COMPLETED MAY 2021
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the VR Beta
Meet the Betas!
The VR Beta ran for 19 weeks (January - May 2021) with 12 global Learners between the ages of 14-17, each representing a unique combination of age, gender, race, and geographic location, and each possessing a unique interest in biology and biotech.
Watch this short video introduction to these 12 visionary teens as they share how science started in their lives.
Here are some video samples illustrating the types of 360 media beta learners explored. We recommend that you view this in a VR headset, or on a mobile device (tablet is ideal), or full screen on your monitor.
As it is primarily 360 footage, you can move your device around to view all angles of the shot, and if using a monitor, your mouse can be used to move the screen.
Summary of the VR Beta Program
The purpose of the VR Beta was to explore how virtual reality might support, amplify and innovate Future Earth Academy's purpose and curriculum as well as the voices and agency of its global Learners.
Learners were supported by numerous mentors: one social-emotional mentor ("SEM") and multiple field mentors from biotech and related disciplines.
Some Learners entered this program purely interested in the science of biotech, while others brought interests that are biotech-adjacent, such as climate, sustainability, art and design, law, politics, or social justice. Many discovered the magic of cross-disciplinary collaboration and developed new interest in fields they had not considered.
The Beta involved intellectual and social activities. Relationships were given the highest priority, and Beta participants were supported in multiple ways as they built meaningful connections with one another across geography, culture, language, and social orientations. The first phase of the Beta involved numerous group Zoom calls with different combinations of Beta participants, facilitated by Dr. Jones and the Social-Emotional Director, Moira Anthony.
With the seed for deep personal connections planted, Beta participants spent an average of 5-10 hours per week collaborating in VR using ENGAGEVR, plus a host of other apps that support remote connections (eg, WhatsApp, Zoom, Discord. Beta participants also participated together in several online classes, workshops, lectures and conferences. One example is an online, interactive CRISPR workshop offered by Genspace (a NYC-based citizen science lab). Participants chose what they would like to do and in what pairs or peer combinations. With each experience, their relationships deepened and connections multiplied and give life to new interests.
As mentors become involved in Week 3 and forward, Beta participants solidified their Beta purpose or mission and their collaborations formalized. At all times, they had the option to work alone, in pairs, or groups, and they were free to collaborate with multiple groups on multiple projects, or to maintain a singular focus.
While in VR, Learners met in virtual spaces, and some of those spaces were their own creations, including panoramic images and 360 video recordings of the places where they live, work and spend time with friends.
Beta Learners were asked to embrace new tools with a spirit of exploration and risk-taking. Their feedback has been captured and will determine the path forward for Future Earth Academy.
Throughout the Beta, program mentors supported Learners as they moved through a global collaborative field project, managed time and schedules, and built meaningful and lasting relationships with their Beta peers.
One of the key goals of the Beta was to test a wide variety of tools for collaboration, exploration, and design to support Future Earth Academy's innovative approach to learning.
Another key goal of the Beta was to challenge Learners to experiment with new ways of collaborating, particularly in this global context, and to leverage those innovations for the benefit of Future Earth Academy long-term.
VR Beta Program Learners
Beta participants completed a series of interviews with Dr. Jennifer Jones (Future Earth Academy founder) and the program's social-emotional mentor. See our FAQ for more information about program faculty.
What qualified a Learner to participate in the Beta?
In addition to Learners who are diverse in age, gender, race, and geographic location, we have identified Learners who consider themselves:
passionate about science or science-related topics
experienced in practicing science (school, home or anywhere)
hopeful about the future
confident in their ability to contribute value to the future
eager to collaborate with others
driven to find solutions to problems
fun-loving and able to be silly with friends
someone with a deep personal interest (a serious hobby)
an activist with a history of taking action
fascinated by and eager to try new technologies