Learning English for a Specific Purpose

There is a lot of technology out there that ESL teachers like to incorporate into their classrooms as a way to help engage and educate their students, but there are a few things to take into consideration before incorporating new technology into an ESL classroom.

The first question to ask, “was this technology specifically created for ESL”? Chances are, the answer to this question is no. There is not a lot of technology out there that is specifically designed for ESL classrooms (in-person or online). This poses a few problems for ESL teachers. For one, the teachers have to figure out how to incorporate the technology in a way that not only engages their students, but also how to get their students to understand the purpose of using the technology. Meaning, if the students cannot see an immediate return on investment or benefit, they simply will not engage with the technology.

The second question to ask, “does this technology have a specific purpose in the ESL classroom, or is it just an ancillary after-thought within the curriculum/syllabus”? There is an age-old rule throughout the ESL community with regard to the use of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), “never put technology in the classroom simply for the sake of putting technology in the classroom.” Some ESL teachers often incorporate technology into the classroom simply for the sake of trying to engage and educate their students, but they often fail to consider that most technology is not specifically designed for ESL, and therefore can be more of a hindrance rather than a benefit. After a while, the focus is on the technology rather than the learning. To this end, when the technology does not maximize the learning experience… students become bored and disengaged. In all fairness, most younger students can figure out how to use the technology with minimal English language capability, but they need to understand “why” they are using the technology in the first place. Meaning, the students need to be able to correlate the ESL language class to a future endeavor (e.g. a job, a career, higher education, et cetera). In the end, if ESL students cannot see the purpose of technology, as it pertains to their specific life and career goals, they will not get the most out of the training.

At Creative Veteran Productions (CVP), we consider all aspects of ESL training, which is why we focus on the “purpose” of ESL and the “end-needs” of the students. Our English for a Specific Purpose (ESP) training solution addresses the students’ concern of an “immediate return on investment.” We understand that ESL information must not only be relevant and contextual, but also be delivered in a way that allows students to apply the information and skills immediately; practical, active application ensures the highest degree of language retention. To do this, our ESP gaming concept provides a crucial ingredient into the overall paradigm; it entertains! Our triune learning paradigm utilizes the “Entertain, Engage, Educate” concept because we understand that training must Entertain in order to Engage the new learners of today and tomorrow. Meaning, in order to Educate, the materials must be Engaging. And, in order to be Engaging, the materials must be Entertaining. To be Entertaining, the materials must be Active.

By incorporating this approach into our Instructional Systems Design (ISD) process, we are able to develop ESP training that answers both of the two questions above. Yes, this technology we specifically designed for ESL training, and it is used for a Specific Purpose – it provides immediate performance capabilities specifically designed to promote ESL within a skill set. Here is a brief look inside our gaming concept “English for a Specific Purpose (ESP) Learning Game – Construction Series: Framing.”

This ESP gaming concept not only incorporates active learning in a virtual environment, but it ties a specific skill set to the purpose of learning English. This helps engage the learner because it offers real life application to a future job or career (in this case, construction), which makes the learning practical and contextual.

Our team is very excited about bringing something new to the language learning community. To find out more about, contact our sales team and see how our ESP solution can help maximize your students’ classroom performance.

“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

~ Confucius, circa 450BC

Connect with the World

In the US, when we think about learning a foreign language, most people are filled withNelson Mandela nervous anticipation. To a lot of Americans, foreign languages are seen as insurmountable obstacles without any sort of practical application or immediate use. In fact, because of our global economic and political positioning in the world, there is rarely a survival necessity behind learning a second or third language here in the States. But most monoglots fail to see that there is a deluge of tremendously rich cultures and business opportunities for those who want to learn a foreign language and connect with the world.

Creative Veteran Productions (CVP) is a training and education company, and, as such, we have a goal to make language learning more accessible and easy to navigate. At CVP, we view foreign languages as tools that help us succeed in both a global world and within our respective multi-cultural organizations.

Traditionally, the language training community, primarily within the United States, focuses on “language learning”, which is often very pedantic, dogmatic, and formal. It emphasizes on “delivering” language training materials and courseware rather than replicating survival communication skills learned during early adolescent years. To expound upon this concept, participants in Secondary Language Learning (SLL) receive language instruction that focuses on transmitting information about the language rather than using the language as a communicative medium through which topics and skills can be delivered. You see, we fail to understand that foreign language study needs to be active and engage the participants in doing something with hands-on involvement, which is otherwise known as acquisition through “language immersion” – surrounding or “immersing” participants within a second language and its respective culture.

Understandably, this may seem like a confusing topic, which is why we would like to offer clarification and hopefully spark a desire for people to embrace foreign language study rather than fear it. At the most simple level, there are two types of approach to learning a language: Secondary Language Learning (SLL) and Secondary Language Acquisition (SLA). Here in the States, we conduct SLL (not SLA). At a glance, most would not be able to delineate between the two functions, but we would like to offer a basic understanding between the two.

When a person grows up they learn their primary mode of communication, which is known as their (L1); this happens automatically like learning how to walk or even as easy as eating. In essence, we learn to communicate out of necessity and for survival; this is known as primary (or initial) Language Acquisition, which is often referred to as one’s “mother tongue” or “native language”. With time and practice, we are able to refine this skill and create more complex language that includes the ability to transmit and receive abstract concepts and other higher-level critical thinking communicative techniques. Again, this is known as Language Acquisition; we acquire the language, we do not learn or study it.

