People of Georgian: Indigenous Studies co-ordinator connects with students through virtual reality
March 19, 2021

What’s your story?

The Georgian community is full of unique, inspiring perspectives —and we’re sharing them as part of an ongoing series.

People of Georgian: Meet Michele O’Brien

I always tell students I’m selfish because I get to spend more time with them.

The more involvement I have with the students, the better. I feel very lucky.

I’ve been with Indigenous Studies for 20 years now. It has gone so fast. It’s just so pleasurable to be able to do something I love.

A person smiles at the camera in a selfie.

I began off as a part-time teacher, and then I started co-ordinating the Indigenous programs in 2008. After that, I became a co-op consultant as well.

I even took Ojibway language courses in the department a few years ago.

On top of my work duties, I actually went into class, did the homework and everything. Each semester I was with the students. It was so much fun.

Being able to support students or mentor them on their journey is the best part of my job.

I still have relationships with some of our alumni from even 10, 15 years ago.

I remember them when they came in and where they are today. It brings tears to my eyes to see them thriving. I cannot stop smiling.

The good that they’re doing in our community is just incredible.

Taking Ojibway language studies virtual

And now, we’ve started using virtual reality in the language program to entice younger learners to make it more exciting for them to learn the language.

We use AltspaceVR and are in there as these little avatars.

A screenshot of a virtual reality universe, with avatars of people sitting around a fire pit at night.
Michele’s avatar, centre, is wearing a purple shirt.

We’ve created an Indigenous house with question marks on all the items inside and outside. When you click on a question mark, the word for that item pops up in Ojibway.

It’s been a lot of work. The words for labelling everything had to be translated, so our elder and one of our faculty have been working on that for months to make sure everything is correct.

The virtual space also includes a backyard, and we have some wild animals out on the land.

There’s a big area that has a fire pit and rocks where we can meet.

And if you have your headset on, you can play virtual basketball with someone else.

It’s so exciting to be able to develop a different teaching tool for the students.

Michele O’Brien, Georgian alumna (Class of 2017) and Co-op Experience Consultant with the college’s Indigenous Studies programs.

Want to share your story? Please contact [email protected].
To read previous People of Georgian stories, please visit our websiteInstagram or Facebook.