However, what a fantastic experience it was!
I travelled from London to Brighton arriving on Sunday afternoon ready for registration on Monday morning.
Registration was at the Brighton Centre and the LTSIG Pre Conference Event was held a short walk away at the Old Ship Hotel.
The first talk was The Potential for VR and AR in the Language Classroom by Sarah Rogerson (Cambridge English Language Assessment). It was useful to begin by clarifying the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality with examples that are already available right now:
Moving on to highlight the benefits, engagement is a key affordance. VR provides the opportunity to 'feel' the experience by entering a virtual world before gaining experience in the real world. The teacher takes on the role of a facilitator. This VR experience can broaden cultural awareness or knowledge and offer a historical perspective. Google cardboard provides an affordable alternative to more expensive and more sophisticated headgear technology.
In terms of AR, there are lots of free apps that can be exploited in the classroom (see examples above) and new AR tools such as AR flashcards to bring learning to life.
The presentation highlighted specific areas where VR or AR could be exploited: teacher training, ESP, healthcare and test preparation.
In terms of test preparation, Sarah Rogerson told us that Cambridge Assessment English has been experimenting doing research into using immersive (VR) technology in the speaking tests using 360degree cameras and goggles (Google cardboard).
11:45am Gaining a New Perspective: The Future of VR in Teacher Training and materials Development
Paul Driver presented the next talk and began by posing questions: What is it that differentiates VR? What makes it different? What makes it distinct?
He offered the following: situated learning, embodied interaction, active engagement, experiential learning, spacial affordance. He cited some key research including Heidegger. He mentioned the negative view of "anti-social VR" with the potential for isolation wearing a headset but cited virtual field trips with Google Expeditions that offer a whole class experience with the teacher facilitating guided learning.
This led to deployment issues and the fact that price can be a challenge. Google cardboard was mentioned as an affordable alternative.
Moving on to teacher training, Paul Driver highlighted the fact that similarly 360 degree cameras can be purchased for £120-£150 and can provide the opportunity for: reflection in and on action, less intrusive observation as there is no need for observer in the classroom, the tutor can record the trainee's comments while rewatching, tutor and trainee can compare what was noticed.
He told us how VR could be the starting point into the immersive 3D world and the possibility of embedding content by using tools such as ThingLink.
He finished by encouraging teachers / teacher trainers to try it out for themselves by creating a digital toolkit and suggested taking a playful attitude.
1:15 Augmented Reality for Language Training
Amaal Mohamed introduced us to Blippar. Blibbar is an AR tool that allows anyone to create augmented reality content, although no coding skills are necessary. Amaal works in the education department of Blippar and she took us through the process of how to build AR content.
2:05 Back to the Future: From Virtual Worlds to Virtual Reality
Heike Philip started her session by using a quote from Picasso: 'Everything you can imagine is real'
She outlined a 10-year journey of 3D environments from virtual worlds to virtual reality from Second Life in 2008 to the present 2018 and suggested using 3D where 3D makes sense - for example in role play.
She told us about the new film by Steven Speilberg Ready Player One.
Finally, she set up a vision-into-the-future workshop for participants to share ideas on how classrooms could be enriched by incorporating mixed reality activities.
3:20 The Reality of Virtual Reality
Jonathan Dykes led this session looking at VR from a business perspective. He highlighted the fact that there was a shrinking market for adult learners and offered two possible alternatives to address this fact: using technology to reach other markets, such as Net Languages, English Anyplace or by using technology to liven up in-school teaching.
He asked whether we agreed that VR was destined to become ' the new platform' as suggested by Mark Zuckerberg in 2016. He broached the reality of a minimal impact in the classroom as yet and asked if it was worth creating our own materials or better to adapt what is currently out there for educational use. He highlighted the low-end and high-end tools and the idea of Mixed Reality - bringing the physical and digital worlds together in a blended environment.
3:55 Integrating Virtual Reality into EFL Teaching
The final session of the day was presented by Raquel Ribiero. Raquel managed to bring everything together in a lively workshop that involved doing a quiz using Socrative while we downloaded Google Expeditions and experienced VR by having a go at going on 3D expeditions using Google cardboard headsets - an excellent end to an excellent day!