Lessons Learned from Over 100 VR English Lessons

Michael McDonald, TEFL-qualified English teacher from the UK and founder of the Gold Lotus language consultancy in Italy, and co-team leader of the Educators in VR vLanguage Arts Team Project and teaches English language skills in the new EDVR Institute.

After completing over 100 150 VR English lessons in AltspaceVR, Michael sheds some light on the lessons learned and reflections from the experience. His experiences will help future educators approach this new way of teaching as he shares his vision of how this technology can be the vehicle for positive change the global consciousness.

Gold Lotus in ENGAGE teaching restaurant and cafe use for English Language teaching.

What I have learned most from teaching over 100 English language lessons in Altspace is much more than how to teach a foreign language. It is how to exude inspiration for the benefit of my students, and how to raise an awareness and consciousness in the metaverse to be taken back into the physical realm.

In a nutshell, I’ve learned to be kinder and compassionate. I’ve learned that patience for teaching in VR requires a new level of commitment. Without a doubt, I’ve learned to trust my instincts, but also to step back and reevaluate my choices, listen, and look for clues in how to reach students in ways I never imagined. I’ve learned that there are infinite ways to immerse students in lifestyle, cultural, history, and society in general to explore language. I’ve learned that the technology for language learning is here, now, in virtual reality. Most of all, I’ve witnessed the ground-breaking revolution in VR for education, and I want to do more.

The experience however was not without its pitfalls, so let’s start with those first because we all love a happy ending.

Teaching Public Workshops is an Open Invitation to Everyone

In the early days of teaching in virtual reality I held the naïve belief that people would be better behaved in VR than they would be in, say, the asylum of many YouTube video comment sections.

ENGAGE VR - Exploring US Whitehouse with Gold LotusMy completely unscientific premise was grounded on the now comical belief that if people embodied a virtual avatar, with moving limbs and the ability talk to them and clearly reflect their emotions through virtual body language like hand gestures, head movements or physical proximity in real time, that this would serve as an antidote to idiocy, passive-aggressive behaviour or general naughtiness. My pseudo-scientific hypothesis was about as far from reality as the recent VR English lesson I did in ENGAGE taking a group of unmasked Norwegian students into the White House on the eve of the last US Presidential Election.

The reason I was wrong can be seen in everyday life. Open a bar in London. Many patrons on your premises will be welcomed. They come, guzzle their beverage of choice and leave. It won’t take long however before you see a different type of creature skulking its way through your door – intent on ridiculing the inexperienced member of staff struggling to grapple with the art that is pouring the perfect pint of Guinness, to others who have no regard for the sanctity of a public toilet. As someone who used to clean and then “pull pints” behind the bar of my local pub, I can only say that it was a harrowing yet valuable character-forming period of my life. The same can be said for venues like Altspace.

You literally see the best and worst (within reason) of humanity in social VR. In the last twelve weeks alone, I’ve virtually – no, really, virtually as in not physically, as opposed to “almost” (still with me?) – kicked out people for screaming and/or silently muttering the full array of English-language profanities, talking about self-pleasure or my pet hate: passive-aggressive behaviour in the form of continuous interruptions with vacuous comments or quips which are clearly designed to throw-off balance the harmony and good vibes of the learning and cultural exchange taking place.

Luckily, these incidents are uncommonly common and limited to events open to the public, thus, the open door policy for many pubs where anyone may walk through the doors, and often do.

Trusting Your Tingling Spidey Senses

Gold Lotus English Language Class - in the Bathroom - AltspaceVR.There are times, as with the drunken loon in your London bar, that you have to call in the heavies – in this case the deadly combination of hovering your VR controller or mouse (if on your PC) over the offender’s avatar and selecting the “kick” icon in their name tag, a privilege offered to events hosts and moderators. From there you select the explanation for removal from the event that best fits the crime. Simple. Kind of.

A few months ago I was teaching in Altspace to a group of around twenty people. It was 11am for me in Italy, meaning the room was filled with Europeans, Asians and the odd nocturnal North American. Native-English-speaking Californians, 2AM their time, are here to learn English. They seem to know each other due to the camaraderie among them. My spidey-senses are tingling. I give them the benefit of the doubt. After a short while the flatulence begins (them, not me). Farting noises ensue, from where they’re standing.

At this point the optimist in me is thinking that if I tell them to stop doing something, they’ll stop. Experience as a teacher dealing with children (or those who possess the mind of a child temporarily) tells me that “stop doing that” translates to “keep doing that”. Give them a second chance. Everyone deserves a sec… there’s fart number two. Without hesitation I slide my avatar towards the huddle where the noise is coming from and rid the room of four disruptive individuals.

Gold Lotus English Language Class - in the kitchen with fruit discussing food in AltspaceVR.

I won’t lie. The relief it brought me for not having to police them felt good. It was a quick fix. They were gone and unable to return to the event. Where else could I so easily take the reins of the law in my hands and wield such justice? The lesson goes on.

After the class, one of the disruptors did something which can only be admired – he resurrected his Twitter account to message me asking why I would do that to him. At this point, given his genuine dismay at what had happened I unblocked him from the upcoming event and he had been a valuable addition to the conversation before the trouble. I go for the second chance opportunity. His temporary banning was a mistake on my part – I cast blame by association. I wasn’t sure who was passing wind so I booted everyone in the proximity it was occurring.

