Virtual Reality and Empathy

A recent article in The Star entitled, “Virtual reality project takes student through time at black orphanage in Nova Scotia,”  begins to open up the connection between students and history in a whole new way.  Imagine donning a pair of VR goggles and visiting the inside of the black orphanage while listening to the first person memories of adults who were there as children.  This experience will be piloted in four Grade 11 classes in Nova Scotia this fall with the help of Oculus Rift headsets. A few safeguards will be put in place like advance warnings that the content is graphic and may be disturbing to some students.  The authentic voice given to the reconstruction of this time and place will be a valuable tool in the deep learning of these students.


In a similar vein, students can use Google Maps to visit Vimy Ridge  using 2D technology or VR.  And Google Expeditions  makes many more global locations a click away for many classrooms.

The Herchinger Report weighed in on the subject of virtual reality with a column entitled, “Can Virtual Reality Teach Empathy?”  And the conclusion of the column was “yes” virtual reality can help students develop empathy and self efficacy when they “experience” various VR scenarios.  The New York Times 360 virtual reality series focuses on the refugee experience in various hot spots throughout the world.  Students become more empathetic to these refugees through a VR lens.  Imagine the learning that is possible as students virtually visit many scenarios that, until now, have seemed a half a planet away.

As learning to solve problems through Design Thinking become more workable in the K-12 environment, VR meets the needs of many students to allow them to experience real empathy for many situations.



Digital Citizenship Across Canada

Teaching Digital Citizenship is a non-negotiable in my opinion.  Judging from the recently released Mapping Digital Literacy Policy and Practice in the Canadian Education Landscape, provincial education ministries are paying attention. There is one significant difference among the provincial reports.  While all the reports refer to the importance of digital literacy across the curriculum and the importance of student awareness of their own digital footprint, Nova Scotia stands out for the tone of their report.

In light of the Rehtaeh Parsons cyber bullying case, reported two years ago today, Nova Scotia emphasizes the responsibility of teachers and school staff to be on the forefront of teaching students the importance of their accountability in cyber space. In a report entitled, Respectful and Responsible Relationships: There’s No App for That, the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyber Bullying clearly defines cyber bullying: ” (it) occurs through the use of technology and includes spreading rumours, making harmful comments and posting or circulating pictures or videos without permission.  This can include sexting (sending nude or suggestive photos) and other less dramatic invasions of privacy. Cyber bullying can be done by means of a variety of forms of technology using social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, websites, email or other electronic media.” (p. 39)

While every province addresses social media responsibility, Nova Scotia takes the issue upfront and doesn’t mince words about definitions and responsibilities.  As educators, we must continually talk about where our students are on social media and what they are posting. The conversation must be continuing about accountability and acceptability  Nova Scotia recognizes that responsibility after a terrible tragedy.  We must all take note to continue this conversation with our students.

TechInfographicSM creates and curates curriculum resources for teaching digital citizenship.  It supports Canadian provincial curriculum. Common Sense Media, an American counterpart of MediaSmarts also supports digital literacy.  Use these resources, share ideas with other teachers, but, make sure education about social media accountability is threaded throughout your teaching.