Member Spotlight: Ekaterina Semeniuk, vLanguage Learning Team Co-Leader

This is a first in a series of articles, interview and first person, featuring the leaders of our Educators in VR Team Projects. Ekaterina Semeniuk is a language teacher and the new co-team leader of the vLanguage Learning Team along with Michael McDonald of Gold Lotus language teaching and consultancy. The next vLanguage Learning meetup is Monday, September 14, 2020, on “Cognitive Skills, Language Development and The Brain: Employing the Neuroscience of Learning to Create More Effective VR/AR/XR Experiences” with special guest speaker Cassondra Eng.

Ekaterina Semeniuk, known as Gingery in Discord and AltspaceVR, shares her story and passion for language learning and teaching with us.

Ekaterina SemeniukIf you told thirteen-year-old me that I would become a teacher, and not just a teacher, but an English teacher, I would choke on my soda. And if you tried to guess why you’d guess it right.

My English as a foreign language journey was just like any other lifelong journeys, it was full of rich experiences. There were times when I felt blessed and there were times when I felt cursed. I started learning English “officially” at the age of seven at school, but unofficially, thanks to my elder brother, my mom and video games, it had started way before the alphabet song reached my ears. By the first day of school my wealth of knowledge had some useless bits of information like ‘a scarf’, ‘a doll’ and some important daily vocabulary like ‘new game’, ‘save’ and ‘exit’.

At the age of fourteen, I started to learn French as my second foreign language. Other foreign languages I’d been learning at university and afterwards.

Let’s fast-forward. Here we are in Moscow, Russia. My name is still Ekaterina. London is still the capital of Great Britain. But I’m not thirteen any more, and I don’t hate English any more. Moreover, we’re almost good friends now.

At the moment, I teach English as a foreign language. I have a background in foreign philology – the history and development of languages – and I used to learn eight foreign languages in total. I also have a master’s degree in TESOL in Australia. And my professional experience includes working as an ELICOS teacher in Sydney and as an English teacher and tutor at a private elementary school in the Moscow Region, to students between five and ten years old, some of which have dyslexia.

I’m also the new co-team Leader of the Educators in VR vLanguage track. I want to share with you my modest experience in teaching and learning languages with Virtual Reality.

Back in 2017 at the Australian university, I had a subject called ‘Technology in language learning’. In one of the assignments, you presented the concept of your perfect language-learning technology. Being a video game lover and a modern technology fan I presented a concept of an online VR game for language learning. That’s where it all began.

I can’t believe that every year we are getting closer and closer to all these futuristic language learning technologies I only dreamed about.

I bought my first VR headset a year later. It was a simple Cardboard-like gadget, the one where you have to use your phone as a display.

I used this headset as a speaking practice tool at my English lessons a year ago. At the end of a lesson, kids were supposed to watch a short 360 video and describe everything they could see in sentences, phrases or just single words, no pressure, the practice had to be as relaxed and fun as possible. The video was chosen on the same topic as the newly-introduced vocabulary.

With VR experience I wanted to create a positive emotional response in children, so they would have a desire to share it with others in the target language. Here the language becomes a tool for sharing experiences and information, and the whole practice doesn’t look like a task or an exercise.

My second headset was Oculus Quest and I used it in online teaching during the pandemic, choosing Mozilla Hubs for my ten-year-old students. Unfortunately, I was the only person in a VR headset. Luckily my students could join me from computers and tablets. We also were able to spend the whole 40 mins lesson on the platform, because the recommended session time in a VR headset for children of their age is 5-20 mins. I introduced my students to the platform gradually, where we spent around 2-3 lessons on getting used to the technology and doing whatever students wanted, having a silly time.

I started with explaining basic things like connection and movements, the next lesson I gave them permission to bring objects into the world and the third lesson was spent on travelling to various worlds. The English learning process was built around the idea of presenting vocabulary and grammar ‘upon request’. I followed my students and helped them with the language they needed most at a particular moment, for example, to make a specific joke or to call objects they built a house from.

All in all, it was a positive experience. Students loved it, it was something new, fun for them. They were excited to be there. It became another fun way of communication and doing things together.

After almost a year of working full-time with small children, I found myself losing the language. I still was reading and listening to advanced materials but had a lack of good speaking practice. I decided to find random people on VR social platforms like VRChat or AltspaceVR for a relaxed kind of chatting practice.

It was a surprise to find people were even organising language classes there, like Michael McDonald from Gold Lotus. Michael’s classes had a theory part presenting new vocabulary and some specific grammar. With the second part, he immersed us in situations, where we could apply in practice all the previous material, building new connections and stronger association.

