VR + Psych

Teaching Emotional Regulation and Awareness Through a VR-based Rhythm Game

Abstract
Programs designed to promote social-emotional learning (SEL) in high-school students are increasingly being used in schools to facilitate academic and life success. These programs teach students key competencies such as self-awareness and self-management, among many others (CASEL, 2015). Virtual reality applications hold increasing potential to support programs that teach these skills to adolescents given their high level of immersion (World Economic Forum, 2016). Additionally, SEL and emotion regulation schemes based on music listening and rhythmic performance are particularly compelling programming for teens, given both the popularity of music among adolescents and the inherent emotional expressivity of music, as well as our natural ability to parse those emotions (Dingle et al., 2016; Faulkner, 2016). This paper explores the use of VR and music in emotional regulation education technology, and proposes the development of a VR rhythm game. The game complements SEL activities in educational settings by teaching self-awareness and self-management skills such as labelling emotions through music, relaxation techniques and artistic expression through rhythmic performance.
About the Author
Laura Montenegro Jaramillo

As a digital media specialist, Laura works with creatives and producers in the media and marketing industries to ideate and build multimedia products, including videos, websites, and mixed reality experiences, for both English and Spanish speaking audiences. Since graduating in Audiovisual Communications and Multimedia in 2013, she has collaborated with different teams in production companies and advertising agencies in Colombia, Brazil, and Canada, taking the role of video producer, editor, motion graphics artist, graphic designer, and web designer. In recent years Laura has focused on web design, producing websites for media projects and social ventures. Her passion for digital innovation led her to the Master of Digital Media at Ryerson University, focusing her on virtual reality and interactive design.

About the Project

Background

Over the last decades, social and emotional competencies have proven to be fundamental to facilitate life and academic success in students. The digital era provides an opportunity to foster these skills through immersive educational technologies. This project explores how current emotional learning methods can be enhanced through virtual reality and music-based games to help teenagers develop emotional awareness and regulation skills. Through research on current social-emotional learning methods and emerging digital tools, as well as the insights of educators specialized in fostering these skills, this research project intends to ideate and prototype a VR-based serious rhythm-game that strengthens current emotional learning processes in schools.

Screenshots from the Oculus game demo.


MY NEONORMAL STORY
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When the pandemic struck, I realized we had to change the scope of our project. Working remotely affected the production of the prototype and social distancing measures made regular user testing practically impossible. However, the pandemic made me appreciate even more the importance of working for edu-tech that supports social-emotional learning because it made it even more relevant: schools shut down and relied on digital tools to keep functioning; The lockdown showed us how vulnerable our mental health can be, and the value of nurturing our emotional intelligence to face change and adapt to the new normal. Moreover, this new reality made us reconsider the benefits of digital media, and especially immersive technologies like VR in a socially-distant world. Today more than ever we need technology that can help us foster these important skills in young generations, and prepare them to face the challenges of the decades to come.