Now, when we are placed into a foreign environment we are forced to adapt to and learn how to communicate; this is known as Secondary Language Acquisition (SLA). If a person acquires a secondary language, this is known as their (L2). This type of Language Acquisition takes place in an active, immersive environment. However, here in the US, most of us passively learn foreign languages in a classroom; a place wherein the language in an intangible concept without life or active application. This is known as Secondary Language Learning (SLL) or foreign language study wherein we learn/study the language outside of the country (or countries) in which it is spoken. In short, SLL refers to the study of a foreign language rather than simply going to another country, living there, and acquiring it as a survival tool (SLA).

You see, immersion within a culture and language is the only way to truly learn a foreign language, and it is the only way to achieve (L2) functionality. But here in the US, wherein there is no survival need or motivation to acquire a second language, which means most institutions are set up to teach passive SLL foreign language study, how can we change the paradigm in order to promote (L2) SLA? How can we actively learn a second, third, fourth or even fifth language without traveling around the world and living for years on end in the countries in which those languages are spoken?

In a previous discussion, we talked about “The Role of Serious Gaming in Secondary Language Acquisition/Learning” as it pertains to using Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) for SLA/L so as to no longer limit ourselves to the constraints of the physical world. Specifically, how we envision merging real and virtual worlds wherein physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. This will make academic and performance SLA/L instruction simultaneous by changing the way we see our physical environment, which will, in turn, enrich the learning experience for the learners. This is because it will allow traditional SLA/L educators to remain attached to their physical classrooms while also allowing for richer, more in-depth teaching points in a more immersive, interactive and augmented manner. Meaning, we can immerse ourselves into a culture and language by augmenting our physical reality with digital cultural nuances that make it seem like a classroom is really a foreign country.

In a 3D Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), trekking to world can be as easy as opening aMen in Bazaar Web browser or using technology like Microsoft Hololens. When it comes to traveling to far and distant lands, we would no longer be limited by fiscal resources or physical travel. At a touch, I could travel to an Esfahani Spice Bazaar or haggle with roadside vendors at the Khyber Pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, the only limit to learning would be in our imagination. We could travel to the Gobi Desert in the matter of minutes, or we could walk the Rue du Cler street market just minutes after visiting a Moroccan Bazaar. With 3D SLA/L, cultural and language immersion could be at your fingertips.

So then why is (L2) Language Acquisition such an elusive concept when it comes to the Serious Gaming and Educational communities? What is missing? Why can’t even the most prestigious of IT corporations crack language learning in a virtual environment? In short… it is because we overthink one of the most basic human functions… communication. At the primordial level, we need to pass on information, so why are we so scared or nervous when we have to do it in a language we do not understand? The answer? Culture shock. Plain and simple. We become inundated with the unknown and place basic communication on an unreachable pedestal, so much that trying to communicate in a foreign land causes a sort of psychological spotlight terror phenomenon wherein we freeze like deer in front of headlights. Why does this happen?

This happens because we look at foreign language as delicate, intangible artistic functions and not a primal form of survival. But, at CVP, we have found a way to combine (L2) pragmatics within a 3D Virtual Learning Environment. While others continue to search out what they believe is the mythical language learning unicorn, at CVP we have created an SLA/L paradigm approach as an “Isolated Community”, or rather Iso-Comm. Instead of overthinking a basic human function, such as language learning and simple communication, we simply provide a virtual platform wherein SLA/L is given active purpose and intentional design. In our Iso-comms, participants are given roles and responsibilities as a means to make (L2) SLA active rather than passive, and it is done in a way that focuses on using survival communications as the medium to transmit knowledge and information about a particular skill, which then forces the participants to acquire the language rather than learn it. Through this initial SLA process, we are also able to achieve basic SLL fundamentals as well.

Simultaneous SLA and SLL? How does our design even work? It’s is a simple concept…

Our task-based objectives give purpose to learning, and our external stimuli make the learning intentional and real. Meaning, we replicate life as it pertains to acquiring a language inside its country of origin/use. Whether in synchronous virtual scenarios with an instructor or an asynchronous environment wherein students interact with NPCs…. our platform provides real, authentic cultural and language acquisition through immersive assimilation. This makes the language and cultural come alive. It this SLA technique that allows participants to experience a foreign country as it exists rather than how it may be perceived inside a classroom.

As for the simultaneous SLL portion of our SLA approach, we have designed an andragogical aspect that allows for the introduction of simple SLL pragmatics, and then becomes more complex as the participants progress through their training. In the simplest terms, we correlate SLA principles to specific participant needs. Once a participant has reached a certain level of survival (L2) language skills, we begin to introduce basic SLL functions as part of the participants’ paradigm of “needs”, and then add more complex SLL pragmatics as the participants gain more functional fluency. In essence… we create an immersive environment wherein external stimuli are introduced through VR/AR modalities in order to force immediate SLA needs. As a participant progresses and begins to acquire basic survival communication skills (SLA), we begin to introduce basic SLL pragmatics so that the participant begins to understand the abstract “nuts and bolts” of how the language functions from the aspect of a native speaker. Throughout the process, the participant gains/refines skills using the language itself. In a nutshell, think about being a native speaker of English that is learning woodworking, but your teacher only speaks Arabic. As you work with your teacher to learn about woodworking techniques, you begin to learn Arabic in the process. At first, it will be a very simple and rudimentary form of Arabic, but over time you will be able to hold a basic conversation. Once you can understand your teacher, he begins to help refine your Arabic speaking skills by exposing you to the functional pragmatics of the language itself and “how to talk” more like a native speaker. With enough exposure, you would be able to hold abstract conversations about woodworking.

