In working with youth to advance our shared humanity for over a decade, I cannot think of a more important time for meaningful cross-cultural dialogue to be taking place. There is a culture gap that deeply permeates the fabric of our local and global communities. We have witnessed its symptoms of mistrust, fear, and even violence manifest themselves through our headlines- from the shadows of racial injustice coming to light from our own backyard, to the rise of Islamophobia, or even to the xenophobic rhetoric against the refugee crisis. Ironically, our human communities are widening at a point in time when technology has made us more interconnected than ever before. To combat the perceived divisiveness among one another, we must further develop our empathy muscles in and across our communities.
Global Nomads Group has been doing just that for the last 18 years through our virtual exchange programs. We are excited to announce a new line of work that uses virtual reality [vr] in which I will be leading its efforts as the Director of Virtual Reality. VR gives us an opportunity to experience the lives of the “other,” developing empathy in ways we have not yet fathomed. Imagine putting on a headset and immediately being immersed in a refugee camp, or finding yourself living on the wrong side of a deadly ethnic conflict. Perhaps more simply, imagine what daily life is like as a student in another country. Virtual reality makes this thought experiment an almost visceral experience, deepening ones’ understanding of human history and culture from a completely different perspective than his or her own. We may discover we’re not that different after all.
In the next year, we will curate a collection of virtual reality content ready to be used in the classroom, including the production of original VR experiences, and standards-aligned curriculum to deepen student learning outcomes. Like our other programs, we will provide professional development workshops to ensure educators can use the technology effectively and maximize benefits for their students.
We will debut this work in just a few weeks at SXSWedu 2016. To stay updated on VR developments, sign up for our mailing list — I hope you’re just as enthusiastic as we are to unlock the potential of VR as a transformative teaching tool in classrooms around the world!
Grace Lau, GNG Director of Virtual Reality
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