“The Art of Seeing” and Envisioning Cultures in VR
- Nicole Mills
- Thursday, May 06, 2021
- 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Presented by: Nicole Mills, Director of Language Programs in the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures at Harvard University
Abstract: The concept of vision is described as “the sensory experience of a future goal state” (Dörnyei & Chan, p. 455). When foreign language students envision their future goals, they create vivid mental representations of “what success looks like and feels like” (Levin, 2000, p. 95). Vision has been described by language learning psychologists as one of the strongest predictors of long-term commitment, effort, and motivation in foreign language learning (Dörnyei, Henry, & Muir, 2016). The experiential and multisensory dimensions of virtual reality can immerse students in distant cultures and allow them to “see impossible things” (Bailenson, 2018) which may “enact profound and lasting changes.” As Marguerite Duras has long posited, however, “the art of seeing has to be learned,” for students to “see the world through the eyes of other cultures” (MLA report, 2007). This presentation will showcase the VR experiences designed for the beginning French course Paris in Virtual Reality. The VR experiences and their accompanying teaching materials, designed to encourage both peripheral vision and narrow focus, allowed students to observe diverse facets of Parisian culture and more vividly envision their future role as participants in Parisian communities. Amateur and professional VR films showcasing Parisian life were also mediated by one-on-one 30-minute discussions between Parisians and students. These conversations were designed to help students train their untrained eyes, uncover cultural phenomena, and bring into focus what they may not see.
Bio: Nicole Mills is the interim Director of Language Programs in the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures at Harvard University where she teaches courses in French, language pedagogy, and second language research and practice. She has publications on various topics associated with virtual and simulated environments in language learning, curriculum development, psychology of language learning and teaching, and language program evaluation. Her current book project Perspectives on Teaching Language and Content (with Stacey Katz Bourns and Cheryl Krueger), in press with Yale University Press, aims to create links between foreign language pedagogy and meaningful content through the intersection of innovative technologies, theories, and approaches.