(Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus)
Keywords: virtual museums; augmented reality; immersive experiences; children’s learning
The proposed research shall give insights into the potential of immersive virtual environments (IVEs) to act as platforms for engagement with cultural heritage among children of school age. To examine the latter, this paper delves into the Museum Affinity Spaces (MAS) project, an empirically based, pedagogically-driven research initiative funded by HORIZON 2020, entailing plans for a platform targeted at European museums/galleries and learning institutions such as schools and universities, which allows them to form partnerships and be immersed in a virtual environment in order to enrich classroom experience and overcome physical limitations of attending a cultural space. The overall aim of the MAS project is to grant students with opportunities to gain experience of museums and cultural heritage beyond national boundaries and enhance their literacy repertoires by incorporating understandings of technology-enhanced museum learning as a multiliteracy practice. The intention is for school-teachers, museum educators, and students to be able to use a virtual platform themselves and in collaboration with other parties from around Europe and the world, either through synchronous or asynchronous learning to develop learning activities deriving from museums. The project employs design-based research (DBR) and is structured to unfold in three phases: preliminary analysis, the prototyping stage, and implementation and evaluation or assessment. This presentation shall focus on the preliminary analysis and prototyping stage of the project, as it was carried out during the first months since the project embarked. The most innovative aspect of this project is its theoretical backdrop, as it proposes a novel conceptual framework for developing cutting edge visual interactive experiences and long-term sustainable cultural learning projects between different cultural organisations and schools, defying physical limitations, so as to allow for a network of shared cultural heritage participation and engagement across Europe.