Engaging young people in the democratic process is a big challenge. Voter apathy is rampant in many countries, where youngsters don’t feel a connection to politicians and therefore choose not to vote.Engaging young people in the democratic process is a big challenge Click To Tweet
Even when people do vote, however, the lack of informed debate around the issues can present a real problem. There was much evidence of this in the recent Brexit referendum in the UK, where it emerged that many who had voted to leave the European Union did not actually realise what that would entail, and later came to regret their decision in the chaotic aftermath that ensued. That was painfully illustrated in the fact that Google revealed a sharp spike in searches just after voting had closed where people queried such terms as “What is the EU?”The greatest argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter - Winston Churchill Click To Tweet
Some would look at this type of situation and agree with Sir Winston Churchill’s assessment that “The greatest argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” yet perhaps we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.Things would be improved if kids were encouraged to participate in the political process from an early age Click To Tweet
Things would surely be improved if, from an early age, children were encouraged to participate in, and question, the political process. And perhaps technology can be a useful tool in achieving this. At least that is what Voki are betting on.
As the US presidential election approaches, the platform – which is already used by millions of teachers to create talking characters and avatars for use in lessons – is now offering Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump avatars which teachers can freely download to help encourage current affairs discussion to the classroom.Voki is offering Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump avatars to encourage classroom debate around current affairs Click To Tweet
The avatars offer a way for students to indirectly engage with issues verbally, as they can literally “put words in their mouth”. This offers a safe environment for debate and often makes for a more lively and interesting classroom activity. “For some students this indirect way to verbally engage opens the door for interaction they would otherwise find difficult,” explains Voki CEO Gil Sideman.
“In an election year, there’s a special opportunity to engage students with the workings of our democracy – and using presidential candidate avatars is a fun way to do so. Introducing the Trump and Hillary avatars seemed like a natural way to help bring current events into the classroom, ” he concludes.
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Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio and @techtrends_tech on Twitter.