DAARC – IMSH 2017 Best in Show

The Department of Veterans Affairs Simulation Learning, Education and Research Network (SimLEARN)  tasked Creative Veteran Productions (CVP) with developing a set of virtual and experiential learning games products for VA medical staff. These games and scenarios allowed for varying degrees of challenge complexity, integration of new content, and changeable learning objectives to offer a more holistic, dynamic and immersive experience for the users.

IMSH 2017 – Best in Show

The International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) is the world’s largest conference dedicated to healthcare simulation learning, research and scholarship, offering 250 sessions in various formats, from large plenary sessions to small, interactive immersive courses.

During the 2017 IMSH conference, the Department of Veteran Affairs Veterans Health Administration Innovation submitted DAARC (Airway Management) in the Serious Games and Virtual Environments Arcade & Showcase.  We are very proud to announce that our DAARC game won best in show under the Large Company category… beating out large companies with remarkable games in the competition. This was a significant achievement because CVP is a small business and this award not only solidifies our ability to compete against companies with very large resource pools, but outperform them  at a world renowned conference.

daarc_quarter_page_ad5Difficult Airway Algorithm and Rescue Cricothyrotomy(DAARC): The DAARC game was by far the most complex game developed under the SimLEARN effort. It comprised over one thousand (1,000) pages of storyboards, with over one thousand two hundred and seventy-five (1,275) logic points, and over one hundred and fifty (150) visualizations developed as part of the GDD. This game was based on the implementation of the Vortex Algorithm for managing difficult airways, and showed in detail the performance of a scalpel-bogie Cricothyrotomy. It included twelve (12) different cases of varying conditions and difficulty. The DAARC game detailed procedures and temporal decision-making skills in the context of Difficult Airway, Can’t Intubate and Can’t Ventilate (CICV) scenarios. These scenarios provide learners with visual cues, audible cues and Non-Player Characters (NPCs) interaction to emulate the stressful and emotional situations associated with difficult airway management. It included a group of NPCs in the room which the player must direct as required in order to aid her in the management of the airway.

vr-imageAs a means to add more realism to DAARC, CVP incorporated a Virtual Reality suite to help users feel immersed in the training program. By doing this, DAARC not only offers a higher degree of realism, but is also offers a “hands-on” approach for training medical personnel. In looking at the future of immersive 3D experiential training, CVP continues to pave the way for what it possible and achievable, while also democratizing 3D for even the most modest of training budgets.

Additional SimLEARN Gaming Products

calm_quarter_page_adUnder the SimLEARN contract, in addition to DAARC, CVP Designed, Developed and Delivered numerous gaming products. One of the games, Charge Nurse, focused on helping Charge Nurses resolve various case study events/scenarios they encounter on a daily basis (e.g. managerial topics, floor safety, patient care support, staffing assignments and medication management). Incorporating experiences and best practices from Subject Matter Experts across VHA, this game teaches learners how to maintain patient and staff safety while also managing the flow of the unit. Charge Nurse is a first-person player game with a variety of non-player characters and debriefing videos to bolster and enhance the user’s learning experience.

medsurge_quarter_page_adAnother game, MedSurg, focused on helping MedSurg Nurses with assessing and caring for patients over the course of a simulated 12-hour shift. This game helps Medical Surgical Nurses quickly identify conditions of a deteriorating patient in a MedSurg unit. CVP developed the scenarios in this game based on authentic conditions, procedures, and decisions of practicing Medical Surgical Nurse SMEs across VHA. CVP’s ISD team worked with the VA SMEs to create the scenarios, and ideate around Gameplay and Gameplay mechanics. This game included eight (8) multi-event scenarios that would happen during a MedSurg shift.

Applied Virtual Reality

On November 28th, CVP demoed what we call Applied VR at the I/ITSEC conference in Orlando, FL. Our demo showcased the potential Virtual Reality can have when applied to immersive training. However, we think Virtual Reality is only half the story, we believe that Augmented Reality or better yet, Mixed Reality, has just as much of an important role to play in the future of immersive training.

Today, we received our #HoloLens Development Kit from Microsoft and are very excited to start exploring the edges of what is possible in Mixed Reality. How can Mixed Reality be applied to Serious Gaming for the purposes of creating meaningful immersive learning experiences?

Over the past few years the ever-growing Virtual Reality community has focused on immersing you into a Virtual World. We believe it is time to take the immersive learning story further by also making your physical environment the canvas for your immersive training. That’s the promise of Mixed Reality… your world, augmented. In keeping with our core philosophy to Entertain – Engage – Educate, and in looking at the future of “Mixed Reality at World Scale”, we think the time is now for immersive Mixed Reality training.

Virtual and Mixed Reality allows us to remove the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds. They allow us the freedom to create applied immersive learning experiences that immerse and engage the learner, in a way that can drive training retention and accelerate learning.