VR technology gives us this great opportunity to transfer ourselves almost whenever we want to and experience it. I also visited a couple of speaking clubs and exchange language events. I even tried to learn a little bit of Japanese from scratch and I thank all of my VR teachers for their kind support and patience. This refreshing feeling of becoming a complete language noob I always find really helpful in improving my teaching empathy.

I see three main reasons to continue implementing VR technologies in my future English lessons.

  1. It helps to bring my students and the target language out of the classroom.
  2. It helps to use the language as a meaningful tool in various activities.
  3. Most importantly for me, it helps to build a positive attitude to the language.

I find a positive attitude more important than learning a particular amount of words or grammar. I’m aware that learning a language is a lifelong process and if you get a lot of negative experiences there is a great chance that you drop it once and never get back. If you have a positive attitude, no matter what happens in your life – more or less active learning periods, even pauses – you never drop forever, you get back and improve. It’s much easier to fix your knowledge gap in the language than to fix your negative attitude.

I believe that XR technologies are those amazing tools that bring positive learning experiences in your life that lead to a positive attitude to the language. I’m looking forward to its further development and I’m sure it’s changing education for the better.

Ekaterina Semeniuk is a TESOL teacher with a strong background in foreign philology — the history and development of languages. At one time, she was learning 8 languages. She has a master’s degree in TESOL in Australia, and worked as an ELICOS teacher in Sydney and an English teacher and tutor at a private elementary school in the Moscow Region with students between five and ten years old, some of which have dyslexia. She is also the new co-team Leader of the Educators in VR vLanguage track. You may learn more about her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Tom Furness and the Virtual World Society in AltspaceVR

Tom Furness Keynote the window - Educators in VR International Conference

Tom Furness is coming back to AltspaceVR on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, and this time, he is bringing part of his Virtual World Society team to share what they are doing to turn the education industry upside down with virtual reality.

We’ve shared our love and passion for Tom Furness and the Virtual World Society here on our site and through our social media channels, and if you missed his presentation at the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit, watch it now on our Educators in VR YouTube channel.

Professor Furness will be discussing the work of the Virtual World Society, and announcing some very exciting news that will impact all of us.

He also brings us some homework and requests our support for some very worthy causes the Virtual World Society is supporting.

First, homework. Before the event, please complete this short 2 minute survey that asks you how you are doing with COVID-19 isolation and how you can help the Virtual World Society and how they can help you. The results will be announced at the event.

Next, you will learn about the generous work the Virtual World Society is doing for the Make a Wish program and other community events and activities. Please support these worthy causes by donating and spreading the word as it takes a community.

Consider joining the Virtual World Society and be among the growing membership determined to democratize and disrupt VR in education.

Tom Furness, Virtual World Society founder.Dr. Tom Furness is a virtual reality pioneer and inventor who has earned the title “Grandfather of Virtual Reality.” He is Professor in the University of Washington Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering, and the founder of the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington and its sister labs at the University of Canterbury and University of Tasmania. He is known for his contributions developing virtual interface technology and its applications in education, training, medicine, design and entertainment. He and his students and colleagues have spun off 27 companies in the immersive computing space. He is also the general manager and owner of the RATLab (Rocking and Thinking Laboratory) and Founder of the Virtual World Society.

Expect to see Professor Furness and his Virtual World Society team members in and around AltspaceVR and the metaverse more often, but we won’t share any more details. You’ll just have to show up tomorrow and see what all the fuss and excitement is about!

PS: This week is his 77th birthday. To celebrate and honor his life-long work and passion, join the Virtual World Society and let’s make his dreams come true.

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.

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UPDATE: Rocking Out the Summit in AltspaceVR & Somnium Space

UPDATE: To ensure the best experience for our users, we will be hosting the main event for the closing ceremonies in both worlds simultaneously: Somnium Space and AltspaceVR.

Access to Somnium Space is available only to PC/VR users, not desktop/2D or mobile users. If you have access, join the party there. We will have a live stream from the event there into AltspaceVR for the first part of our Rock Out the Summit event.

Join us on both of these innovative platforms to celebrate this record-breaking International Summit.


Somnium Space - Educators in VR 2

SIX DAYS! We can’t believe it. We have completed five and we are on our way to six. We have an amazing closing ceremony called the “Rock Out the Summit” at noon PST Saturday, February 22, in Somnium Space. Come join us in celebrating this record-breaking 2020 Educators in VR International Summit!

Somnium Space people from website.We are so thrilled to be a part of the grand opening of Somnium Space, and we’ve accepted the challenge to fill it with another record-breaking event: the largest group of people in a single virtual space.

The current record was by High Fidelity and stands at 462 people in the same virtual space. That is our goal, and with the help of Somnium Space, and you, we can break that.

Somnium Space - Educators in VR 1Somnium Space is an open, social, and persistent virtual reality world. You may buy land or import objects and instantly monetize and shape your own universe and experience.

