College of Liberal and Fine Arts


Spanish Class Uses Virtual Reality to Learn Language

November 11, 2016

Imagine standing at the edge of the Iguazu Falls in Argentina without actually being splashed. Or at the top of the Eiffel tower, overlooking the people below, wondering why your fear of heights has suddenly been conquered. What if you could be anywhere in the world without leaving the comfort of your home? Virtual reality allows people to travel and partake in environments they have only dreamed of.  

This latest fad in technology has created more than a photo-realistic environment for one class at UTSA.

Dr. Michael Rushforth, Spanish Senior Lecturer at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, is enhancing his Spanish classes by giving students the opportunity to experience the world of virtual reality.

While working at the Institute for Creative Technologies in Southern California, which is associated with the U.S Army and USC, Rushforth learned to utilize virtual reality for training environments.  Seeing this as a perfect fit for language learners, he developed a new teaching tool to engage students in the subject on a more immersive level.  Virtual reality is a hands-on approach which aids in learning and retention. Two high schools in West Tennessee are taking advantage of virtual reality by allowing its students to virtually dissect a human body.

Rushforth applies virtual reality to guide his students through a variety of Spanish-speaking countries and tour the cultural sites that otherwise would be impossible due to financial or logistical reasons.  

A simple requirement of two applications, Nearpod and Google Carboard, and students can be on the other side of the world in a matter of minutes. The virtual reality headsets in use do not have the nauseating effects some do and have practical focus settings and head adjustments.

“Learning what approaches and activities are best suited for VR has been the biggest challenge and opportunity,” says Rushforth. He specifies the importance of the educator’s knowledge and use of this technology.

As for this digital generation, the use of Virtual reality seems to be the next breakthrough for learning advancements in classrooms.

By: Andrea Avalos

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