mediaX Thought Leader Discusses the Importance of Culture in VR

July 8, 2020

With remote learning likely to continue to some degree in K-12 schools this fall, science teachers are looking for ways to help students learn about the world from a distance.

Virtual reality offers one possibility—but it can also send unintended messages to students about where they fit in, says Bryan A. Brown, an associate professor of science education at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE).

“VR is a powerful tool, and it’s become extraordinarily cheap,” Brown says. “But there are a lot of subtleties embedded into this type of instruction that tell kids, ‘This is not part of your culture.’ ”

In a recent study, Brown led a team of researchers to explore the impact of elementary school science lessons using culturally relevant VR, where experiences are designed to be connected to students’ lives in their own community. We spoke with Brown about this research and how science teachers can get their students involved in creating culturally relevant VR.

Cultural relevancy is always about the kids in the room. You have to know your kids. The lesson that we made was very specific to our set of kids, and I wouldn’t say it would necessarily work in New York City or Florida.

The challenge is that teachers are overwhelmed. Teachers are always concerned, saying, “I don’t know how to do this.” I tell them, “You know who’s really excellent at building technology? The kids.”

If you have 30 kids in a class and task them with creating a video, the likelihood that you end up with one really good video that you can use in your teaching for years to come is pretty high. The software already exists, and kids are phenomenal at learning and applying new technology. You can turn this into a project for students and start building up a database of culturally relevant videos at the same time.

Read the entire Stanford News Story by Carrie Spector HERE.

See Bryan Brown’s mediaX research project “Language, Race & Cognition Using Digital Text” HERE