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The Virtual Reality Storytelling in Education

Learning cultural diversity and global interconnectedness through Lyfta is one the most memorable digital experiences that has had a significant impact on my life. On Tuesday, March 06, 2018, I attended a meeting whose purpose was to introduce Lyfta to teachers and students in professional development school (PDS) classrooms in the United States. The innovation leverages Virtual reality (VR) storytelling to teach vital skills, such as empathy, identity, and cultural awareness (Lister 1).

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The event was held at Watson College and it was organized by Watson College associate professors Elizabeth Crawford and Heidi Higgins. The guest, Katri Meriläinen, the head of educational development of the program, provided a nuanced demonstration of how the innovation works, with a special focus on its story words, documentary films, and content-rich media materials. Students who took part in the Island Montessori presentation were exposed to stories from different parts of the world and shown how the documentaries, computers, and virtual environment embedded in the new innovation help in exploring the world.

Lyfta is a subscription-based digital learning platform specifically designed to allow students explore the real world through immersive experiences and personal stories. It is an innovative learning platform designed to inspire participants to explore new worlds through documentaries and technology. The technology was developed by the Finnish-British educational technology company Lyfta.

The educational technology leverages computers or VR headsets to expose learners to 360 interactive stories, documentaries, and rich media contents. The immersive storytelling helps participants learn about critical topics, such as cultural diversity, cultural awareness, identity, and global interconnectedness. Lyfta incorporates easy-to-use lesson and assembly plans to complement the interactive media experiences, consequently allowing teachers and students to explore diverse topics. The new-media experiences expose learners to people in different parts of the world, which heighten their cultural awareness and global understanding.

The immersive storytelling experiences enhance my cultural awareness and understanding of the world around me. In addition to being interesting, the immersive experiences and captivating human stories proved to be more informative by enabling me to immerse myself into other people’s cultures while learning about them. Some of the themes covered enabled me to learn how to recognize, appreciate, and respect similarities and differences at the individual, community, and society levels. The experience helped me to become culturally competent and more empathetic. Cultural competence refers to “a person’s cultural sensitivity or attitudes, cultural awareness and cultural knowledge and skills” (Kaihlanen, Hietapakka, and Heponiemi 1).

Through the fully immersive experiences provided by VR storytelling, I was separated from reality to become part of the narratives with an incentive to act or respond to the issues or scenarios encountered. Unlike in traditional storytelling where the storyteller strives to create a vivid image in the target audience’s mind, the augmented environment makes the story setting come to life (De Jager et al. 2562). The virtual spaces placed me in a completely different time and place where I experienced new cultural dilemmas and situations all in the characters’ shoes.

Although not real, these fully immersive experiences cut off from reality provided sensory engagement which heightened the level of my self-awareness, identity, and empathy. The hyper-interactive content and experiences enabled me to learn how to interact and communicate with people from different cultures effectively.

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Lyfta, and VR storytelling, in general, has a brighter future. The use of VR technology has evolved considerably from an entertainment tool to more advanced applications in several fields, including education, marketing, and medicine (Georgieva and Georgiev 26). As the needs, demands, and demographics of students and society evolve, VR storytelling will have more applications in cultural awareness training in all disciplines, including education, health, and marketing. Particularly, Lyfta and other immersive solutions will raise the level of cultural competence in students, teachers, and other educational stakeholders, consequently heightening diversity and inclusion in schools, families, and communities. The rich new-media experiences offered by these innovations will heighten empathy and global understanding.

Works Cited

De Jager, Adèle, et al. “Digital storytelling in research: A systematic review.” The Qualitative Report 22.10 (2017): 2548-2582.

Georgieva, Iva, and Georgi V. Georgiev. “Reconstructing Personal Stories in Virtual Reality as a Mechanism to Recover the Self.International journal of environmental research and public health 17.1 (2020): 26. Web.

Kaihlanen, Anu-Marja, Laura Hietapakka, and Tarja Heponiemi. “Increasing cultural awareness: qualitative study of nurses’ perceptions about cultural competence training.” BMC nursing 18.1 (2019): 1-9. Web.

Lister, Josephine. “Virtual Reality Hits American Classrooms!” HundrED, 2018. Web.

Skills/Interests

Some of my core skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration across networks, agility, adaptability, strong initiative, effective communication (both oral and written), and data analysis.

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