This happens in VR and in real life – you let the intensity of a situation get the better of you and make rash decisions which can potentially lead to people branded as guilty when they most definitely are not. What if this were a student on a year-long course and his parents were paying for him to be there in order to pass an exam. I wouldn’t have had the luxury of being so trigger-happy, or at least would have had to justify my actions afterwards.

Onto my second mistake I regret from these past 100 lessons. A few months later, this same individual – a quite jovial and often talkative chap – began to assert his presence a bit too strongly on the group dynamic. Too many jokes, too much laughter. Other more passive attendees informed me that they felt he was slightly distracting nature to the class. One lesson I let my frustrations get the better of me and in front of the group of a few dozen people, shut him down quite abruptly and flat-out asked him why he felt the need to continually bring the attention to him. He left the lesson within the following minutes, then started messaging me apologising for causing offence and that he would probably take a break from our events.

Cue the compassionate teacher. I responded, asking him to meet me in the Campfire, a popular gathering space in AltspaceVR. We shared our feelings about the situation under a rather old, sprawling virtual tree. I took the time to understand more about the person he was – a student, interestingly quite well-read on aspects relating to language acquisition in children – and had the opportunity to apologise for not approaching him privately about his behavior.

Since then, his participation in the classes has been very different, adding genuinely productive interjections in the class, and supporting others to learn English better. It added a wonderful flavour to the learning and social experience.

Micheal McDonald teaches English to global students in VR.

I learned to bear in mind that people aren’t necessarily fully aware of how they are coming across to others, and a gentle comment in private can serve as the perfect remedy to bring everyone onto the same page. I learned valuable lessons about how to interact with people in virtual worlds, and how not being trigger happy with the moderation tools can save a lot of bad blood.

Since then, I’ve been more conscious of how I deal with people who aren’t the right fit for my English lessons. Is it right to banish someone rudely from your Shakespeare book club because they want to talk about Dostoyevsky? Maybe, but there are a series of steps I believe we must follow before clicking the kick button.

Given that we rely so much on voice in these virtual spaces since facial expressions and body language (apart from flailing your arms around) is pretty much non-existent, I’ve learned to embrace the power of enunciation – speaking clearly, tone of voice, emotional influences.

I’ve learned to keep people on their toes by projecting my voice and most importantly tap into the atmosphere of the space and modify that quickly. This is something that takes practice, and thankfully there are events throughout the day on Altspace and many other VR meeting platforms to help you refine your speaking skills.

Even in the face of inappropriate behaviour, we must set an example of politeness if we are to use this new medium as a vehicle for positive change. That starts with giving people the benefit of the doubt, and reminding them that there are people around them who mean no harm, winning the hearts and minds of our students.

The Logistics of Running Classes in AltspaceVR

As the Educators in VR co-founder Lorelle VanFossen once joked, running virtual events is like flying a jumbo jet. You’ve a number of things to keep your eye on and turbulence may hit at any time.

When I teach English in AltspaceVR, I’m usually in my Oculus Quest VR headset, as well as logged in on my laptop as another avatar. Not only does this avatar serve as the eyes through which the event is captured on film for later promotion but it gives me another quick perspective about what attendees other than me the teacher is seeing. For example, there have been times when I have seen the presentation slides on my Quest and not in the 2D view on my laptop, helping to isolate and respond to technical issues before the attendees notice.

Gold Lotus English lesson in a jungle tree house in AltspaceVR.

March 2020 saw me deliver a full consecutive 24 hours of English lessons in virtual reality to raise money for the Italian Red Cross in Italy to support them in their fight against Coronavirus. My usual classes last thirty minutes. When you are not only teaching English from inside the headset, but moving slides, engaging attendees, and capturing film footage via your avatar on the laptop (which requires juggling the VR controllers to lift up the headset from the sweat-covered brow), and keeping your eyes peeled for trouble-makers – it can be quite intense, yet exhilarating.

It is then you realise the importance of the expertise of the team like Educators in VR for support. Since joining them at the start of 2019 to launch the vLanguage Team Project, it has been wonderful to see them evolve into a full-stack virtual events production company.

Imagine the complexity of a VR event when attendees and speakers cover multiple time zones, training speakers to feel comfortable navigating the virtual space, integrating and managing slides or other audio-visual effects into the event, and booking, managing, and supporting the event with moderators. You quickly see their value.

Would it have crossed your mind to design the space devoid of nooks and crannies for virtual tyrants to stealthily park themselves and wreak havoc on your all-important event with a blitzkrieg of flatulence? Probably not and this is where VR event organisers like Educators in VR really come into their own. I am honored to have learned under their tutelage how to improve my hosting and moderation abilities and so grateful for their continued support.

Michael McDonald - Gold Lotus vlanguage learning

Other advice I’d give is to mould the tools, features, and worlds on offer to the particular learning objectives you have in mind as the teacher. Altspace has a smorgasbord of worlds on offer – anything from cities, to cafes to ancient historical sites. Use the world search feature on the web version of AltspaceVR. Favorite ones that look interesting. Visit them and consider how you could adapt those environments to add more context to the topics you’re covering in your classes.

