“Please mind the gap!”
The slightly robotic voice of the announcer in the London underground station reminds me once again.
I know there is a gap, I spend all day thinking about the gap…but not between the train and the platform. No, I worry about the gap between the classroom and the real world. How can we help our learners see how everything they’ve learnt is relevant for their lives, for the real world?
At EC our mission is To Help Students Succeed in a Global Community and to Find their Voice. This means ensuring they are confident enough to use their English outside the classroom.
Well, at EC we have a number of strategies to help our students bridge that gap. We ensure that there is a clear real-life objective for every lesson, we discuss these objectives with our learners so that we can tailor and shape the lesson to meet their needs; we make space in every lesson for our students to reflect on what they’ve learnt and how they will put it into practice outside the class; students are sometimes taken out into the community to practice, with their teacher there to support them, and we set homework tasks that involve real communication, not just exercises alone. These homework tasks not only help reinforce the language learnt in class, they encourage the students to continue to push themselves and not revert back to the safe and easy language they have already embedded. Our aims is that this carries over into all their interactions and not just their homework.
With all of these strategies in place, we are confident that our full immersion students are able to practise their new language and skills in the real world.
But how do we bridge this gap for remote students?
The challenge for remote students is that when their lessons finish, they go back to their own lives in their own countries. They’re not visiting restaurants and ordering in English or asking questions in a shop so how do we ensure they don’t miss out on these opportunities?
Well, in 2020 EC began looking into the Oculus Quest 2, which was just the bridge we were looking for.
In January 2022, Simmula launched its first Virtual Reality English school, powered by EC. Not only do we still have the strategies mentioned above but also, in this course, when we teach our students to order food in a restaurant, we take them to a restaurant to practise; when we teach them to give a presentation, we take them to a meeting room or a stage to present to their peers; when we teach them to give directions, we take them to the city centre to direct each other; when we teach them to debate and argue, we take them to a panel show to debate with each other; when we teach them to complain, we take them to a shop to return a faulty item…with Virtual Reality, the possibilities are endless.
Virtual Reality doesn’t just bridge the gap, it removes it. So now when I hear the iconic “please mind the gap” in a busy London underground station, I think to myself: “Pah, what gap?! Sorted it, mate.”