Hall, Lynne, Jones, S. J., & Aylett, R. (2012). Fostering Empathic Behaviour In Children And Young People: Interaction With Intelligent Characters Embodying Culturally Specific Behaviour In Virtual World. 6th International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED), 2804-2814. View PDF
In the 21st Century the contemporary experience of the citizen is to live and work alongside many cultural, ethnic and religious groups, however cultural differences can lead to social stresses and sometimes outright conflict. Helping children and young people to develop empathy for people from other cultures is therefore an ever pressing pedagogical imperative. Role play and case studies which support experiential learning have been shown to be highly effective in this domain, however they are difficult to organise and costly.
The 7th Framework EU project ‘Education for Cultural Understanding Technology Enhanced’ (eCute) aims to develop cultural understanding by providing immersive virtual role play with intelligent interactive graphical characters embodying models of culturally-specific behaviour and interaction.
Targeted at two specific age groups, children aged 9-11 and young adults aged 18-25, eCute sets out to design and build two cultural Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) based on virtual dramas and to evaluate these with stakeholder teacher and learner groups to demonstrate learning efficacy.
The realisation of these highly innovative technology enhanced learning experiences for children and young people requires an interdisciplinary approach that brings together psychologists, educationalists, cultural theorists and a range of design and technology practitioners to address the
key design issues involved.
Opportunities for children and young people to explore cultural difference and what this means through technology enhanced role play activities is of considerable benefit in today’s multicultural contexts and for the societies we hope for in the future. This paper will explore the interdisciplinary
approach needed to develop these application and in particular the overarching theoretical framework which will underpin design, development and evaluation of these highly innovative learning experiences.