Don’t be shy to use more traditional locations. A space like an office or classroom might cause VR evangelists to grimace and ridicule you for not making the most out of the metaverse’s time-space bending capabilities, but I’ve seen best results among my students when I strike the right balance between epic field trips around the world to expose them to highly contextual language in realistic settings then balancing that with a more sober debrief of the grammar structures and vocabulary learned in an environment that is somewhat less distracting.

VR a Catalyst for Unprecedented Global Change

It could be argued that the longer a police officer serves, the more acutely aware he or she becomes of the danger that exists in the world around them. Countless exposures to situations of peril and conflict honed their ability to foresee certain events and either diffuse them before the point of eruption or be on the front foot should all hell break loose.

Teachers are the same. If you’ve ever spent any time at the coal face of education – standing on your own at the front of a class staring down the barrel of thirty sets of eyeballs, you can’t help but liken it to a lion encountering a group of cackling hyenas in the unforgiving Serengeti. Show too much weakness and they will be feasting on your sorry carcass within hours, show too much strength and the toxic atmosphere will breed tension, revolts and poor performance for all concerned.

Only through experience can a teacher truly tune into the energy of a class. When you do tap into it, the autumn months bring new students, and new dynamics for you to adapt to. You’d be hard-pushed to find an entirely angelic class anywhere. It is the teacher’s job to try to keep the lid on negative energy bubbling over onto the other students and spoiling the integrity of the lesson, while maintaining a level of sensitivity to the reasons why people act the way they do and that their behaviour may well be a direct consequence of a deeply troubled home life or other.

Michael McDonald - English lessons in a cafe in AltspaceVR.

This melting pot of factors is reflected in VR. In my experience, approaching questionable behaviour with politeness and even a sprinkling of humour can continue to reinforce the idea that mutual respect and a bit of give and take can bring harmony. Language like “If you don’t mind I’m just muting you so we can give other people a chance to talk, but we’ll come back to you in a few minutes” or “If it’s ok with you, could you stop doing that because there are people here to learn and you’re stopping them” can be a way to separate the harmless jesters from the outright troublemakers.

What happens when this fails to register in the mind of the individual whose sole aim is to disrupt the event and disturb others? This is where clear guidelines both in the event and lesson description and a quick review of them at the start of the gathering pays dividends, just like reviewing the syllabus on the first day of class.

Establishing the ground rules early as an educator (or event host) and physically (well, virtually through your avatar) dominating the space around you by not standing in one spot I find helps, too.

It is the role of a teacher, in my opinion, to promote empathy above all else. Teaching in virtual reality in places like AltspaceVR, where people can freely jump from one publicly-listed event to another, has huge potential for educators, businesses and content creators. There is a constant flow of passing people from all corners of the world entering your virtual space and being part of your lesson, product launch or meetup offering many opportunities to connect with new people.

As a teacher of English as a foreign language both in and out of virtual reality, I have a core belief: inspire people and they can learn anything.

People’s minds need to be fertile for learning. It is the role of the teacher to do the hard work initially in clearing the fields of weeds, rolling up his or her sleeves and turning the land over so that the seeds of inspiration can be sown. Combine that with a regular sprinkling of serious pedagogy, openness and goals to reach may increase the chances of spring bringing flourishing minds, bearing the fruit of the labour in the autumn and winter months.

This is where VR and spatial learning more generally really excels – the very fact that you can take your students on a tour of New York and Paris in one lesson, show them a 3D model of a bagel and a baguette, break them into groups to talk about their travel experiences, then finish the class gathering in a virtual departure lounge in an airport reviewing the key vocabulary, can be a huge stimulus for not just contextual learning, but supports collaborative learning and social interactions.

The deep connection and continued transferring of what works and does not work in VR into the real world and vice versa is critical. The two are, at this stage at least, inextricably linked and we should strive to use each reality – that of the physical world and the virtual one – as leverage to improve how we study, work, live and exist in the other.

VR: The True Global Village

To limit the accessibility of virtual worlds – whether it be AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, Facebook Horizon, or other – would be to play God in a way that probably no humans have done at any point in the history of our species. VR opens up possibilities in education we’ve never encountered before, and the potential is infinite.

No longer can we hold our hands up and ignore the far-flung, sun-scarred, and infrastructure-weak nations in the developing world, blaming logistical and physical factors for the reason why they are struggling to innovate and evolve societally as those more “powerful” nations. No longer can we fail to gather the collective energy and experiences of any strata of our global communities – village elders, the youth, the outsiders, the politicians, the academics, the entrepreneurs, the incarcerated, the economically struggling, the addicted and every other member to pool ideas and work towards a truly common goal for the benefit of all. We need a wholly unbiased, meaningful torch to firmly and collectively grasp onto to guide ourselves out from the quicksands of unfettered global corporatism, ongoing religious tensions, political uncertainty, toxic ideologies across the board and continued detachment from the wisdom and grounded relationship that all of our ancestors had with the soil under their feet and stars above their heads.

