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Title:Immersion and emotion: Engaging technologies for empathy-based civic learning
Author(s):Nelson, Kate
Director of Research:Trent, William
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Trent, William
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bresler, Liora; Lindgren, Robb; Hood, Denice
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Educational Technology
Virtual Reality
Perspective Taking
Civic Education
Abstract:Educational research historically calls for civic education experiences that equip students to tackle the social and political imperatives of the time. Presently, current levels of political polarization, deeply entangled with issues of technology use, demand a population of graduates who are capable of navigating the complicated terrain of civic engagement both in person and online. This study is situated within policies and pedagogies regarding civic education, empathy, social justice, and cultural responsiveness. Drawing on research around digital and immersive technologies, it seeks to examine the potential of virtual environments to engage students’ capacities for empathy through perspective taking, particularly for perspectives of oppression and marginalization. The research described here involves an exploratory qualitative study of a secondary Spanish classroom in which students participated in a unit focused on storytelling. Through examining participation in a variety of activities designed around multiple formats for interaction with various technologies, the study sought to answer the following questions: 1) How do students think about empathy and civic engagement?; 2) How do different formats for reflection and interaction influence student participation in discourse around empathy and civic engagement?; and 3) Can technology aid in empathetic engagement with perspectives of marginalization and oppression and, if so, how?. Data from student work and their own feedback on their learning in the unit suggest that immersive technology can influence civic learning in positive ways. Through teacher guidance and interaction with their peers, students’ thoughts on storytelling shifted from inward, self-centered reflections toward other-focused, empathetic responses to perspectives of oppression and marginalization. While immersive technologies were instrumental in engaging their capacities for perspective-taking, data revealed that empathy-building also required feedback and interaction in order to guide students’ thoughts and responses. Considering the broader educational and structural conditions that support the learning that occurred, this study is also situated within a larger body of scholarship addressing areas of policy, curriculum development, media studies, pedagogy, and teacher training and support. Combining these fields allows this study to move beyond a learning intervention tied to particular technologies that will undoubtedly change at the rapid rate of technological advancement, and instead positions it within the body of literature that calls for a shift in the culture around technology use in schools. While this study does contribute to promising results regarding the use of immersive learning environments, it ultimately suggests that engaging these empowering and transformational uses requires policy-makers, administrators, teachers and students to embrace particular dispositions of empathy-based technology use. Furthermore, the implications of immersive perspective-taking reach far beyond this study, suggesting the transformative potential for these technologies to change the way their users see themselves, others, and the world around them.
Issue Date:2019-02-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Kate Nelson
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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