2016 was supposed to be the year for VR. I was unconvinced. VR in my view was an expensive toy that had classroom potential but the cost of headsets, cameras and the like put it out of reach for most classroom teachers. I, of course was wrong thanks to innovative apps such as Google Expeditions, Thing Link 360 and Nearpod 360 VR became accessible for most of us. VR was being consumed in classrooms across the world and it took our students to places that they would never have been able to go to. It help increase understanding by making tricky concepts very tangible but there is only so much consuming one can do and in my view it is creation that can really strengthen learning.
As my friend Kelly Croy regularly states teaching is about creating memories for our students as it is through memorable activities that we can amplify student learning. It was my view that creation through the use of VR was nigh on impossible due to cost but my fellow ADE and Queen of all things VR, Sarah Jones introduced me to Cospaces. This platform allows students to create simple VR environments on a laptop or desktop computer and then consume them using an iPad or iPhone via the Cospaces app
My Y8 class recently used Cospaces when learning about bedroom furniture and prepositions in Spanish. To get started, students simply log onto the Cospaces website and select new project. They then have a variety of backdrops to choose from or they can import a Creative Commons image and make something unique. Students also have a wide choice or pre-made items that they can choose from or they an ‘buy’ items from the marketplace. Cospaces also provides them with blocks and shapes that they can manipulate to make items for themselves. The most important features of this platform for me, as a languages teacher, is the ability for students to be able to label items and also to be able to upload and MP3 file to accompany their creation. My class and I actually ran out of time when we created our Cospaces activity so we didn’t add sound but we got round this by students mirroring their screen to the main screen in the classroom and then talking through their rooms. I selected students at random so each person had to be prepared to speak. I also add another level of complexity when I asked students to speak about somebody else’s creation. Cospaces are easily shared. My students simply copied the link and then posted it on our Google Classroom site.
The activity was very well received and it engaged all but I was especially pleased to see that it engaged some of my students who are less than enthusiastic about language learning. Did it make the vocabulary more memorable? I think it did and this was borne out by the class’ most recent test results. Would I use this platform again? I would. I loved the creative element and the ability to add text and speech is a real boon for any languages teacher. Moreover the team at Cospaces are keen to help and are very supportive on Twitter. They also have a great YouTube channel of great how to videos.