This torch must be the commitment to tirelessly giving back to the natural world, for the natural world is – as I see it – the only hearth around which people of all denominations can gather and warm their collective ideas, hopes and visions.

Paradoxically, the more time I spend immersed in virtual reality, the more vividly I perceive the physical world around me and develop a genuine, almost primordial urge to not just learn more about how I and others can coexist respectfully with the elements from which infinite generations descended. It makes me think more about what can be done to accelerate its rebirth. The rise of untethered headsets, where I can move freely around the physical space to do the same in the virtual realm has similarly sparked an untethering of my mind from what I believed to be important around me, something akin to only appreciating that which you lose.

Let the common, guiding light for us all in this new chapter of technology and human interaction be the health and sustainability of our planet.

Just as our ancient ancestors, long before the arrival of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Ancient Egypt communicated to us of their existence by marrying heaven and Earth through the alignment of the stars in the sky, to the strategic placement of fifty-ton stone megaliths in the soil they lived, must we too send the message to distant descendants that we used this wave of spatial computing to spark a renaissance of how we co-exist with the natural world around us. I implore all of you currently embracing or hoping to harness the power of this new wave of technology to ensure that the promotion of a healthier planet be a worthy beneficiary of the promotion of your event, conference or gathering.

This need not – should not – be an over-exuberant war cry which will only dissipate as the winds of time blow forth, but a calm and steady pursuit so as to respectfully and unpretentiously raise the collective consciousness to a point where it would be seen strange to run events and deliver ones services in virtual worlds without contributing, even in some small way, to the betterment of the natural world which exists on the other side of the head-mounted device.

Celebration of Gold Lotus English Language Classes.

What I propose is far beyond immersive content which explicitly shows the beauty and devastation of global warming and the submergence of our sea life in plastic, however powerful and needed that is. Just as enough raindrops on a meadow give rise to the incredible growth of a blanket of mushrooms, I envision a time where even the humblest of events acts as a single raindrop falling onto the soil. With enough drops, it can bring the rapid and uncontrollable fruition of a deeper global consciousness of the importance of the natural world around us.

In practical terms this might be a donation of a percentage of a virtual event’s revenue to a charity doing work for the benefit of the environment, made easy through an integration or type of plugin on all VR meeting platforms. It could be VIP access to an intimate Q&A with a famous person after a blockbuster VR event in return for demonstrating that you, in your local community, did something to give back to the environment such as riding a river of rubbish or collecting plastic waste from a stretch of beach. Other incentives could be free access to an educational expert for an hour in VR in return for an hour’s volunteering support at a local animal sanctuary.

Whatever it may be, let us use this advancing technology and the continually-growing list of events and experiences on offer as the fuel to more cohesion among us as a species, causing an osmosis – and not a continued detachment – from the virtual to the physical to the natural world at the grass-roots level, while we still have the chance.

Book Launch: Caitlin Krause “Designing Wonder”

Book Launch Caitlin Krause Designing Wonder ASVR Tile

Educators in VR is proud to announce our first book launch event in AltspaceVR September 17, 2002, with Caitlin Krause of MindWise consultancy to launch her new book.

Designing Wonder: Leading Transformative Experiences in Virtual Reality by Caitlin Krause is a masterful guide on how to create VR experiences with emotional resonance and impact.

Redefining the rules as usual, she introduces a new methodology for how to design meaningful experiences in VR, filled with wonder, exploring the virtual concepts for experiences and education from The Hero’s VR Journey to Maslow Before Bloom. The book is about experience design from education to corporate training, and those specializing in social groups in VR.

Join Educators in VR as we celebrate the launch of this ground-breaking book that we expect will change how you design and develop virtual worlds and play and teach within them.

Caitlin Krause photoCaitlin Krause specializes in UX design, story, and well-being in XR. She works as a story designer in digital therapeutics with a focus on interactive XR, using mindfulness, guided imagery, HCD, biofeedback, BA, and CBT. Founder of the consultancy MindWise, Caitlin launched her book Mindful by Design (Corwin Press, 2019) at the World Economic Forum and spoke about the Future of Education, Sci-Fi and Immersive Technology.

She has been a teacher and curriculum designer for over two decades, diving deeply into virtual reality experiences in education, the next stepping stone in educational and business training tools. Through her leadership and organizational consulting, she helps individuals and teams create connection in the midst of complexity and change. She recently created a mindfulness and SEL series in social VR, fusing presence, storytelling, curiosity, and emotional intelligence. Her mission is to empower humanity through connection.

Educators in VR is thrilled to begin our first in a series of book launches in VR, helping authors and researchers host innovative book launch experiences in virtual reality at a time when such public access is limited. This is an rare opportunity to connect in an immersive environment and celebrate authors with an international audience.

Space is limited. RSVP today for the open-to-the-public book launch with Caitlin in AltspaceVR. For information on how to attend an event in AltspaceVR and in VR, use our handy step-by-step guide.

Voices of VR’s Kent Bye Interviews Educators in VR Co-Founders

Voices of VR - Kent Bye - interviews Lorelle and Daniel.The Educators in VR co-founders, Daniel Dyboski-Bryant and Lorelle VanFossen, were interviewed last week by Kent Bye of Voices of VR Podcast, and the podcast is out now titled Educators in VR – Meetups and Virtual Conferences.