Click here to read more about the differences between virtual, augmented and mixed reality

The Genesis and Future of 3D Serious Gaming

In order to get the most out of your company’s training budget, it is important to understand the starting point and evolution of 3D Serious Gaming from where it started, to where it is today, and where the future might take us.

clipart_imagesAs training and education began progressing into the digital realm, we first saw “gameful design” come onto the scene as a way to break up the monotony of the otherwise flat-delivery of information. Two-dimensional (2D) clip art, cartoons and rudimentary animations made the delivery of dry material more palatable, but it lacked any form of interaction by the learner. While it did change the way we approached training, it was simply a more creative and fun way to package and deliver passive learning materials.

In the evolutionary process, “gamification” began to set the stage for active participation in a virtual environment. This new style of training started to engage learners with fun and interactive features to help them better focus on the tedious material that was being presented. These “Gaming Elements” consisted of point-based and badging systems that allowed progression during a training session and even offered a hierarchy of merit for those that outperformed their peers (leaderboards). The gamification of training provided unofficial competition between employees and began to place greater emphasis on skills gamificationperformance and achievement during a training session. Badging and leaderboards gave visual representations of skills accomplishment and knowledge gained. Eventually, simple gamification of training content evolved into Serious Gaming, and the training and education industry began to completely change the way we viewed computer-based learning. As technology has become less expensive and more accessible, we have finally entered into the world of 3D Serious Gaming and Virtual Reality wherein learning is only limited by the imagination of what is possible.

With the future of 3D Serious Gaming upon us, and with so many options available, what sets one platform apart from another? For some, it lies within the realistic graphic design. For others, it is the “wow factor”. For Creative Veteran Productions (CVP), it comes down to packaging all of the above and applying the three basic principle of our core philosophy: Entertain. Engage. Educate. Having seen the early stages of computer-based training and having eagerly participated in its transformation into the world of 3D Serious Gaming and Virtual Reality, CVP has consistently maintained its focus on designing, developing and delivering training products that Entertain and Engage learners in order to Educate them on the topics and skills they need to acquire. We focus on both the Instructional System Design elements and the kinesthetic learning aspect in order to provide a powerful platform that delivers active and innovative ways to conduct training. At CVP, we not only believe in the possibilities of what training can become, we bring those possibilities to life and turn them into a Virtual Reality.

Experience the future of Serious Gaming today! http://www.creativevet.com/


“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”                                           

– Confucius, circa 450 BC

The Kinesthetics of 3D Serious Gaming

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn began promoting changes in basic assumptions and fundamental principles within the scientific community; today, this approach is known as a paradigm shift. Likewise, as advent technology continually revolutionizes the way human beings interact and learn, it is paramount to understand paradigm shifts as they apply to training and education.

The axioms of education lie within the fundamental principles of constructivism and constructionism wherein students create knowledge structures through progressive internalization of actions in which they consciously engage and reach their own respective cognitive potentials at their own relative pace. However, these axioms are predicated on the corollary of balance between academic pragmatics and performance application opportunities. In traditional classroom environments, read podium style instruction, it is difficult to give actual meaning to intangible concepts without correlating them to practical application practices. Meaning, active, hands-on application of knowledge provides experiential learning opportunities that support the fundamental principles of constructivism and constructionism, as well as reinforce intangible academic concepts that are delivered as passive information.

As technology becomes more democratized and accessible, it is possible to overlook the fact that computers are machines, not pedagogical methods. Specifically, new technology, such as 3D Serious Gaming and similar Virtual Training methodologies, is often met with confusion as how to apply it to time-honored pedagogical practices. In this regard, CVP assumes the next paradigm shift is upon us and we are taking the opportunity to demonstrate how these new technologies can enhance traditional learning and teaching methodologies.

In keeping with active learning principles (kinesthetic learning), Virtual Training, whether synchronous or asynchronous, provides a planned series of actions or events to invite the participant to process, apply, interact and share experiences as part of the learning process. As we continue to recondition existing technology to make it more efficient and flexible, we observe that participants, when they are involved in their learning rather than being passive observers, are more likely to master the information or concepts presented, apply them to their practice, and retain the information more efficiently. This is because our processes and platforms place less emphasis on transmitting information and more emphasis on developing participant skills via practical, relevant, real-world application (e.g. digital experiential learning).

Participant conducting medical training on CVPP’s Virtual Reality training system.

With the democratization of 3D Serious Gaming and Virtual Training technology, CVP is able to redefine the traditional classroom by providing active, kinesthetic learning without limitations. In our active Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), teachers and students are not limited to the constraints of what can be accomplished within the physical confines of a classroom. This is because teachers are able to provide simultaneous academic and performance-based synchronous instruction, and students are able to garner instantaneous connections to intangible and abstract concepts.

Moreover, we also understand the time-limiting factors that prevent full participant attendance in a virtual, synchronous training session, which is why our platform also offers an asynchronous solution for participants to conduct training in an independent capacity by allowing them to interact with Non-Player Characters (NPCs) at times that are conducive to their busy schedules. We accomplish this by incorporating testing dynamics and scaffolding principles into a given session that only allow participants to advance after meeting predefined thresholds of comprehension and understanding of the subject matter material. Meaning, in an asynchronous session that is absent a teacher or instructor who would traditionally guide a participant to meet objectives, our Virtual Training platform ensures the participant follows a logical flow of study in order to meet objectives in the same manner as if it were a live session with a teacher and other participants.