VRScout described Somnium Space:

Somnium 2.0 has been designed to host all the players in a single interface, unlike other multiplayer VR gamers where players are categorized into sub servers and mirrored instanced rooms. The solution will be studded with new lucrative features such as persistent server architect and native NFT integration. These unique features help the creators to design and deploy the creations on the land owned by them. Somnium 2.0 will uplift the experience with features like enhanced graphics, full-body Avatars, along with support for Builder and Unity SDKs for creation and avatar importing.

We are thrilled to celebrate the opening of this innovative virtual space. It is currently only accessible by PC 2D Desktop and PC VR devices, not mobile like Oculus Go and Quest. They are working on that, but right now opening up to Educators in VR members and community and everyone to not just celebrate their grand opening but our own record-breaking conference.

To join, you may join on the web or download their client from Somnium Space. Register and when you arrive, you should see signs and information for our Educators in VR celebration. They’ve set up a special pavilion for us.

Accept the challenge and join us for the closing ceremonies and help us rock out the Summit tomorrow, noon, in Somnium Space.

We will also have an after party social in AltspaceVR, which we will be announcing in the next couple hours!

Tom Furness ENCORE in 2020 Educators in VR International Summit

Tom Furness presenting in AlstpaceVR.Tom Furness is back for an ENCORE at the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit on Friday – today at 6PM PST in AltspaceVR.

Tom was our keynote speaker Monday at the start of the Educators in VR International Summit and part way through his presentation when, we assume the power of his presentation combined with the impact of the Educators in VR International Summit blew out the power in his University of Washington VR Lab.

This ground-breaking pioneer in VR and founder of the Virtual World Society worked with his team to restore power, but too late for the event. He’s been with us on and off throughout the week, and is now back to not only look at the past, to the beginings of virtual reality, a field he developed, creating the prototypes that eventually became the devices we wear on our faces, but where we are going in the future as we play with fire and push the technology even further.

Come join us to not only celebrate the life and thought-leader, Tom Furness, but help us boost the event through the last 24 hours into the record books!

Tom Furness - Speaker Card - 2020 Educators in VR International summit.

Expanding Minds in the Metaverse: Special Panel Presentation

The 2020 Educators in VR International Summit, February 17-22, 2020, is breaking all the rules and the records, and continues on through Saturday. Come join the fun. It’s free and accessible in 2D(PC Desktop with headphones) or 3D devices in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, rumii, and Somnium Space.

Tonight, we are honored to have five leaders in the virtual technology industry with us for a special panel discussion, Engaging Minds in the Metaverse in AltspaceVR, Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 10:00 PM PST / 1AM Thu EST / 6AM UK/GMT.

This is an incredible opportunity to meet the people behind the devices, educational and social platforms, developers, researchers, and thought-leaders of virtual technology, to hear their thoughts about where spatial technology in education is today, and where it is going. We are thrilled to welcome Alvin Wang Graylin, Artur Sychov, Mat Chacon, David Whelan, and Karolina Manko to our virtual stage tonight.

Alvin Wang GraylinAlvin Wang Graylin, President, HTC Vive, Mr. Graylin is the China President at HTC, leading all aspects of the Vive/VR (VIVE.com) and the Smartphone businesses in the region. He is also currently Vice-Chairman of the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance (IVRA.com) with 300+ company members, President of the $18B Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance (VRVCA.com) and oversees the Vive X VR Accelerators (VIVEX.co) in Beijing, Shenzhen and Tel Aviv.

Artur SychovArtur Sychov is Founder and CEO of Somnium Space. He has been navigating virtual worlds for more than two decades starting with Ultima Online in 1999, then Second Life and many more. Artur strongly believes in the ultimate future of Virtual Reality worlds with open and decentralized economy, amazing creation tools where imagination is the only limit. Artur has worked as an investment trader for many years before creating his first startup and becoming a serial entrepreneur.

Mat ChaconMat Chacon is the co-founder of Doghead Simulations and the innovative educational and meeting platform, rumii. In 1994, he started a website development company, and at 25, took part in the $63 million USWeb IPO. By 45, he was named a top 20 VR executive. He eventually returned to school and attended college, and now teaches online education for free, much of it in virtual reality, determined to make education accessible and affordable to all.

David WhelanDavid Wheland is a tech entrepreneur and founder of VR Education PLC. He is a former Editor-in-chief of Virtual Reality Reviewer and a multi-awarding winning VR director and producer with 10+ years web development, a background in app creation and programming large CRM systems. David believes in a future where education is accessible to all no matter your geographical location or financial status. David’s company VR Education PLC are also the people behind the ENGAGE virtual training and education platform providing users easy to use tools to create and share immersive learning experiences. David has directed and produced Apollo 11 VR and 1943 Berlin Blitz. David also produced Titanic VR and Shuttle Commander.

