Virtual reality games for students struggling with French

Virtually absent in Quebec schools at the moment, virtual reality must establish itself as a complementary tool to traditional methods. At least that’s what local company Aleo is offering, which is planning a small revolution in the field of education. Its four young founders wanted to implement virtual reality games in classrooms to contribute to the success of dyslexic-dysorthographic primary school students or those who struggle with French.

“At seven years old, I received a good skewer of diagnoses: dyslexia, dysorthographia and ADD [trouble déficitaire de l’attention] “, says Catherine Bazinet, 25, creative director and co-founder of Aleo, along with her older sister and two former classmates. Having experienced learning disabilities throughout her life as a student, he was inspired by how technology has helped him in his own journey to “enable other young people to work to their full potential”.

Launched in 2020, Aleo primarily targets students aged 7 to 12, who are more likely to feel intimidated by traditional healing consultations. The company offers a “turnkey” solution including virtual reality headsets, a game and software to measure student results. His product is now sold in remedial clinics and schools across the province. This is, according to M.I Bazinet, of the very first example of an orthopedagogical virtual reality platform in Quebec.

“I am very grateful for all the help I received as a student,” he said. At first, it was the old way, with paper and pencil. I actually observed an evolution. In elementary school, I had access to an electronic dictionary and, later, I was able to use a computer during my assessments. Actually, thanks to technology I got to university. Today, I make it my mission to use it to help young people put themselves on the same level as others. »

Pedagogical virtues

Jonathan Bonneau is a professor in the bachelor’s degree in interactive media at UQAM, where Catherine graduated. He also works at the Socio-digital Media and Gamification Research Laboratory, where he observes the “many benefits” of artificial intelligence in an educational context.

“We need to do research on the impact of virtual reality on students with learning disabilities compared to regular classrooms,” he said. On the other hand, we know that this technology makes it possible to learn faster, because it borrows from video games. This makes it possible to forget the learning environment. We forget that we are at home or at school. We are immersed in a new universe that we can adapt to, which can instill confidence in the student. »

Catherine Bazinet specified that only one game is currently available on her platform, but others will be added later. There is a right The Yeti Valley, which lasts about 15 minutes, it addresses the visual confusion between certain logatoms or graphemes. The user must help a yeti prepare for a fight of snowballs in which written non-words consisting of language confusions are created.

It is thanks to technology that I was able to get to university. Today, I make it my mission to use it to help young people put themselves on the same level as others.

“Students love it,” says remedial teacher Myriam Gagnon, who offers it to clients of her private clinic who confuse the letters b, d, p and q. It is often used as a reward. The inclusion of a virtual reality world allows children to relax, to work on their reading and writing without the negative emotional connections they may make with other exercises. »

An expanding field

In 2019, the Quebec Ministry of Education launched its Digital Competency Reference Framework, with investments of more than $1.2 billion over five years to contribute to the “digital shift” of schools. This envelope could allow school service centers to get virtual reality headsets, among other things. However, the government has not issued specific directives on this subject.

At the moment, M.I Gagnon believes that virtual reality “should be used more in school” and that “more and more” projects like the Bazinet sisters are likely to see the light of day.

Mr. Bonneau, for his part, sees “only good” in this, provided the technology is used correctly. It recognizes that some user data, such as their eye movements and brain waves, or the frequency of their heartbeats, may be captured without their knowledge. However, this data can be used to measure user performance and “allow interactive games to adapt to the student’s learning curve.”

The professor added that many companies are investing, currently, to perfect educational tools in virtual reality, including the giants Roblox and Minecraft. Although “we are also seeing more and more projects coming out of Canada”, Aleo remains, according to him, “among the best placed to reach certain types of clients in Quebec”.

At the moment, Catherine’s platform is only used in two establishments, but she hopes to get additional funding to develop more games and spread them across the province. One thing is for sure, he and his small team will never stop trying. “One day, we have to sit down with the Minister of Education to discuss this. »

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