Writing supported by virtual reality

In a recently published article in the British Journal of Educational Technology, Hwang and Chang examined how the spherical video-based virtual reality (SVVR) approach can support descriptive article writing in high school writing classes in Taiwan.

In traditional language learning activities, the authors noted, there is usually no chance for pupils to develop in-depth feelings about the context of topics, resulting in low learning motivations and limited expression in the writing process.

To provide in-depth experiences and to facilitate pupils’ descriptive article writing, the study introduced an SVVR system that used 360-degree photos or videos in a VR environment supporting pupils before they started to write. Pupils from two grade 11 classes participated in the study, with 30 pupils allocated to the experimental group and 35 students to the control group. After pupils understood the writing tasks and read a descriptive article about the Jade Mountain in Taiwan, pupils in the experimental group used SVVR to experience the ascent of the mountain, while pupils in the control group only watched videos and saw photos of the mountain. The study was conducted over two weeks with three hours of class per week. Before and after the intervention, a pre-test and a post-test on pupils’ writing performance were administered, along with questionnaires. The results showed that:

  • While pupils’ writing performance in both groups was similar in the pre-test, pupils who learned with the SVVR approach obtained better post-test results in terms of content and appearance than pupils in the control group, but not in organisation and vocabulary use.
  • Pupils’ learning with the SVVR approach also outperformed that of control-group pupils in creativity tendency and writing self-efficacy on the post-test.
  • However, experimental-group pupil and control-group pupils did not differ in learning motivation and cognitive load on the post-test.

The authors suggest that SVVR is worth promoting in school settings for language courses and experiential learning activities, as a way to provide deep experience in specific learning contexts. 

Source: Learning to be a writer: A spherical video‐based virtual reality approach to supporting descriptive article writing in high school Chinese courses (December 2019), British Journal of Educational Technology

Video playback pays back dividends

Researchers at Harvard University are conducting a study called The Best Foot Forward Project to determine the accuracy and usefulness of teacher observation using video rather than in person. A new report describes the first-year results of a randomised controlled trial of the project.
As part of the study, 162 teachers were randomly assigned to an experimental group instructed to video their classroom performance for a year. They were then asked to send five clips of their choice for feedback to 51 randomly assigned administrators, who had received training in video observation. The administrators were each assigned three teachers to evaluate. The results were then compared to 50 administrators and 185 teachers assigned to a control group who underwent in-person observation, as they had done in the past. Teachers were matched on years of experience, race/ethnicity, gender, and their schools’ test scores.
Results of the first year of implementation included:
  • Videoed teachers were more likely than controls to report that the post-observation feedback from administrators was fair.
  • Videoed teachers were more likely than controls to change classroom practice as a result of post-observation feedback.
  • Videoed teachers rated their performance as lower than control teachers. They commented that they noticed behaviours when watching themselves on video that they wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
A smaller study was completed to determine if using videos chosen by a teacher could mask their true performance. A group of external observers used the Classroom Assessment Scoring System to compare videos that teachers did not submit to videos that they did. Results showed that teachers’ strengths and weaknesses were consistent among submitted and not-submitted videos.
Researchers concluded that video observations offer several advantages over in-person observation: it reduces teacher anxiety and increases their perceptions of fairness; it promotes more congenial post-observation meetings between administrators and teachers than in-person observation; videoed teachers are more likely to make behavioural changes; and it allows administrators to perform evaluations on their schedule. The study is continuing and will examine the effects on pupil achievement of teacher behavioural changes following video observations and feedback.
Source: The Best Foot Forward Project – Substituting Teacher-Collected Video for In-person Classroom Observations: First Year Implementation Report (2015), Harvard University.