Kent took the two of us back through time to 2018 and the start of our collaborative effort to connect educators, learners, researchers, and others to immersive technologies in education. We discuss the challenges, the evolution, and the success of the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit in February, and look forward into where spatial and immersive technology is going in the future.

Kent Bye is a leader in reporting on virtual reality, augmented reality, and immersive technology with leaders from across the industry. Please support his continued work by following him on Twitter and joining his Voices of VR Patreon to help us all stay informed and have our voices heard.

April 2020 Events and Workshops

Educators in VR is busier than ever as the world stays self-isolated, working from home, reaching out to virtual reality and Educators in VR to help provide resources, consulting, and training on producing and hosting virtual events in VR.

This past month found us busier than ever as we moved from the success of the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit into consulting, training, and production support for schools, governments, businesses, and conferences changing from real-world to virtual.

Michael McDonald of Gold Lotus and the Educators in VR 24 Hr English Lesson in VR.We also had a very successful first-ever 24 Hour English Lesson and fundraiser with Michael McDonald of Gold Lotus, an Educators in VR sponored and produced event that raised over 2,000 Euro for Red Cross Italy Lecce and had hundreds of attendees across 3 virtual platforms in those 24 hours. Well done, Michael!

In addition to our regularly weekly Educators in VR workshops on Tuesdays in AltspaceVR, we have special events, open discussions, and great news for you. We’ve also updating our Educators in VR events calendar on Google to help you find all our events across multiple platforms, including our Educators in VR AltspaceVR channel. For a look at all the events across the VR metaverse, check out the VR Events by VRevents.io.

Educators in VR Workshops and Trainings

Educators in VR Workshop with Sonya Haskins, esports and VR games expert.Tuesday Weekly Workshops: We meet in AltspaceVR and the workshops are free and open to the public.

Educators in VR International Summit - Workshop.Training Workshops: Educators in VR is dedicated to providing training programs and workshops for educators, learners, researchers, and anyone interested in creating educational events in VR. The workshops are a combination of free introductory programs and paid workshops.

Continue reading

Lessons Learned from Hosting a VR Conference

Behind the Scenes - 2020 Educators in VR International Conference virtual conference - collage

We are still gathering feedback and data about our incredibly successful 2020 Educators in VR International Summit, February 17-22, 2020. We just held a Behind the Scenes of the International Summit workshop in AltspaceVR, and wanted to present some of our information and lessons learned.

A Little History

Educators in VR begin in November 2018 with the idea of bringing together educators and learners from within the VR community to share and discuss integrating VR into education. What was expected to be a meetup of 20-30 people became a 180 participants event. We began with monthly meetups, but the demand and interest was stunning, so we upped it to once a week workshops that continue to fill over a year later.

The topics and guest speakers have been incredible, covering a wide variety of industries and specialties from language learning to integrating AR into book publishing.

Behind the Scenes - History of Educators in VR virtual events

Within a short time, passionate educators, learners, and researchers asked it they could start their own groups under the Educators in VR umbrella, focusing on their specialty. Currently, we have eight such team projects, with more on the way. These team projects host events with speakers and topics, and are building communities in and of themselves, connecting like minds across borders. Most of the action happens on our Educators in VR Discord group, though some are also connecting on our Facebook group. You may check out the events in AltspaceVR on our Educators in VR AltspaceVR channel and subscribe to be notified of upcoming events.

At the beginning of 2019, co-founders Daniel Dyboski-Bryant, and myself, Lorelle VanFossen, discussed ideas for where we wanted to go in the future, and top of the list was a virtual conference. I wanted a 3-4 days conference, and Daniel laughed and said, “Why don’t we make it a week-long conference?” We compromised on 6 days, and the idea was born for the Educators in VR International Summit.

The idea of the International Summit was to be a proof-of-concept. Could we do it? Could we really create an all virtual, 24-hour, 6 day global conference and:

  • Would speakers want to present about VR in VR?
  • Who would show up for a conference in VR about VR?

Both solid questions, and of course, we quickly expanded VR to all the XR technologies. The excitement and interest of AWE 2019 was our first inclination that this was not just possible but feasible as we presented virtual workshops to people around the world from “within” the AWE side conferences. We kept experimenting at other conferences, adding a virtual component to in-person conferences, and eventually decided that February 2020 would be the date for taking the concept out of the idea box and proving we could actually do this. Continue reading

International Summit Spotlight: Tom Furness

2020 Educators in VR - International Summit Site Banner 1000px

We are so excited to announce that right after the “Rock In the Summit” opening ceremonies for the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit, Monday, February 17, at 2:00 PM PST / 5:00 PM EST / 10:00 PM UK/GMT in AltspaceVR, Professor Tom Furness will be our keynote speaker.

Tom Furness will also be on a panel called “Vision of the Future” with Gabriel Rene, Anson Ho, and Charlie Fink, hosted by Daniel Dyboski-Bryant in ENGAGE, Wednesday, February 19 at 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM PST / 4:30 PM EST / 9:30 PM UK/GMT.

