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Digital learning and emotional intelligence

Our Learning Innovation team have been combining 3D modelling and virtual reality to engage students on a highly emotive level, with our Gallipoli exhibition. Learning Innovation Specialist Donald James talks to us about this programme.

It’s a lot to ask the children who visit Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War to be empathetic to those who lived and died during the campaign. With very little frame of reference to the pain, desperation, and squalor of that time, the facts of war can seem distant and un-relatable. Many children never met their relatives who fought in the war and never heard the stories first hand. It’s a challenge to make the exhibition relevant to school students beyond a unit in their history curriculum. We believe the context of Gallipoli is important enough that all generations should be able to connect with it on a human level. If we want visitors to leave Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War with anything, it’s the knowledge of how the people who experienced it felt. It’s a language that all humans can understand and it’s important to allow us to be empathetic to the experience of others.

We’ve developed a learning programme which gives students the opportunity to explore the emotional experience of Gallipoli veterans.  By focusing on relatable feelings and emotions students are given the tools to have a personal connection to the stories in the exhibition. We want students to understand how it makes them feel as well as knowing how the people who went through Gallipoli felt.

There are two parts to the learning programme. The first is an educator-led tour through the exhibition which focuses mostly on the incredibly detailed sculptures created by Weta Workshop. The giants are in their own room, there’s a soundtrack playing which includes words about their experience, and it’s carefully lit to invite contemplation. We focus the discussion on emotions and how they are made manifest through the physical postures of the sculptures. The students are encouraged to ‘read’ the sculpture’s emotional state by looking at how they hold their bodies and faces. We discuss those emotions and why they might be feeling them in that moment. The purpose of this is to introduce the emotional weight of war to students and give them vocabulary and context for how these ordinary New Zealanders were affected by the war.

The second part of the programme uses a rapid 3D scanning process to scan students posed in a tableau that represents a feeling or emotion. The 3D scanning can take anywhere from 3–10 minutes depending on how careful and detailed the students are trying to be. These 3D scans can be converted into very simple Virtual Reality (VR) experiences using Sketchfab, a free online VR platform and the models scaled up to the size of giants. They can even be used back at school as writing or art prompts and combined with audio recordings or annotated. The examples below are screenshots of 3D scans created by students from Our Lady of Victories School. If you have a cardboard viewer and a smartphone you can see these models in VR for yourself by going to our Sketchfab account.

The range of emotions that students come up with is confronting and powerful. There are few experiences where children are given the agency to perform and practice deep emotions. In this programme we are asking students to explore and understand their own emotional range, and these are things that are often very difficult for people to talk or write about. The emotions of fear, pride, anger, disgust, hope, and sadness are universal and translatable to all of us. If children are to understand what war is, we believe we should teach them emotional intelligence and with it comes understanding, empathy, and tolerance.

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