An Imaginary Interview with Lev Vygotsky on Immersive Storytelling and Learning
Earlier this year I was invited to speak about digital storytelling at the Festival Della Didattica Digitale (Digital Teaching Festival) in Italy. As I arrived to the conference area, a beautiful old convent in Lucca, I noticed on a wall a large poster featuring a portrait of Lev Vygotsky, one of the pioneers of developmental psychology and the founder of sociocultural theory of learning.
Seeing the poster gave me a sudden inspiration to go back to my hotel and edit my presentation into an imaginary interview with Vygotsky, focusing on understanding better the trending but undefined concepts of digital storytelling and immersive learning.
I’m posting here the questions and short answers of this imaginary interview, slightly edited and reorganized. Even though the thought of this presentation emerged spontaneously, it’s clear that Vygotsky’s work and the sociocultural theory can provide valuable tools for understanding the impact of immersive technologies to learning. I warmly welcome comments and further discussion on the topic, as I continue to work on longer explanations and examples on each point.
Q: Let’s start with some of the key concepts. How would you define ‘storytelling’?
V: Storytelling is a logical form of thought. It is an analytical process including perception, labeling, organizing, categorizing real and imaginary objects and their real and imaginary relations in speech.
Q: What do you think immersive documentation technologies such as 360 images and videos can bring to this process?
V: 360 degree media and virtual reality are cultural-historically developed tools that mediate our relationship to the world in a new way. They expand the possible fields of perception transcending space and time. Perception precedes other psychological functions.
Q: What does this mean for a first grade student who at school attends to virtual reality classes across the world?
A child learns to speak by singling out and categorizing meaningful objects in their field of perception. If the field of perception expands beyond the child’s physical environment, so does the development of other psychological functions.
Another point to consider is language: we all perceive the world through our speech. Learning to use multiple forms of speech for expressing relations in real or digital environments expands our cognitive capabilities.
Q: Let’s talk more about expressing those relations and making them visible. How do you see the function of labels or annotations in images?
V: Labeling creates new structural centers to perception. Guiding attention, they can support the internalization of new concepts and meanings.
Q: How does this relate to immersive storytelling?
V: Immersive storytelling can be understood as an activity through which students use language to visualize relations and meaning in 360 degree digital environments.
Naming or describing relations between objects in our field of perception using verbal or visual language awakens intellectual processes fundamental to learning.
Q: Would you say immersive storytelling is a form of creative play?
V: That is a possible interpretation. Play is a psychological process through which we create an imaginary situation or place, reflecting or separating objects and their actual meaning, or creating new meanings. The ability to digitally create and modify situations and environments can be understood as a form of play, opening a realm of spontaneity and freedom, connected with pleasure.
Q: Can robots help us learn? Is AI already the More Knowledgeable Other?
V: The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) refers to anyone or anything who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. If a robot with artificial intelligence can function as an MKO and support our problem solving, it can expand our Zone of Proximal Development.