Presenting at 3:30 PM PST / 6:30 PM EST / 11:30 PM UK/GMT, Tom Furness will discuss “Playing with Fire.” Over a career spanning 53 years, Prof. Furness has explored and developed technologies for getting bandwidth between humans and computing machines. His work has encompassed fighter cockpits, virtual reality, retinal displays, educational tools, medical simulators, pain, phobias, molecular modeling, scanning fiber endoscopes and entertainment systems. This quest has been punctuated with side trips and ‘aha’ experiences that led to unanticipated destinations. Dr. Furness plans to talk about lessons learned on his journey including unexpected delights – with a focus on the potential of VR to set minds on fire for education and training applications.

Tom Furness is the founder of the Virtual World Society, and a pioneer in human interface technology and virtual reality. He is widely known as the ‘grandfather of virtual reality.’ He received the B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Duke University and the Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from the University of Southampton, England. Dr. Furness is currently a professor of Industrial Engineering with adjunct professorships in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Human-Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. Educators in VR celebrated the life of this amazing pioneer recently.

Furness is the founder of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HIT Lab) at UW and founder and international director of the HIT Lab NZ at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ and the HIT Lab Australia at the University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tasmania. He is also an Erskine Fellow and Adjunct Professor at the University of Canterbury and the University of Tasmania.

Prior to joining the faculty at the University, Dr. Furness served a combined 23 years as an U.S. Air Force officer and civilian at the Armstrong Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where he developed advanced cockpits and virtual interfaces for the Department of Defense. He is the author of the Super Cockpit program and served as the Chief of Visual Display Systems and Super Cockpit Director until he joined the University of Washington in 1989.

Dr. Furness lectures widely and has appeared in many national and international network and syndicated television science and technology documentaries and news programs. He is the inventor of the personal eyewear display, the virtual retinal display, the HALO display and holds 25 patents in advanced sensor, virtual display and interface technologies. With his colleagues Dr. Furness has started 27 companies, two of which are traded on NASDAQ at a market capitalization of > $ 10 B. In 1998 he received the Discover Award for his invention of the virtual retinal display and in 2013 the SPIE Prism Award for the invention of the ChromaID technology. He has also received the Proto Award, the IEEE VRTG Career Award, and the AWE Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the founder and chairman of the Virtual World Society, a non-profit for extending virtual reality as a learning system for families and other humanitarian applications. He is a fellow in the IEEE.

We are honored to have Professor Furness speak at the Educators in VR International Summit.

To Attend the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit

The 2020 Educators in VR International Summit is February 17-22. It features over 170 speakers in 150+ events across multiple social and educational platforms including AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, rumii, Mozilla Hubs, and Somnium Space.

The event requires no registration, and is virtual only, free, and open to the public. Platform access is required, so please install one of the above platforms to attend the International Summit. You may attend in 2D on a desktop or laptop computer with a headphone and microphone (USB gaming headphone recommended), or with a virtual device such as the Oculus Go, Quest, and Rift, Vive, and other mobile and tethered devices. Please note the specifications and requirements of each platform.

The majority of our events are on AltspaceVR. AltspaceVR is available for Samsung Gear, Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go and Quest users. Download and install the 2D version for use on your Windows desktop computer.

GoFundMe Campaign for the Educators in VR International SummitEducators in VR is a social, member organization dedicated to providing educational events, trainings, and workshops for educators and learners to prepare them for the future of spatial technologies in education. We offer free weekly workshops in AltspaceVR and other platforms. We need your help to fund this International Summit as well as our ongoing educational programs, workshops, outreach, and scholarship programs. Please help us out by donating to our GoFundMe campaign, and consider volunteering by filling out our volunteering application. We need volunteers for as little as an hour or two. Every hour is appreciated. Familiarity with VR and VR platforms recommended.

Consider subscribing to our Educators in VR event subscription channel to receive regular reminders of upcoming events, including International Summit events.

Join our Educators in VR Discord group, Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for information on meetups and how to become more involved.

2020 Educators in VR International Summit Schedule. GoFundMe Educators in VR Campaign.

Educators in VR: Good-bye 2019, Hello 2020

Now that we are starting off a new year and a new decade, we want to take a moment to look back on all that we’ve accomplished in our first year and be amazed. When Daniel told me he wanted our tagline to be “The sky is no longer the limit,” I thought it was cute. I didn’t realize it would become our motto.

Seriously, in spite of many personal disruptions, Daniel Dyboski-Bryant and myself have worked long hours in addition to full-time jobs to develop Educators in VR on a shoestring budget. Its success as a membership community and social profit company based in the UK is amazing because of you.

Educators in VR Meetup 2018 in Altspace - emojis to celebrate the first event.What started out as a conversation between four educators to host a social meetup to explore educators using VR for research and integration into the classroom exploded into weekly educational and training workshops and presentations in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other social and educational platforms, and, coming in February, a ground-breaking six-day virtual conference called “2020 Educators in VR International Summit.”