Karolina MankoKarolina Manko, Program Manager and Marketing, AltspaceVR, is an expert project manager in media and technology (XR/MR) sectors. As a project and community manager, she managed Future of StoryTelling community, creating year-round events and community projects, responsible for growth and management of FoST Community including working individuals and key orgs such as Meow Wolf, The VOID, Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab, Punchdrunk, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, etc. A thought-leader and published author, and winner of the 2017 BOAAT Writers’ Fellowship, The 2012 David Markowitz Poetry Award, and the 2012 Esther Unger Poetry Prize. She is also a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, and Phi Betta Kappa Honor Society.

Join us tonight North American time zone, morning UK, and whatever time it is in your time zone.

Spotlight: Alvin Wang Graylin, HTC Vive

Alvin Wang GraylinWe are proud to announce one of our Spotlight speakers, Alvin Wang Graylin of HTC VIVE presenting “Education Elevated vs Reimagining Education,” a special keynote in ENGAGE Monday, February 17, 10PM PST, to help us kick off the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit.

He will be returning to us in Altspace for a special panel called “Expanding Minds in the Metaverse,” 10PM PST on Wednesday along with innovators and thought leaders in the XR industry including Artur Sychov of Somnium Space, Mat Chacon of rumii, David Whelan of ENGAGE, Dr. Sana Farid, Healthcare Futurist.

Mr. Graylin is the China President at HTC, leading all aspects of the Vive/VR (VIVE.com) and the Smartphone businesses in the region. He is also currently Vice-Chairman of the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance (IVRA.com) with 300+ company members, President of the $18B Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance (VRVCA.com) and oversees the Vive X VR Accelerators (VIVEX.co) in Beijing, Shenzhen and Tel Aviv.

Mr. Graylin has over two dozen years of business management experience in the tech industry, including 18 years in Greater China. Prior to HTC, he was a serial entrepreneur, having founded four venture-backed startups in the mobile and internet spaces, covering mobile social, AD tech, search, big data and digital media. Additionally, he has held $100+ million P&L roles at a number of public companies.

Mr. Graylin was born in China and educated in the US. He received his MS in computer science from MIT, MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and BS in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, where he had specialized in VR and AI over two decades ago. Mr. Graylin is fluent in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

We are honored to have Mr. Graylin with us on two platforms in VR, and he is eager for your questions on the future of virtual reality and XR.

Mozilla Hubs: 2020 Educators in VR International Summit

Mozilla Hubs logoThe 2020 Educators in VR International Summit, February 17-22, is hosted on multiple virtual social and educational platforms. The following is a list of events hosted on one of our partner educational platforms, Hubs by Mozilla.

Mozilla Hubs - Panda avatar.To access these events, visit Hubs by Mozilla and login in or install the virtual platform for PC VR (desktop/2D) or VR device.

Please note that these are first come, first serve events with a limited seating, so mark your calendar and get in there early.

Date Time Presentation Title Speaker Track
19-Feb Wed 3:00 AM PST How to Share and Access Education 3D Content Online Thomas Flynn General Topics
20-Feb Thu 4:00 PM PST Mozilla Hubs: Designing for All Elgin-Skye McLaren Dev
21-Feb Fri 9:00 AM PST VR Experiences as Substitute for Museums and Planetariums Alexander Kaurov Medical & Science

Mozilla Hubs - Avatars in room.Schedule subject to change without warning.

rumii: 2020 Educators in VR International Summit

rumii logoThe 2020 Educators in VR International Summit, February 17-22, is hosted on multiple virtual social and educational platforms. The following is a list of events hosted on one of our partner educational platforms, rumii.

To access these events, visit rumii and login in or install the virtual platform for PC VR (desktop/2D) or VR device.

You will require the Room Code to enter each session.

Please note that these are first come, first serve events with a limited seating, so mark your calendar and get in there early.

Note: Some events are still pending. Stay tuned for updates.

Date Time Presentation Title Speaker Room Code Track
17-Feb Mon 5:00 PM PST Ask Me Anything: Panel of Spatial Experts Mat Chacon rnread Spotlight Event
18-Feb Tue 1:00 PM PST Save 80% Travel Costs with VR Mat Chacon r6zkx8 General Topics
20-Feb Thu 5:00 PM PST Power of Connectivity Jenn Chavez r6zkx8 General Topics
20-Feb Thu 6:00 PM PST From Fat to Fit in VR Mat Chacon rn228z Medical & Science
21-Feb Fri 9:00 AM PST MetaInk Pitch Fest Amanda Fox rnread Special Event

Schedule subject to change without warning.