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Developing Global Citizenship with Virtual Reality

Global Citizenship or Internationalism appears in many school mission statements. We explore how Virtual Reality can help students develop some of the skills students will need to be able to call themselves global citizens.


Tim Gallagher

Global Citizenship Education (GCED) aims to empower learners to assume active roles to face and resolve global challenges and to become proactive contributors to a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure world[1].​

If you’re outside the teaching profession, you may not be aware of the huge push for Global Citizenship in schools. A large reason for this is thanks to UNESCO’s Education Sector Programme — Global Citizenship Education. There is a clear need for schools to develop global citizens and curriculum designers, administrators, accrediting bodies and teachers have begun to look closely at what this means and how to make it work. Virtual reality will play a huge role in providing learning opportunities for students to develop their global citizenship.

Social Virtual Reality

Current technology allows us to connect classrooms from around the world at a relatively low cost. For example, Skype and email enable students to develop their speaking and writing skills in authentic ways.

One advantage that social VR has over these technologies is the possibility of providing opportunities for students to develop empathy. VR can help provide these opportunities in a safe and authentic way[2].

By connecting schools with a social VR app, students will have the opportunity to talk to peers from all over the world, with different backgrounds, different cultures, different languages and different value systems. The technology for this ‌ experience is not quite there yet. Although, Alt Space is well on its way. The first killer VR Edu app might very well be the one that connects classrooms and provides a platform for students to converse, collaborate and share their ideas from opposite sides of the world.

Virtual Field Trip

The virtual field trip is one of the most obvious use cases for VR in education. Google Expeditions was one of the first education focused apps released on Cardboard and has been used successfully by many teachers. In reality, it only just scratches the surface of what can be accomplished.

One of the challenges of helping students understand ‌ other children’s lives is that they cannot relate to the world in which the less fortunate live. Photos of children in packed classrooms, in remote villages, working on blackboards and sharing desks, and videos of students with kerosene lanterns lit while completing homework in the dark, provide a glimpse into the life of a student in the poorest parts of the world, but the impact seems to be short lived.

A virtual reality field trip that focuses on developing Global Citizens has the potential to magnify the impact it has on its users. The ethics and risks of exposing children to the harsh realities of the lives of the many less fortunate children would have to be carefully debated, however, it is clear that the possibilities of the virtual field trip go beyond geography or history lessons.

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