The Lyfta Team
What is Lyfta?
Children’s learning, and the ability to apply that learning to the real world, can be positively affected by emotional experience. Having real world experiences that trigger emotions can help children be more invested in the learning, allowing for memorable and meaningful learning to take place. Yet, children are often taught about issues that are far removed from their own lived experience. How can they be expected to comprehend things that they have never experienced or cannot imagine?
Lyfta invites children to become global explorers through immersive experiences and engaging human stories. Using desktops, tablets or VR headsets, students use 360 interactive stories, short documentary films, VR and rich media articles to learn about the experiences of others. All media is short-form and the variety and of media used to convey information keeps the experiences interesting for children.
The rich new-media experiences are complemented by easy to use lesson and assembly plans that delve into numerous topics and learning objectives in the national curriculum. Lyfta’s short online assessments make it easy to get real impact data after each class – where teachers can see clear before and after results.
Pupils explore the personal homes and workplaces of fascinating people from around the world. In each space they can click on a variety of rich new-media content to learn about particular themes, such as gender equality, democracy, sustainability, international development and many more. They can click on people, bring them to life and get to know them through powerful short documentary films.
A key factor is that the children are actively exploring the interactive environments from the outset – the experience is more akin to a game where they make their own choices, than a more traditional, passive learning experiences.
For the best Lyfta learning experience, each student is invited to explore using their own devices. However, should the school not have devices for every student, a Lyfta lesson can still be conducted by sharing devices or simply by the teacher introducing it on a main screen. Conversely, when a whole class of children explores rich media on the internet there can be issues with bandwidth. Lyfta have therefore made some of the products downloadable to enable schools to run the programme without bandwidth/streaming issues.
The new version of Lyfta’s learning platform enables teachers to create their own lesson plans and share them with their students. New inspiring storyworlds from new countries are being added in the beginning of each new school term. Currently over 400 schools use Lyfta and the number is increasing as new teachers and students find the resource.
Following a rigorous tender process, Lyfta was selected to create an innovative learning experience on Circular Economy and Sustainable Lifestyle for all 3rd to 6th grades in Finland. The experience, which will be published in 2020, will also be translated and made available on the Lyfta platform for teachers and students outside Finland.
As part of an ongoing collaboration with British Council, Lyfta trains teachers in the UK to use the platform to teach core skills, values and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Since Lyfta was first selected to be part of HundrED.org’s Global Collection, Lyfta has reached thousands of new students and teachers in different countries - in primary, secondary and special education schools. Universities in Finland and the US (including Stanford, University of North Carolina and Harvard Business School) have been active to partner with Lyfta in order to promote innovative learning solutions and memorable learning experiences.
Lyfta has worked with schools with great success to weave the Lyfta experience into their curriculum in myriad ways and to bring the human dimension to subject specific learning. One powerful experience many are choosing is to use the platform to start the conversation with students around their attitudes and biases towards culture and identity – their own, and that of others they may or may not know. One teacher in a school in Essex, near London, was concerned with the rising levels of nationalism in the area, and the attitudes of her students. The students at the school were all from white British heritage and had had little opportunity to experience living alongside people from diverse backgrounds or to explore the world beyond their local area. Lyfta developed an attitudinal survey which could be used with the students before and after their teacher used Lyfta with them to explore the world. As part of the survey, students were asked to consider 6 faces of people whom they would meet over the course of their exploration of the platform, and were asked: “which of these people do you feel you have most common ground with?”
In the first survey, students said that they felt they had most in common with the people that look most like them in their experience (i.e. the white people). By the end of their time clicking around, exploring the different environments and watching a short documentary featuring each of the people in the pictures, they were asked to respond again to the question about common ground. Across the board, the students felt they had more in common with all of the people, and in particular, those that had scored lower in the first survey – the people of colour. Most remarkable was the shift in affinity with one particular person: a 55-year-old Palestinian taxi driver became their favorite person that they learned about.
Through this simple and powerful exercise, the teacher was able to start an important conversation with her students around difference, bias, diversity and more. She was able to provide them with an impactful and engaging experience, which will have a lasting effect.
One of the most pleasantly surprising uses of Lyfta has been in special education schools - including the renowned Swiss Cottage School in London, who have embedded Lyfta across their curriculum. In fact, the top user of Lyfta over the last year has been Helena Morrissey, a special school teacher in Manchester, whose students are all on the autistic spectrum. Helena now uses Lyfta’s immersive storyworlds and 360 degree environments with her class in every single lesson, via laptops, Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and an interactive whiteboard. Although she was initially sceptical about whether her pupils would be able to access and appreciate the content, by the end of the year, she saw remarkable changes in their abilities, attitudes to and engagement with learning. What she also didn’t anticipate is the levels of empathy the children had, not only for the human subjects of the immersive storyworlds, but also for each other. She believes that the traditional teaching methods for subjects like history or geography can be too abstract and even irrelevant for some of her students. However, the immersive experience has enabled her students to begin to understand people more and it has helped them to start to notice, compare and discuss what they think, as never before. You can watch a short interview with Helena here.
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