In the end, our Virtual Training solution ties in the aspects of kinesthetic learning, constructivism and constructionism while changing the paradigm of how we approach standard training and education. By redefining to conceptual notion of the classroom, we are able to help businesses deliver new information to their younger employees by offering a digital perspective that connects with the way the rising generation learns.

“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”                                           

– Confucius, circa 450 BC

Experience the future of Serious Gaming today! http://www.creativevet.com/

Is Your Business Ready for the Future?

The next generation of Americans are beginning to reshape the face of the workplace as we know it, and businesses that want to remain on the leading edge of success need to understand how to not only integrate this population into their work environment, but also how to train them to perform functions that ensure growth and success in their respective industries. Richard Fry, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center and an expert on school and college enrollment in the US, states that by 2020, the rising generation will comprise 50% of the work force (2015). In this regard, businesses must adapt their training strategies to support a generation with an affinity towards the digital world. This rising generation has ambitious career aspirations and want to bring their knowledge of new technologies into a 21st century workplace. In fact, this is the first time in history wherein young adults are entering the labor market with a far better grasp of key business tools than the senior managers who will be hiring them into entry-level positions.

Having grown up with global connection to the world around them through smartphones, tablets, laptops and social media, Virtual Training is becoming the new industry standard for how businesses deliver training to their younger employees. Whether by interactive 2D webinars or kinesthetic Virtual Reality 3D Serious Games, businesses are starting to understand that the future of yesterday is here upon us. For some, they fear the unknown, and a great deal of employers and senior management professionals believe they are at a disadvantage because they fear the price tag for revamping their training programs to accommodate this next generation of worker will be costly, time-intensive and negatively impact productivity. Because training is an investment in the future of a given business, decision-makers need to be able to tie a return on investment to the money they spend to train their employees.

The good news is that advent processes are democratizing the technology needed to modernize their respective training programs. By reconditioning existing technology to make it more efficient and flexible, the process of bringing their legacy training programs into the 21st century becomes more cost effective than originally anticipated, which allows them to scale their training as their companies grows.

Creative Veteran Productions understands this requirement for the rising generation, which is why we design, develop, and deliver scalable Virtual Training to meet the most basic to most advanced needs of a company while ensuring the process remains cost effective as a company expands its training program.

Experience the future of Serious Gaming today! http://www.creativevet.com/

Fry, Richard (2015, May 11). Millennials Surpass Gen Xers as the Largest Generation in U.S. Labor Force. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/

The Role of Serious Gaming in Secondary Language Acquisition/Learning

As a foreign language educator who holds an almost unwavering approach to traditional classroom learning, I often question the direction of today’s educational methodologies and wonder if they are doing more damage than good. When we, as foreign language educators, find new technology we immediately look at how we can integrate that technology into the classroom, but we often overlook the intricate details that matter most.

  • Was this technology designed for the purpose I am going to use it?
  • What are the limiting factors that will make this technology irrelevant after a few weeks/months/years?
  • What is the return on educational investment for trying to convince others to integrate this technology into the mainstream organization?
  • Will this technology teach students poor study skills?

These are very important questions to ask, and even more important considering Millennials, persons born within the two decades before the turn of the 21st century, will soon make up fifty percent (50%) of the global working age population… and they grew up refining the use of technology as part of their core physiological development skills. As these Millennials continue to enter the workforce and climb their respective corporate ladders, it is apparent there is absolutely no way around incorporating technology into the “classroom”, especially when that technology can make Secondary Language Acquisition/Learning (SLA/L) training more relevant, immersive and cost effective.

But, while Millennials will soon make up half of the working age population, what about those that have had to adapt to technology? As a member of the cusp’er generation, meaning I am in between the Baby Boomers/Gen X’ers and the Millennials, I can see the controlling generation slowly making room for the rising generations beneath them. However, how can the controlling generation pass the baton to the rising generation unless they impart their knowledge? And how can they pass along that knowledge unless it is done in a meaningful way that connects with how the younger generations learn?

Because technology moves almost as fast as the genius minds that create it, there is a large gap between “knowledge givers” and “knowledge seekers”. Those who have the knowledge and experience want to pass it along to the knowledge seekers, but technology often inhibits a seamless process because knowledge givers cannot fully relate to the technological medium through which knowledge must be transferred. Point blank, traditional classroom-style SLA/L is simply not compatible with Millennials’ approach to learning, but that is because foreign language training needs to be “active” instead of “passive”, and traditional classroom SLA/L training cannot offer any meaningful level of active immersion. Because our educational system is designed around the physical classroom, we have to find a happy medium through which knowledge and experience can be transferred.

The good news is that advent processes are democratizing the technology needed to modernize the SLA/L classroom, whether physical or virtual. In terms of 3D Serious Gaming, we are now able to use Augmented Reality (AR) in lieu of traditional Virtual Reality (VR), which is the keystone ingredient that is often misunderstood by those of us that had to learn about technology rather than growing up with it.

