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The VWBPE 2022: Phoenix Rising Watch conference kicked off with keynote speaker, Oksana Levytska, who discussed the Use of Virtual Technologies and Practices in Support of Ongoing Education During World Events. Levytska spoke about supporting students in Ukraine as they cope with the ongoing war with Russia.  

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“I believe with the events that really brought a lot of attention to liberty, freedom, and independence,” Levytska said. “I would say that we had steady enrollment, but I anticipate that this enrollment will get higher after these events.”  

Levytska has 10+ years of experience teaching secondary level subjects and credit courses in the International languages program with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. She acts as a principal of the Ukrainian Saturday School, Ridna Shkola, Greater Toronto Area. 

Levyska has been the Chair of the Ukrainian National Federation (UNF) Canada Ukrainian School Initiatives Committee since 2010. The Committee activity is aimed to revive, start and support UNF heritage schools in Canada. She is an active member of the Ukrainian Canadian School Board UNF in Toronto. Recently she chaired the Ukrainian Canadian Council (UCC) National Ukrainian Education Council. 

She is also an organizer of teachers’ conferences, workshops, and webinars across Canada and internationally. Oksana co-works with educators in the diaspora and Ukraine, willingly sharing novice techniques and her best practices in teaching Ukrainian as a Second Language. She writes articles for periodicals in Canada and Ukraine. 

 Currently, Levytska chairs the International Educational Coordinating Council of the Ukrainian World Congress.  

The conference continued with speakers who explored what education in the Metaverse looks like. Presenters created avatars of themselves to speak during the conference and offered various tools and ideas about how to engage students on an online platform.  

Brian Lonsway, associate professor and graduate chair at Syracuse University school of architecture, discussed hybrid environments, design futures, and immersive collaboration. Lonsway spoke about the design aspects of constructing in a virtual world.  

“The history of computational tools and architecture is a rich and fascinating one,” Lonsway said.  

The discussion continued Friday with keynote speaker, Dr. Randall Sadler, who explained what the Metaverse is and its origins.  

Dr. Sadler is an associate professor of linguistics and director of Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) and English as a Second Language (ESL) at the University of Illinois. He teaches courses on telecollaboration, VWs and language learning, and teaching L2 reading and writing. He has published in journals including CALICO Journal, ReCALL, LLT, Computers & Education, ELT, and in numerous edited volumes.

His books include Virtual Worlds, Telecollaboration, and Language Learning (2012, Peter Lang), the Handbook of Informal Language Learning (2020, Wiley Blackwell), and New Ways in Teaching with Games (2020, TESOL). He is the current President of CALICO, the Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium. 

Dr. Sadler introduced the audience to the PLATO IV Computer system, which he said was the beginning of touch screens, message boards, emails, emoticons, and online games. He said a lot of the technology we think is new has actually been around for a long time. Dr. Sadler shared a photo from 1972 showing a woman using the touch screen function on the PLATO computer. He continued with other examples of past technologies that gave the world a glimpse of the Metaverse.   

“Some of these leaps ahead happen and then they’re kind of lost,” Dr. Sadler said. “And then they get ‘rediscovered’ by somebody who claims who claims they’re doing something new.” 

The conference will continue until Saturday, April 1. You can look at the schedule and click on the YouTube link here.  


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