University of Malta (MALTA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 7274-7289
ISBN: 978-84-617-5895-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2016.0655
Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain
Classes are becoming increasingly multi ethnic and it is often the case that teachers are only trained to handle these new realities via textbooks. However the reality is very different and they only realize this, once they are allocated a class. Our project involves getting teachers and their pupils to undergo a virtual reality (VR) experience. The experience will narrate the story of a migrant child; it will explain briefly the story of his country in order to give a context and then the path undertaken since he left his home country. The VR experience will take the user through the mishaps and dangers of this voyage. The user will also be allowed to take decisions (by using gamification elements), some of which will lead him towards very unfortunate situations. In order to make it accessible for everyone (including children and sensitive people) we will exclude any graphical content from the experience. The most important thing in the end is to transmit, the experience to the users. The whole experience lasts approximately 5 minutes per user however we envisage that with the use of VR, it will leave a long lasting imprint on them. Further still, we plan to subsequently release it for wider consumption.

The VR experience will be used to convey a powerful message. Most important of all, we will get teachers and children to think and ask themselves important questions such as; What if I was a migrant travelling for 5000 kilometers in someone’s shoes? What if I had to walk through a desert, ride on a dinghy, steal for a living or work under inhuman conditions? What are the ethical considerations one should consider and am I willing to bend them in exchange for a better future? To what extent?

It is well known that shared perspectives breed understanding and this is what we’re trying to achieve. So far, we could only do so through audiovisual experiences such as videos, books, etc. By following the life of these people, we can get a taste of what their life is. However VR represents a huge leap forward when it comes to experience compassion. Its not longer about walking through someone else’s shoes but rather about seeing the world through their eyes, maybe even reading what goes through their mind. The VR headset can easily become an empathy machine capable of influencing the perception of the users.

The unrest in Syria, Libya and other countries, which are maybe too far away from our reality, will have a global, devastating effect if not managed properly. On the other hand, we have a generation of people who don’t read newspapers and skip news bulletins so we have to entice them in some way or another. That is why we are venturing into VR journalism.

Finally, we will study the impact of the technology with the teachers and with their pupils in order to document the long lasting effect of such an experience over users.
Virtual Reality, Teachers, Migration, Children, Audiovisual, VR Journalism.