Preconference Workshop

General Information
Title: Using 3D Virtual Reality to Promote Critical Language and Cultural Global Competence: A One-Day Workshop on Research, Teaching, and Design 
Date: Friday, March 18, 2022
           9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room, Department of Modern Languages, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)


Workshop Hosts

Stephan Caspar, Carnegie Mellon University

Stephan has a background in creative media and design having trained as a filmmaker before moving into education. He initially worked in film production and tv broadcasting, including at the BBC as a Content Producer, before embarking on a career in teaching & learning, becoming Head of Creative Arts at Fareham College in Hampshire, UK and before managing an award winning Digital Learning Team at the University of Southampton. In 2018 he joined the Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the Director for the Askwith Kenner Global Languages & Cultures Room, supporting language learning and cultural study through the use of immersive technologies. He continues to work as an artist practitioner, in VR creation, immersive design, and digital storytelling. Stephan has shared his work in journals, podcasts and talks, and is a regular contributor at The Playful Learning Conference in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @dotsandspaces and subscribe to his weekly newsletter The Spaces In Between.

Sébastien Dubreil, Carnegie Mellon University

Dr. Sébastien Dubreil is Teaching Professor of French and Francophone Studies, Second Language Acquisition, and Technology-Enhanced Learning at Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on the use of technology in fostering transcultural learning, the notions of social pedagogies, linguistic landscapes, and game-based language learning. He co-edited Engaging the World: Social Pedagogies and Language Learning (2017, Cengage) with Steven L. Thorne, Language Teaching in the Linguistic Landscape: Mobilizing Pedagogy in Public Space(2020, Springer Educational Linguistics Series) with David Malinowski and Hiram Maxim, and a special issue of the CALICO Journal, Innovation & Creation: The Maker Movement (2021), with Gillian Lord. He is working on Bonne Chance, a gaming project, with Cary Staples and a team of graduate and undergraduate students, selected as a finalist for the 2015 Reimagine Education conference.


Julie Sykes, Center for Applied Second Language Studies, University of Oregon
Nicole Mills, Harvard University
Naoko Taguchi, Northern Arizona University
Tom Corbett, Carnegie Mellon University
John Dressler, Carnegie Mellon University
Schell Games, University of Pittsburgh 

Workshop Abstract

Digital technology mediates all aspects of our lives and the fast-paced innovations in all domains exacerbate inequalities (e.g., economic, educational). These challenges are amplified by a state of global crisis with the recent pandemic, a recent widespread reckoning with the question of race, and increased injustice in the face of climate change and human mobility. Thus, the need for both digital justice and critical global citizenship has never been clearer than today. This day-long workshop is designed to critically examine the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) in the field of second language acquisition, with a particular focus on the development of critical language and cultural global competences, with pedagogical and/or research objectives in mind. By virtual reality, we mean 3D environments accessible through head-mounted displays (HMD’s -- Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, or even Google cardboard). VR is one of several rapidly developing immersive technologies, existing on a spectrum with Augmented Reality (AR), Digital Projection and Interactive Design. It has dazzled audiences, and generated excitement in many domains, including education. Much has been made of its promise as an “empathy machine,” which suggests opportunities for language and culture learning, but as we explore further, we may find this notion problematic, and possibly distracting from other fruitful and engaging possibilities.


Over the course of the day (9:00-noon and 1:00-4:00 pm), participants will engage with several VR experiences and analyze them both for content and for the specificity medium. Then, under the guidance of experts in the field of VR and/or SLA, they will design a project to harness the potential of VR for additional language and culture learning.


There will be three strands in the workshop: Research, Teaching, and Design. Participants will elect one when they enroll in the workshop. In the research strand, participants will design empirical study to examine aspects of SLA through VR (e.g., Caspar, 2021; Taguchi, 2021). In the second strand, participants will either leverage existing VR experiences or design their own for pedagogical purposes (e.g., Dubreil, 2009; Mills, 2021). In the third strand, participants will envision different tools with which to design -- or at least prototype -- VR experiences with/for their students.


The workshop will be hosted by the Department of Modern Languages on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, specifically in the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room. The primary hosts will be Stephan Caspar and Sébastien Dubreil, assisted by Julie Sykes, Nicole Mills, Naoko Taguchi, and CMU students who have a wide range of experience designing for VR. 

Workshop Agenda

Morning Session

9:00 am - 9:30 am Introduction
Welcome participants
Introduce staff
Set up format and expectations
9:30 am - 10:30 am Experience + Analysis
Engage with VR experiences (one headset per person)
Critical analysis
10:30 am - 10:45 am Coffee break
10:45 am - 12:00 pm Ideation
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


Afternoon Session
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm Work on prototyping a project 
3:00 pm - 3:45 pm Project presentation
3:45 pm - 4:00 pm Conclusion and wrap up