Experience immersive empathy
One Page Summary
As the last autumn season of elections wrapped up, political scientists, economists and journalists have all argued that populism is on the rise. In the current fragmented political landscape in many EU countries, populism became a way of directing voters’ dissatisfaction towards “the other”, to secure governing majority. In many EU countries, the political discourse was mixed with claims about the negative role of migrants or socially assisted groups, spreading unsupported evidence throughout society. How then can we protect the minds of young people from fear and untruth? Stereotypes become very easily embedded, creating biases which are difficult to remove. We believe that creating immersive learning experiences is key to building critical thinking for the next generation of tolerant and empathic youth.
Computer games transport cultural values, role models and can influence behaviour. “Learning by doing” has been preached for a long time, but nowadays it is truly possible to deliver experiential learning through use of technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. Immersive education can be visual, social, magical, interactive and emotionally engaging — all while it sticks to your brain like a fully-textured memory. It can be effective in storytelling, and putting oneself in another person’s shoes, something essential in building skills like empathy and tolerance and reducing hate speech.
We developed a range of educational projects for young people, refining our “serious gaming” approach combined with augmented and virtual reality. This included self-led projects like Ecogotchi and delivering solutions for clients like Ja Naturlich and the Salzburg Region (City Caching). Our current product – the “Escape Book” is built on our CMS Clustar where we combine quizzes with immersive games and AR. We develop gamified immersive experiences, which can be used for teaching “serious” subjects, but also independently of schools or educators, at home or together with parents. We received very good feedback so far from clients and educators. Ecogotchi has already been used in workshops in Austrian schools, so far engaging altogether around 1000 pupils and 50 teachers.
EscapeHate is based on an innovative game-based learning format. The popular Escape Rooms are physical spaces in which various puzzles have to be solved to get to the exit. Combinatorics, skill and attention are required and above all teamplay. We considered how to transform this experience into the classroom, while encouraging learning and empathy. The Escape Book allows us to answer the interactivity learning needs of digital natives while offering an easy-to-use format for teachers and educators. “Escape Book” means both the physical book and the app used jointly: printed content comes to life through quizzes, games, mystery and augmented reality, which are available on the app and while scanning the book with one’s phone.
Prejudice, stereotypes and no hate speech are not subjects which immediately appeal to young people. For that reason, we will create a series of immersive storyworlds, which reflect topics documented by Association Go Free in previous projects, as well as important topics for the media and public opinion in Romania. This includes (1) poverty and access to utilities, (2) ethnical discrimination, (3) LGBT, (4) forced evictions and homelessness, etc. For each topic we will create a book storyline, while in the app games will put teenagers in the shoes of various characters, getting to know their daily lives and challenges. For example, as a character in a remote village with no utilities, they will have to work together with other characters to fetch water, and while being forcedly evicted, they will have to find solutions for the night. Or they could play the role of a by-stander, deciding whether to help the homeless: donate a tent, money, welcome them in his/her home or do nothing.
Additionally, we aim to develop a teacher/educator guidebook, explaining educators how to use the book and game in workshops, as well as workshop plans, trigger questions for debriefing and for offline exercises, connected to the game content. The tool will be highly modular: the book and app can be used by themselves, or alongside the guidebook, in workshops or individually.
The EdTech sector is developing fast, however most solutions focus on transversal tools for teachers, such as Wonde or Aula. In No Hate Speech there are open source toolkits and materials, largely developed by NGOs, whose strengths don’t lie in immersive technology. Most of these are available online only in English, which makes it difficult for teachers to have access to ready-to-use materials. Our core strength is our competence in gaming, AR/VR and in delivering content-rich experiences. From our research, the Escape Book is a appealing product, for publishers, companies, NGOs, etc