For years, classrooms have augmented physical, real-world environments with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, et cetera, and with the decrease in costs of AR, we can now envision merging real and virtual worlds wherein physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time (*see Microsoft Hololens). It is important to note that traditional VR is just now becoming affordable and widely available enough to enter the traditional classroom; however, AR is still in its infancy comparatively. Regardless of current cost and availability, we, as educators, must start to consider what that means for the future of Serious Gaming with regard to SLA/L. In short, training will no longer be limited by the constraints of the physical world. Very soon, we will be able to use the traditional SLA/L classroom in a way that connects with the way Millennials learn, and we will be able to do it in a much more cost effective manner than before.

While we see AR as becoming the norm for training, it doesn’t mean legacy SLA/L training will all of the sudden becomes obsolete. Instead, this is simply a new modality to deliver training. It will make academic and performance SLA/L instruction simultaneous by changing the way we see our physical environment, which will enrich the learning experience for the learners. This is because it will allow traditional SLA/L educators to remain attached to their physical classrooms while also allowing for richer, more in-depth teaching points in a more immersive, interactive and augmented manner. This point notwithstanding, the use of AR technology must be focused and purposeful. Meaning, there must an intentional design and reason for the technology to exist within the SLA/L classroom; it cannot be introduced without any cognitive foresight or anticipatory direction.

Understanding that technology cannot simply replace SLA/L academic classroom instruction, we do see how technology can supplement and vastly improve the practical application portions of career field curricula wherein teachers can assist learners with the hands-on application of a given skill and the technical language needed to master it. For example, Creative Veteran Productions (CVP) has built an English for a Specific Purpose (ESP) training course that uses VocAdemics to address the parallel non-disparateness between academic lexis and occupational vernacular that often hinders SLA/L. Meaning, ESL students become overwhelmed with and fixate on information that has no discernible or connected meaning between the multitude of concepts they are learning (both academic and career technical alike), so they require more “hands-on” skills training to help correlate practical application to academic concepts.

Of particular importance, amongst the foreign-born workers/job-seekers community, there is a lack of functional and job-based technical English language skills, which impacts their ability to fully integrate into the US workforce. In its most basic form, our English for a Specific Purpose (ESP) VocAdemic program allows job-seekers to develop their functional English language skills as well as their technical English language skills while refining the focus to specific trades or skills.

For example, in the construction trades it is important to make sure a “rough opening is plumb, level and square”. However, in mathematics classes, we teach concepts such as vertical, horizontal, parallel and perpendicular; these are the same concepts, but they are the academic lexical versions of their respective “on-the-job, occupational vernacularisms.” There is no direct correlation between the words themselves because we teach them as disparate singular concepts relative to each respective skill set, and, while students understand the use of mathematics in construction, they still view them as completely dissimilar concepts with no discernible relationship.

In this regard, when technology is focused to enhance SLA/L academic objectives through real-time performance interaction in a Virtual Environment, it helps expedite practical fluency and gives relevance to why the learner is participating in the first place. Within the ESL community, it is best summed up through a Confucius saying circa 450 BC, “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” By using VR or AR, we can accelerate the correlation of more intangible and abstract concepts, which drastically increases functional fluency.

To learn more about the SLA/L virtual learning concept, please watch the instructional video for our ESP Learning Games Construction Series: Framing.

Spoken Vs. Written Language

Recently, I wrote about the future of the Secondary Language Acquisition/Learning (SLA/SLL) community vis-à-vis 3D virtualization and haptic technology, but I feel as if I need to explain the rationale behind this inevitable paradigm shift. Those of us in the language learning community understand the disconnect between the spoken and written forms of a language; and yes, this is where I am going to show my true inner-nerd and discuss the veritable nuances of language analysis (i.e. colloquialisms, vernacular and euphemistic manners of speak).

Each language has its own varying degree of difficulty depending on the learner’s ethnolinguistic perspective. Meaning, it is much easier for a speaker of a Latinic language to learn other languages within his or her specific language family (i.e. it is easier for a Spanish speaker to learn French than it is to learn Japanese). Of course, the more languages one learns the easier it is to learn additional languages because his or her lexical frame of reference broadens exponentially with each added language. But, that is not really the point of this article. I would rather dive deeper into the crux of why foreign language study seems so inundating and magnanimously impossible, and how we are standing at the precipice of a new frontier (digitally speaking that is).

Now, it doesn’t matter how difficult a language may seem, every language suffers from parallel non-disparateness. Wait! What does that even mean? In short, it means every language has two forms: written and spoken; both of which are linguistically the same language, but very different when delivered through a mode of communication. You see, the academic lexis and pragmatic syntax of a written language is noticeably dissimilar when compared to the spoken vernacular form; in some cases, they seem like two different languages, but they are one in the same. This is not a dialectal dissimilarity, but rather a communicative separation based on cognitive faculty perspectives. As to why it takes place is a moot point, but its relevancy to this article is that it hinders the functional fluency development of secondary language learners. Students learn the “written” language in class, but are expected to understand the “spoken” language “in the real world” or “on the job”. In the past, it was easier to navigate through the parallel non-disparateness of a foreign language because the languages themselves had natural progressions of change (i.e. 1920s American English compared to 1960s American English; the language changed over a slow 40-year period). But, today’s foreign language learner is inundated with constant changes in a language. Given the speed at which we can communicate (globally), thousands of new words are added to individual languages each year, which are then compounded by phonetic morphology, isogloss linguistic vulgarities, syntactical derivations and of course the flowery euphemisms we love to use so much. As an example, and I know we’ve all been there, think about the last time you received a text from a younger person (read millennial). It’s almost as if you need an etymologist to give you the linguistic origin and then the Rosetta Stone to decipher it.

