Guest post Kevin Chaja and Marialice B.F.X. Curran
for Jaime Donally on ARVRinEDU.com Moments AR - Day 9
To me, immersive technology is the future of digital citizenship, and as we all know, the future is already here. Our collective goal, in and out of the classroom, needs to introduce each student to experience empathy and compassion for people in local, global and digital communities. Building this foundation allows our students to literally walk the walk of others and experience the emotions of another human being who might live next door or anywhere around the world, who might speak the same or different languages, and who celebrate the same or different cultures and traditions. This list could go on and on, but the bottom line is that we are one world, one human race and until we truly experience the humanity of others, we’ll never understand that our words and actions on and offline really do matter.
Since my focus on inclusion and access has been at the heart of my work with digital citizenship, it should come as no surprise that when I explore emerging technologies, I’m always examining if the technology is accessible for all learners: Does each learner have equitable access? Are there closed captions for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing? Can the text also be spoken for the Blind or Low Vision? The best part is that these accommodations support all types of learners, not just those with disabilities.
Last April, I packed my suitcase with as many MERGE Cubes as I could fit for the Digital Citizenship Summit, #DigCitSummitIRL in Dublin. The theme for #DigCitSummitIRL was on accessibility, equity, and inclusion, so the timing was perfect for witnessing the power of learning from the palm of your hand. MergeVRis augmented and virtual reality products that support experiential learning and content creation. These tweets highlight the direct impact of the MERGE Cubes at #DigCitSummitIRL and how MERGE truly changes learning for all students in the way they learn, create and play.
Fast forward to last June at ISTE when I got to meet Kevin Chaja, an app developer extraordinaire with a passion for social-emotional learning (SEL). Kevin’s Moment AR app for the MERGE Cube is a game changer in education because of the focus on SEL in augmented reality. The app brings access for each student to an entirely new level by creating a foundation built on empathy and compassion. This emphasis on SEL allows students to identify feelings through developing and managing emotions, thoughts, and values. In this way, the focus on ethical responsibility is similar to embedding digital citizenship skills both on and offline.
From the Developer: Kevin Chaja
Immersive Technology, two words that have changed my life. A few years ago, I met Franklin and Andrew (co-founders of MergeVR) who presented me with the concept of the MERGE cube. I just thought it was a unique, super cool toy, but I never realized it would lead to my very first app creation!
My wife is a school psychologist, and on the same day meeting with the MergeVR team, she shared how she needed a tool to keep her kids immersed and engaged. I showed her the MERGE Cube, noted that it only worked in front of the smartphone, then said, “what should the app look like?” She needed the app to express emotions, so I put a different feeling on each side of the cube that evening, and she had a build on her phone in 24 hours to start testing with kids.
My daughter has become a great beta tester. I always judge the success of my creation based on her reactions. She is the best QA (quality assurance) for my style of apps, because if she doesn’t enjoy it, then my target audience will have a similar reaction. I’m thankful for her participation in our work, and what’s truly powerful is the connection we now have because of an app, which is now available for everyone!
At the very heart of digital citizenship and emerging technology is an opportunity to truly experience empathy and compassion, as well as an invitation for each student to be active participants — not just passive observers.
As we contribute to the #31DaysofARVRinEDU conversation, we hope you’ll try the Moments AR app and embrace this type of learning which promotes building positive relationships for all learners. We also encourage more app developers to apply the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework as they continue to develop products that are inclusive, promote empathy and provide opportunities for students to be active digital citizens.