Photography and storytelling lessons in virtual reality

As a (former) photographer, I love using images in language classes. Images, particularly those taken or created by learners, also make for great material in language classes and lend themselves for many different kinds of activities while giving agency to the learners. This is why I really like the snapshot function in Second Life.

I used this functionality of SL a lot when teaching there. It gives learners the opportunity to share something they have experienced in the virtual world with their family and friends  – just like they would if they were on a trip or holiday. Also, it gives them a real reason and motivates them to use the language as they do want to share what they have experienced – there is an emotional connection.

You can download snapshots, or send them directly as email. This is like when you travel and send emails with updates to family and friends. Being able to do this while you’re still in the virtual world makes the experience feel more immersive and real than saving the snapshot and writing the email after leaving the virtual world. It is also a more authentic activity for many people who like to take a snapshot with their smartphone when they are out and about and immediately share it via a messenger app or social media.

Even if the virtual world you use does not have it’s own camera/snapshot function, learners can always take a screenshot. In the Oculus Quest, for example, you always have the system recording and screenshot option available (Just be beware of permissions and copyright issues, particularly if the images are to be shared publicly. I blogged about this in the past, but I’m not sure whether copyright rules in SL have changed since then).

Using these snapshots in a story is another possibility. Learners can be asked to create and write stories. They can enhance their stories with snapshots they have taken. This could be made into a project-based activity by having groups of learners co-create and write a story and publish it as a blog post or even a simple ebook, which they can then share with others.

Another possibility for a project-based activity with VR snapshots is creating comics or cartoon stories, using one of the many comic creation tools that are available online. The one below was made with Canva.

Images taken in the Village of Ahiru

An additional benefit of using in-world images for further language tasks is that the activities can be extended and moved from the virtual realm to the physical, which makes them ideal for blended learning as well as for a fun, motivating and meaningful way to review the language they learned in a class.

What is great about these types of image-based activities is that they can be made to work with any language level.

Many people, including our learners, enjoy taking pictures. I highly encourage you to take advantage of this for engaging and meaningful immersive language learning classes that your learners will remember even after years.