Our role as educators extends far beyond the dissemination of facts and figures. We are important players in a future that thrives on inclusivity and compassion and we must strive to create an environment where every student flourishes and feels a deep sense of belonging. We can go some way towards this aim by actively celebrating all forms of diversity and giving students in our care a deep understanding and appreciation of the many different ways of living and being that exist in our world.
Images of a range of people from Lyfta's storyworlds
An important aspect of our shared humanity and connection is our ability and desire to share stories. We are all storytellers, and stories hold the power to bind and connect us in empathy and understanding.
Human stories allow us to step into someone else's shoes, to see their joys, struggles, and triumphs in an engaging and emotional way and to see and appreciate the similarities and differences in the experiences of others and our own. Human stories can be a simple and effective way to deepen students' social and emotional learning skills.
When it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in schools, human stories really do have a unique ability to bridge divides, nurture empathy and give students a rich understanding of other cultures, beliefs, and experiences.
Access to a broad range of stories
Bringing different storytellers into the classroom each week, or introducing students to people and places through school trips, can be very effective but often the cost and complexity of doing this regularly limits the range of stories students can experience. Often, giving students access to stories on screen is a more practical option.
The potential for human stories delivered virtually is significantly enhanced when those stories are experienced through innovative mediums.
One such option is immersive storytelling platform Lyfta. Here, stories are enjoyed through powerful short documentary films and multimedia such as 360° scenes, soundscapes and videos, as well as clickable articles to help students understand the context more deeply. Students can have a window into the lives of a multitude of different people and places, and are able to get a deeper appreciation of a range of life experiences, values and perspectives. This is not passive learning; it's an active immersion into someone else's life, even if the person is not physically in the room.
In an exciting study conducted by the University of Tampere in Finland, the transformative potential of Lyfta's 360° experiences and documentary films was highlighted. The study, published in the International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, found that the multi-sensory, participatory nature of Lyfta led to a significant decrease in students' social anxiety when interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds; a revelation that has real implications, highlighting what a powerful tool immersive digital storytelling can be for educators.
Recently, the Lyfta team had the honour of receiving the 2023 Bett Award for Transformational Impact. This accolade highlights the profound change educators and leaders have managed to achieve using Lyfta and it reaffirms our belief in the transformative potential of immersive human stories.
Future change makers
Incorporating immersive, real human stories into our classrooms which cover protected characteristics such as race, disability gender, age, marital status, sexuality, and religion isn't just about DEI; it's about shaping future leaders who are broad-minded, compassionate advocates for justice and equality. We can use these stories to challenge stereotypes and preconceptions, instilling respect within our school communities, but perhaps more importantly, beyond our school gates. Young people are given the tools and breadth of experiences to broaden their horizons and become ambassadors of social justice, equipping them with the understanding and empathy vital for them to succeed in our increasingly complex, interconnected and fast changing world.
Let us champion diversity, compassion, and understanding together, for they are the cornerstones upon which we can build a brighter, more inclusive future.