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Meet The UN's Latest Education and Learning Award Winner

20.11.2017

Lyfta, one of our Inspiring Innovations of 2017, has won the UN World Summit Award for Education and Learning! The amazing innovation from Serdar Ferit and Paulina Tervo uses immersive storytelling to introduce children to stories from around the world – effectively breaking down the dangerous narrative of the ‘single story’ that is currently dominating the conversation in many countries. Through Lyfta’s clever use of virtual reality and storytelling, children are exposed to people different from themselves and learn in a very real, meaningful way that there is more that unites us than divides us.

Of course storytelling isn’t a new phenomenon – education is full of stories already, but we need to make sure we’re telling the right ones. That’s one of the things that makes Lyfta so special. Their stories are relevant, diverse and gender-balanced – so basically taking on all the imbalances every industry needs to address right now! As Serdar Ferit told us, ‘We look for powerful and positive human stories - strong, inspiring people who have overcome obstacles that life has thrown their way and managed to achieve something. We work hard to have 50-50 gender representation and feature stories from as many different cultures as possible.’

Human stories that show how we’re able to overcome adversity should not be undervalued in today’s world. The future is often spoken about negatively or described as this unstable, overwhelming thing. It’s therefore imperative that we make sure young people know that they have the resilience and ability to overcome any challenges they may face once they leave school. In a time where negativity is the norm and gender and racial biases are still very much prevalent, it’s refreshing to find a company who are actively working to tackle these dominating stories so that the next generation grows up to have a more positive world view.

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We look for powerful and positive human stories - strong, inspiring people who have overcome obstacles that life has thrown their way and managed to achieve something.
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Initially Lyfta wasn’t an education project at all. Ferit and Tervo’s first 360 story experience was focused on a tiny village in a remote part of Northern Ethiopia, called Awra Amba. “We were so captivated by Awra Amba's story that we wanted to find a way to take people there, with us (as opposed to making a regular documentary for people to watch) - which led us to research and learn about 360 storytelling back in 2010. Once The Awra Amba Experience was ready, The Guardian featured part of the project and we were invited to showcase it at a number of well-known institutions, such as Cambridge University, The Nobel Peace Centre, LSE, etc. So for a long time, we assumed that our main audience was "the Guardian reader" - i.e. 18+ year-old, well-educated, worldly people.”

It was only when Ferit discussed the project with his Dad, a retired primary school teacher, that Ferit and Tervo realized their project was perfect for education. ‘His exact words were "This belongs in classrooms!"’ Ferit told us, recalling his Dad’s first response to the project. ‘Our first classroom test was in a school in Ipswich, in England, with 7-year-olds. The response we had that day was so inspiring that we haven't looked back since. Lyfta was born.'

Through Lyfta, Ferit and Tervo bring together the future and the past and show how the two together can create a cohesive and powerful learning tool. ‘Storytelling is the oldest and most effective way of teaching,’ Ferit told us. ‘Well designed technology and powerful storytelling can help educators inspire their students and keep them engaged. Inspiration and engagement are great ingredients for learning.’ This combining of the oldest form of teaching – storytelling – and the latest technologies, such as virtual reality, shows how education has a bright, exciting and more effective future ahead.

Find out more about Lyfta by watching Tervo and Ferit’s Ted Talk below, or head to Lyfta’s project page to find out how to use Lyfta in the classroom!