This is why language learning is so difficult; languages change and reflect the cultures in which they are spoken. Why is that? Because in discursive psychology we study “why we say what we say”, and in sociolinguistics we study “how we say what we say”. There are many external and internal motivational reasons to express a thought in communicative form, which is always linked to a desired outcome. We also have to consider political, religious and social influences when it comes to communication. In fact, popular culture plays a huge role in the transformation of a language. Why? Because if a Neanderthal is habitually pushed in front of “the big screen” they become the object of idealization; the public will have an overwhelming sensation to mimic his or her monosyllabic grunting (or rather incoherent ramblings at the Oscars) – it is psychologically inevitable. As another example, a political activist is going to speak differently than a priest. The language may be English, but the choice of lexis and its respective communicative delivery are going to be different. My point is, each person has a different frame of reference and internal motivation to speak a certain way. That in and of itself makes foreign language study difficult, but then we add isogloss nuances (geographical distribution of dialects) into the mix and we really start to confuse ourselves. Since it is 2016 and election year, let’s look at political languages. A democrat from Massachusetts is going to speak differently than a republican from Louisiana. But why? First, there are historical etymological influences in the dialectal differences. Puritan religious dissenters came from East Anglia and brought their distinctive “twang” to Massachusetts, which had Germanic and Nordic influence; whereas Louisiana had a staunch Norman Franchophile influence, which spawned a sort of vulgar creole language – not really French, but not really English either. And then we have to take into consideration religious and social influences, which bring a deluge of lexically isolated nuances. The dissimilarities may be slight, and we still understand one another, but to a foreigner… we might as well be speaking Greek.

And this is where we are failing our students. In some cases, we teach them the written language and highly educated spoken language (BBC, VOA, et cetera) when they are expected to understand highly a colloquial spoken language for their follow-on jobs. While learning the educated form of a language is imperative for global skills, it is nearly impossible to teach a student how to understand the “spoken” target language when their exposure is restricted to news media broadcasts and non-specific videos from other media sites. Suffice it to say, it is monumentally difficult for students to learn a foreign language or culture by simply attending a class or being instructed in a classroom-style environment.

But where does that leave us? Well, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” encourages the change in the basic assumptions, or paradigms. So, as advent technology revolutionizes the way human beings interact and learn, it is imperative to evaluate and possibly even change the very fundamental principles of SLA/SLL, or in the case of this article, a greater emphasis on enhancing language acquisition techniques. Language study should not be delivered as the topic of training but rather than the medium through which training takes place. Experiential virtual training forums create isolated and sanitized environments in which students can receive varying degrees of the target languages themselves (spoken, written, dialectal and et cetera). Not to mention, they provide a generationally relevant SLA/SLL program for kinesthetic, millennial-style learning. Immersion, albeit by virtual means, allows students to explore and make discoveries in the language and culture for themselves, which maximizes and expedites language fluency.

This is exponentially relevant for creating 3D Serious Games for SLA/SLL because if we bore down to the fundamental level of foreign language acquisition, we need to not only digitally replicate the immersive experience in a foreign land, but also replicate the nuances of its language and culture vis-à-vis spoken and written language.

Iso-immersive 3D Simulation V.R. Environments for Secondary Language Acquisition (SLA)

In 1997, while playing “Duke Nukem” in my barracks’ room at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), I started to think about the possibilities of using video game technology to conduct language study. Well, it’s been quite some time since I was at the Presidio of Monterrey but I am happy to say that over the last two decades the Secondary Language Acquisition/Learning (SLA/SLL) community has slowly introduced Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) technology into the classroom. Now, I wish I could say the introduction of CALL has been fruitful, but such has not been the case. In recent years, while advent technology has finally allowed for the integration of 3D virtualization into the foreign language learning paradigm, the current 3D SLA/SLL environments focus on addressing the attention deficit disorders of millennial learners rather than actual secondary language acquisition principles. Granted, these programs are better than traditional foreign language study techniques wherein we had to endure countless hours of head-to-wall banging sessions while being peppered with vocabulary and hoping something would stick. But, if we, as a community, are going to move forward with CALL technology, we cannot keep focusing on “cool technology” while negating its purpose in the classroom.

I remember quite a few years back when “Second Life” became the holy grail for the SLA/SLL community, specifically for the Department of Defense, but it was short-lived asPlaceholder Image the forum became reduced to a de facto “Adult Entertainment” site centered around the monetization of virtualized social interaction (read degradation). So why didn’t it work? Shouldn’t it be as easy as outfitting an avatar, meeting with a teacher and learning a language? The answers to those questions are a bit more complex and less superficial than one may think.

The reason most 3D simulated environments have proven ineffective in terms of foreign language study is because they were not designed by individuals who have actually studied foreign languages. Moreover, they were not designed from a perspective of deploying discursive psychology, sociolinguistics and e-andragogical principles to establish connective faculties within digital, iso-immersive environments (authentic experiential learning). Sadly, they were designed with one very finite and linear objective: “create a forum; study a language”. Soon, the industry exploded with 3D simulation games, but there was a common misconception that SLA/SLL principles would simply transfer into the digital frontier and language acquisition would just naturally occur. This proved to be a false assumption.

