Margherita Berti is a doctoral student at the University of Arizona and principal investigator of a research project, in collaboration with Stefano Maranzana and Jacob Monzingo, exploring the potential uses of virtual reality and Google Cardboard in higher education. Specifically, the research aims to explore how 360-degrees videos representing everyday Italian environments, for instance a plaza or a restaurant, can support the development of cultural awareness in the language classroom. Margherita recently recorded several videos in her hometown, Bergamo (Italy), with the Xiaomi Mijia Mi 360 Camera and utilized the videos to expose undergraduate students enrolled in Italian courses to authentic cultural settings. With a grant awarded by the University of Arizona, 30 Google Cardboard viewers were bought and used in the project.
Virtual reality and Google Cardboard give students access to authentic and immersive environments that the traditional language textbook does not offer. Margherita is refining the main area of her dissertation, and she will be focusing on the practical applications of Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard in higher education language courses to support students’ learning and to create experiences that might not be accessible to most people.