In the past 13 months, Educators in VR has accomplished the following:

  • Hosted 48 workshops and meetups in AltspaceVR.
  • Hosted multiple events in ENGAGE, rumii, and Mozilla Hubs (with more on the way).
  • Averaged 40 attendees at each event (the cap in AltspaceVR for the past 6 months was 40 so that means standing room only. Before then, we averaged 80.).
  • Reached an audience estimated to be about 4,000 just in AltspaceVR across over 80 workshop hours.
  • Educators in VR Immersive Classroom Event in the Last Glacier with Lorelle VanFossen.Hosted 550 members on our Discord server, and our Facebook group is about the same with some overlap between the two. Discord is our most active social platform with over 7,700 comments in less than a year, and we’ve over 1,000 followers on Twitter.
  • Attracted 3,000 pageviews on our website in a few months time with little or no marketing.
  • Developed seven different educational workshops, along with a dozen variations for specific audiences.
  • Presented live virtual and in-person workshops at AWE, VRX2019 Conference in Amsterdam, and the VR/AR Global Summit for the VR/AR Association.
  • Co-hosted over 6 hours of the 24-hour International VR Day in November.
  • Presented 5 special events, speakers, and panels on cyberbullying in virtual reality as part of honoring Cyberbullying Month in AltspaceVR.
  • Featured in “Getting Social with VR Education” with VR Focus, AltspaceVR Community Spotlight: Educators in VR, Educators in VR Meetup by The Virtual Reality Podcast, and other media.
  • Educators in VR Event Space and World in AltspaceVR.Lorelle built a custom event world for Educators in VR, and Mark S. of the UK took the prototype and turned into into a marvelous event and social space for our weekly workshops and social gatherings.
  • Continue to develop scholarship and donation programs to help fund educational programs for integration of VR into the classroom and provide equipment for students and educators in need.

The Educators in VR Project Teams

Educators in VR vLanguage LearningOf all the things we are proud of accomplishing this year, we are the most proud of our Project Team leaders and members. These are truly passionate and inspired people who’ve taken on leading these special project teams to host events, workshops, and dive even deeper into the research and curriculum for their specialties. I’d like you to meet them.

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Weekly Workshop: Rob Theriault, Paramedic Training in VR

Simulation Training for Paramedics - Rob Theriault.

Our next Educators in VR Weekly Workshop will feature Rob Theriault, professor of paramedics training at Georgian College in Ontario, Canada. A paramedic with over 35 years experience, he teaches paramedic training programs in the real world and virtual reality. Yes, you read that right, and we are very excited to have Rob take us into his virtual classroom to demonstrate how he uses “Online Learning in Immersive VR.”

In this fascinating presentation in AltspaceVR on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, Rob will be showing us his VR worlds to generate discussion on how we might use VR moving into the future. He explained:

Asynchronous online learning is an isolated experience for most students. Adding a synchronous component helps to break that isolation and meets the needs of students in a way that might not be addressed as easily through asynchronous communication. Immersive virtual reality offers an even deeper connection with classmates and teachers. The sense of presence and special audio feels more like a face to face experience than the traditional webcasting platforms used for synchronous online learning. But VR also offers us the opportunity as educators to re-imagine online learning – to make it experiential rather than trying to replicate the classroom experience.

Rob Theriault is a paramedic-educators, author, researcher, EdTech and extended reality provocateur, and what he describes as “shift disturber.” In other words, one of us. A pioneer and innovator in virtual technologies.

You may RSVP for the July 24th event on AltspaceVR and you will receive an email reminding you an hour before the event.

Educators in VR is dedicated to providing educational events, trainings, and workshops for educators and learners to prepare them for the future of spatial technologies in education. We offer weekly workshops in AltspaceVR and other platforms, and a monthly meetup featuring key educators, trainers, and developers in VR, AR, XR, and MR technology and education.

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on our events page and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event. Alan has also built several worlds in AltspaceVR that attract a wide range of visitors, developing innovative virtual entertainment and meeting spaces.

You may attend as a guest or member using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is available for Samsung Gear, Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest (sideloaded) users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the 2D version for use on your Windows desktop computer version. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes can be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.

Join our Educators in VR Discord group, Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for information on meetups and how to become more involved. Consider subscribing to our Educators in VR event subscription channel to receive regular reminders of upcoming events there. We publish member brags and news you can use about virtual reality in education across the entire spectrum of usage from childhood education to health and science to corporate.

Weekly Workshop: Creating Educational Events in AltspaceVR

Educators in VR Weekly Workshops bannerThe next Educators in VR Weekly Workshop is Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in AltspaceVR, and will feature Lorelle VanFossen presenting “Creating Educational Events in AltspaceVR.”

Imagine teaching students from around the world in a single virtual space. Or bringing your students to a virtual world where they can explore climate change, Notre Dame, or museums and galleries. Take this a step further and consider the possibilities of encouraging your students to build their own museum, gallery, or homework project in a virtual space. The possibilities are endless, but we are going to start simple and introduce you to step one in creating an educational event in AltspaceVR, a similar process to other social VR platforms, to help prepare for the possibilities. And if you are looking for an easy-to-use platform for educational programs and events, be it high school classes or corporate training, AltspaceVR is an excellent choice. It offers a vibrant community to support public events, and an excellent and professional events team to work with to help you make your event a success.