When we approach foreign language study we understand that full exposure to the language is the most expeditious way learn it. In fact, Dr. Stephen Krashen, who has set the standards for Secondary Language Learning & Acquisition (SLL / SLA), maintains that isolated immersion (iso-immersion) is the most effective way to learn a second language. Naturally, one would assume that the digital replication of a real environment would simply create the parameters for effective iso-immersion, but language study is very nuanced and does not follow a simple instructional system design formula. Because of this simple fact, there will always need to be student-teacher interaction.

Getting back on topic, we have to approach digital iso-immersion from both synchronous (active) and asynchronous (passive) learning perspectives. To accomplish this, we can create Non-Player Characters (NPCs) that act as socially-intelligent programmed virtual humanoid avatars (i.e. computer characters) as part of guided/themed objectives for student interaction. From the Synchronous side-of-the-house, students can conduct learning with instructors and report as they are accomplishing the language objectives. Instructors navigate the students through the objectives and assist them with the language learning aspect of the training course. From the Asynchronous side-of-the-house,  students can conduct training in an independent capacity while solely interacting with the aforementioned NPCs. To be effective, we incorporate testing dynamics into the courseware so that the Learning Management System (LMS) only allows the students to advance after meeting a “pre-defined” threshold of language capability. Meaning, we program parameters into the course so that students cannot not simply “click to continue”; they actually have to “interact” with the game in order to advance. But, incorporating these e-andragogical principles in a 3D simulated environment will not simply produce secondary language acquisition to achieve the desired level of proficiency in a particular foreign language. I won’t get into the SLA/SLL Instructional System Design (ISD) architecture, but there is a key ingredient in making the digital frontier  a viable option for iso-immersive foreign language study that is now within our reach – literally.

Up front, we have difficulty viewing language learning as abstract, and have a particular challenge seeing our lexicon, phonology, and syntax as having meaning in a particular historical, social, and political condition. Our vocabulary, phonology and syntax are used to convey a broad sense of meanings and are reflective of our immediate social, political and historical conditions. This is why we deploy a Virtual Constructivism (VC) model that relies on three fundamental principles (de facto language laws) with regard to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) – which promotes our multi-faceted aspect of Secondary Language Acquisition (SLA) over a linear secondary language learning (SLL) model. These language laws are: Discursive Psychology, Sociolinguistics and Connective Faculties. The first two are accomplished with a fairly easy SLA/SLL approach, but the last (connective faculties) has been very difficult to crack – until now.

The Connective Faculties aspect of the VC model integrates “how we react within a traditional language immersion environment” (i.e. how we connect with the language and culture itself): emotional connections, cognitive connections and physical connections. By integrating internal/external simulated stimuli into the pre-defined objectives of the course, we can create emotional and cognitive connections. Under the physical connections, we easily assimilate sight and sound into the 3D environment. And this is where things get interesting. With new technology, a third element of physical connection (touch) can be integrated through the utilization of haptic technology (i.e sense of touch particularly relating to proprioception). In a nutshell, we can use a body suit and gloves that create sensations of touch so the students feel like they are actually in the simulated environment.

Possibilities are endless with this type of technology, but most importantly, we are no longer limited by: the space constraints of physical classrooms; teacher-availability for students at multiple locations; or hinged by dwindling fiscal resources. This means that agencies and organizations don’t have to worry about budgets or travel logistics; students can train any time, and from anyplace.  Seems too good to be true, or something out of a Star Trek episode, right? Actually, I am happy to report that Creative Veteran Productions (CVP) has designed, devoloped, and deployed a 3D simulation platform that is web-based and specifically designed to be accessible from behind low-bandwidth systems with high security firewalls, which means connectivity is no longer an issue. Using “off-the-shelf” haptic equipment that allows users to interact within virtual reality environments and actually feel certain aspects of the program, we can create a iso-immersive SLA/SLL environment wherein students conduct experiential learning. Now that “touch” has been incorporated into the connective faculties equation, we could theoretically send students to the oil fields of Siberia to conduct Russian language training, or to the desert villages of Syria to learn Arabic – of course, all from the safety of their computers.

Having been around the Department of Defense (DOD) for two decades, I understand the logistical problems associated with government/military training. Too often, we are given finite resources to train a multitude of service-members that need to conduct “high repetition” training. Essentially, a lot of people need to use a small pool of equipment, which comes with a slurry of scheduling nightmares, travel budgets, last-minute delays and equipment malfunctions. In a 3D simulated environment, thousands of users can use the same forum and not even know one anther are there. They can conduct repetitive exercises and drills with an instructor that is located 2000 miles away. If a student is struggling, the teacher can change the parameters of the learning environment. Best of all, we can conduct academic and performance based instruction simultaneously.  As Aristotle said in the The Nicomachean Ethics, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

Here is a short video illustrating the SLA/SLL concept of “Training the Way We Fight“. Technology has finally caught up with human innovation, and it is time for a paradigm shift in the SLA/SLL community.

Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand. – Confucius, circa 450 BC