Historical empathy engenders respect for our predecessors’ thoughts and feelings, even if we don’t share them. Teaching historical empathy helps learners overcome "us and them" conceptions about the past and understand why things that seem unreasonable to someone in the present might have been reasonable or necessary in the past.
A transdisciplinary research team at Virginia Tech developed three 3D visualizations of historic sites so that learners could explore meaningful spaces, examine details of the spaces at historically significant times, and consider how the spaces have changed over time. They wanted learners to use the 3D landscapes as tools to develop inquiry skills by asking meaningful questions, finding information, drawing conclusions, and reflecting on possible solutions.
Learning is more effective if students participate in disciplined inquiry rather than the passive absorption of trivia. But to do this they must know how to find information, assess different sources, and manage conflicting data to recognize authentic applications of historical knowledge. So, in each of the three visualizations, researchers presented a specific time and place for analysis, some including interviews, historical photos, and other artifacts that could be used to build understanding.
In their discussion, the research team argues that historically responsible virtual environments and AR offer a way to preserve and restore landscapes, and provide an instructional anchor from which learners can explore others’ perspectives and experience the growth that comes with fitting their personal story into humanity’s shared story.Flickr.