The hour-long workshop will cover the logistics of creating an educational event in AltspaceVR, event location, layout, structure, and how to integrate video and slides. While she will be touching on some aspects of world building and interactivity in Altspace, stay tuned for a workshop this fall that covers this complex area.

Educators in VR Immersive Classroom Event in the Last Glacier with Lorelle VanFossen.When it comes to credentials for tips and techniques on education and events in Altspace, few come more qualified. Lorelle spent the last year teaching and presenting an average of 3 events a week in AltspaceVR, evaluating it as an educational and social platform. Normally she travels 5-7 months a year presenting keynotes, workshops, and trainings on web publishing and digital storytelling across the planet, traveling more through virtual space than physical this year. Lorelle VanFossen as Relle in AltspaceVR.Pushing AltspaceVR to its limits, she presents topics rarely found with the virtual experience, creative writing, genealogy and family history. She also hosts and moderates social and meetup events along with community service training and world building. She is the co-host for the News & Updates in AltspaceVR every Saturday. Lorelle helped produce several highly successful collaborative projects, including the Halloween VR Maze events that attracted over 3,000 users. News and Updates Studio for Pride Month in AltspaceVR.She works with the AltspaceVR events and community teams to teach, promote, and encourage training, mentoring, and collaborative projects within the AltspaceVR community as part of the Community Helper program.

Educators in VR presents weekly workshops as part of our mission to train and prepare educators and learns for the future of technology with virtual and augmented realities. We offer workshops on the basics of VR with Educators in VR 101, on teaching within an immersive classroom, and workshops with special guest speakers covering the diverse topics of education in spatial technologies. We also have a monthly meetup to discuss the educational industry and network, usually the third week of the month. Coming soon are special event programs like Educators in VR on the Road, journeying to other social and educational platforms, and the Educators in VR Showcase, highlighting products and services in the virtual education industry.

Please note that we will take a break in August, but already have exciting workshops and meetups planned for September.

Join our Educators in VR Discord group, Facebook, and follow up on Twitter for information on meetups and how to become more involved. Consider subscribing to our Educators in VR event subscription channel to receive regular reminders of upcoming events there. We publish member brags and news you can use about virtual reality in education across the entire spectrum of usage from childhood education to health and science to corporate.

Educators in VR Meetup in AltspaceVR

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on our events page and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event.

You may attend as a guest or member using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is available for Samsung Gear, Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest (sideloaded) users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the 2D version for use on your Windows desktop computer version. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes can be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.

Educators in VR Meetup: July 18 with Marie Graham

Marie Graham - Mount Vernon Presbyterian School Atlanta GeorgiaThe next Educators in VR Meetup is July 18, 2019, in AltspaceVR, and we are thrilled to host Marie Graham, Director of VR/AR at the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, Atlanta, Georgia, presenting “Immersive Realities, Design Thinking, and Students Using Technology for Good.”

An immersive technology evangelist, Marie Graham is the director of a high school VR/AR Lab, a teacher of humanities and innovation. She leads and learns with an amazing group of students and faculty at Mount Vernon School. Partnering with Alienware, HTC Vive, and Oculus, her school created a VR/AR lab where students create non-gaming content that positively impacts both local and international communities. In her former life, she was a certified nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner, and is a passionate writer, painter, and traveler.

Design, creativity, and empathy are key points she makes in her work, and with the presentation she will be sharing with us July 18. Even for students without coding experience, Marie develops innovative, impactful VR/AR content and programs for a variety of industries. She explains:

Almost every industry is impacted by immersive technology, and students have the opportunity now to focus this innovation towards designing a better world. As director of virtual and augmented reality lab in Atlanta, Georgia, a school steeped in Design Thinking, I will share the creation of a unique, thriving VR/AR lab in partnership with Dell/Alienware, HTC Vive, and Oculus that asks students to create non-gaming content with industry leaders to make the world a better place through empathy and design. My students are currently working with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) creating content for pediatric rehab patients (three current prototypes), designing a VR lab and content for tribal children in Muvalia, India, and filming an immersive 360 video for patrons in a local history museum. Getting out of the way of students allows them to harness this powerful technology that leaves them not only future-ready, but empathizing in a way that leaves them better human beings.

Here are just a few examples of why we are so excited to have Marie Graham be a part of Educators in VR.

Her hour-long presentation will include questions and answers and time for socializing, an opportunity to meet other educators and students with a vested interest in spatial technologies from around the world.

Our next meetup is September 19, 2019. Educators in VR will be taking a break during August, as we hope you do as well, and will be back with a full line of great speakers and weekly workshops on educational topics on VR, AR, XR, and teaching in the virtual world.

Join our Educators in VR Discord group, Facebook, and follow up on Twitter for information on meetups and how to become more involved. We publish member brags and news you can use about virtual reality in education across the entire spectrum of usage from childhood education to health and science to corporate.

Educators in VR Meetup in AltspaceVR

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on our events page and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event. Alan has also built several worlds in AltspaceVR that attract a wide range of visitors, developing innovative virtual entertainment and meeting spaces.

You may attend as a guest or member using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is available for Samsung Gear, Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest (sideloaded) users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the 2D version for use on your Windows desktop computer version. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes can be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.