view is great for showing your students cities and towns around the world. Type in the name of the city and you’ll see red dots appear – these signify that a 360 photo exists for that location. Tap on the photos and you will be ‘transported’ to that location. Now, tap the compass symbol and as you move around the picture will move too and your students get to see the location. Your students can also make 360 photos of their area using the app and share them onto the Google Street view app or save them and add them to the storyspheres.com website.
Storyspheres allows you to make stories using 360 photos. Simply upload you 360 photo (made using Google street view) and add to the Stoyspheres website you can then record your voice and add the file to your photo thereby making a story. My students have used this method to share photos of our town and school with students in Oman as part of a global project.
Google have also created another useful VR tool, which can be used with or without Google cardboard. The app is called Expeditions. The teacher is the expedition leader and the students are explorers. Like Storyspheres or Google street view this app makes use of the gyroscope in the iPad and as the students move so too does the photo. The orange strip at the bottom of the screen allows you to slide through all the different 360 photos in that particular expedition a tap on the screen allows to you highlight different elements of the photos. A truly brilliant app that allows you to show students things that they may never be able to see, it can really make learning come alive!
If you prefer your students to create rather than consume, then the website and app CoSpaces.io is just for you. This website allows students to make VR environments on a laptop or desktop and then experience their environment on their iPad or via Google Cardboard. The website requires you to make an account but once made, you can make different ‘environments’ into which you can add all kinds of 3D elements. You can also view your environment from all kinds of different angles to ensure that you have it just right. You can also add text and sound files to your environment, which make it perfect for using in the MFL classroom, but it has applications across the curriculum.
When you first log into CoSpaces you can see examples of environments made by CoSpaces themselves, which should give you some ideas of how you could use it in your classroom. The really exciting bit with this application comes when you go to the CoSpaces app on the iPad. Once logged in, students can experience their creations in VR. If they are using the iPad, they touch the screen and they can move through their environment. If using Google
The really exciting bit with this application comes when you go to the CoSpaces app on the iPad. Once logged in, students can experience their creations in VR. If they are using the iPad, they touch the screen and they can move through their environment. If using Google Cardboard however, they simply hold down the button to move. Again, the application makes use of the gyroscope in the iPad and as students move so too does the image. The excitement in a classroom is high as students get to move around the world that they created and listen to the story that they told or foreign language phrase that they said to accompany it. It’s easy to share spaces too, so students can experience each other’s worlds.
If you want to bring awe and wonder to you classroom then, VR certainly does that but it also has a more important role to fill. It helps to break down barriers and raise understanding of people, places and things that students would not ordinarily get to experience. Moreover, you don’t need to buy specialist equipment you can do it right now with the technology that you have in your classroom. So, what are you waiting for?
Rachel Smith @lancslassrach is a Modern foreign languages teacher and Digital Learning coordinator at Ramsey Grammar School on the Isle of Man. View her blog at musingsfromtheisland.wordpress.com