21st century schools must include effective and high impact approaches to school violence prevention and student conflict resolution. Unfortunately, “school-wide” or “outside speaker” approaches to reducing student violence and conflict have largely proven to be ineffective.
Too often these “imported models” do not have a lasting impact on student conflict and violence prevention. Students listen to the “guest speaker” and then go back to the old habits after lunch. Predictably, these “dose-effect” programs rarely exist long enough to be properly evaluated.
However, emerging interactive video technologies can support new and innovative approaches to the preventive and reflective side of school violence prevention and conflict resolution.
Peer Mentoring 2.0 and Prevention
Referred to as Peer Mentoring 2.0, this 21st Century model of peer mentoring functions at the preventive end of conflict and violence instead of engaging after a destructive episode has occurred.
Peer Mentoring 2.0 connects students from different grade levels within the same school or between different schools. Peer mentoring 2.0 can be implemented in face-to-face classroom settings or virtually using video chatting computer programs such as Skype or FaceTime. The creative applications of these interactive video technologies provide immediate real-time access to credible and believable student mentors on a wide variety of subjects.
Schools too often create student competitions that only provoke conflict. By removing these harmful competitions and inviting more realistic “cooperation and conversation,” students can become peer listeners and peer leaders with one another.
Age and grade division are also common in school. Peer Mentoring 2.0 bridges the natural and unfortunate gaps that may exist between students at different grade levels; this cross grade level commitment can dispel the fears of younger students in earlier grade levels, reduce their intimidation, and reduce their fear of asking for help.
The Peer Mentoring 2.0 Process
When implemented within an elementary-school environment, middle-school students can mentor incoming fifth-grade students and help dispel anxious beliefs and urban myths that typically exist upon entry. Implementation can also exist between differing grade-levels within the same school, or even between schools. For example, upon entering a new middle school, 6th or 7th graders can meet 5th graders in participating classrooms face-to-face, or use Skype to discuss how to be successful within their new school environment. Other examples include: 8th graders mentoring 7th graders; 9th graders mentoring 8th graders; 12th graders mentoring 9th graders, etc.).
Before the formal day of the mentoring, teachers should select students who represent the diversity of the whole school (i.e., every ability, background, race, gender etc.) to elicit their participation.
(Next page: Selecting topics and timing; 10 components to prevent school violence, including Skype)
The students at Franklin Square Union Free School District in Nassau County, New York, had already studied the layers of the earth. They’d seen a video, discussed the concept, and even taken apart a physical class model. But when they worked with a virtual earth in zSpace, you could hear the “wows” and “whoahs” all over the classroom. They lifted the virtual earth from the screen and turned it around to see it from all sides. They peeled off the earth’s rocky crust, and used virtual tools to measure the depth of each layer.
“I could tell by their reactions and responses that they had a better understanding of layers,” said John Trotta, assistant principal at Polk Street School, one of the district’s three elementary schools. “It goes back to visualization. You can’t see the actual layers of the earth, but this is as close to a hands-on experience as possible. It brings the concept to life.”
zSpace is a virtual reality (VR) system used for STEM education. Unlike hardware systems that require headsets, zSpace is screen-based. Students and teachers use a custom stylus to pick up and manipulate items from a screen. Lightweight glasses transform that item into a 3D object that can be seen by everyone wearing the glasses, or cast onto a screen for the class to view.
A Brief Video on zSpace VR in Education
VR Specifically for Education
VR is making its way into education, and it may even be leapfrogging consumer use. While headset-based systems like Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are a lot of fun, they’re mainly used for gaming, and not well suited for classroom use because they isolate students from the outside world, and from each other.
A screen-based solution, such as zSpace, seems more appropriate for the classroom. It’s already in more than 400 school districts across the globe, as students are quickly learning to live in a virtually enhanced world.