VR Trip to Pakistan Provides An Enlightening Experience That We All Need
PenPal Schools (one of the nation’s fastest growing Ed-Tech companies, recognized by Obama as a leading social enterprise) teamed up with Austin based VR Creative Agency Chocolate Milk & Donuts to bring a brand new virtual reality education course, VR Trip to Pakistan, to schools around the world this week. The program allows students to participate in online collaborative lessons that explore Pakistan’s rich history and culture, while communicating with peers in other countries.
In an exclusive interview with Chocolate Milk & Donuts Founder, Ricky Holm, he explained that what began as a friendship between himself and PenPal founder, Joe Troyen, became a global awareness project that already has 1,106 students from 11 countries enrolled in the pilot program.
In 2015, Holm and Troyen were both starting up at Austin’s Capital Factory, a Center of Gravity for Entrepreneurs. Troyen brought Holm on to shoot some footage of PenPal’s presence at the 1776 Education Conference in Washington, DC. A few months later, the Department of State awarded Austin a grant to begin the ATX+PAK Launch connecting Austin’s vibrant community of entrepreneurs and investors in the local startup ecosystem to those in Pakistan’s emerging startup scene. Troyen was then selected to be an ambassador. The Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce sent their ambassadors to Pakistan and Troyen invited Holm along to shoot the experience for VR. After a 27-hour plane ride and ten days spent in national delegation meetings, Holm and Troyen extended their stay another ten days to begin the creation of VR Trip to Pakistan.
VR Trip to Pakistan provides awareness about the region through the development of a global learning community. The experience encourages open communication and dispels xenophobia. “What you see on CNN is nothing like what [Pakistan] is actually like,” said Holm. I think [VR Trip to Pakistan] is especially newsworthy considering the current political climate and Muslim travel ban — students can make friends in Pakistan and discover a side of the country that isn’t often shown in the news.”
Starting this week, any teacher in the world will have the opportunity to sign up for free. PenPal has partnered with the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation so that every student can have a Pakistani PenPal. Other partners include the City of Austin’s ATX+PAK Program, Samsung, and Mozilla Hive Austin with a grant from the Gigabit Community Fund.
Actress and activist Sophia Bush, a longtime champion of equal access to education, commented, “We’ve never had a greater need for a program like PenPal Schools. We need to help our youth to respect and empathize with people who are different,” according to a statement to PenPal.
Holm is especially proud of this project because it showcases VR’s potential to be an educational tool rather than a gimmick. He described the 360 VR component of the program as the “added frosting to a standard aligned curriculum already proven to be a valuable education tool.”
Educators can sign up for free here to guarantee their students will be matched up with a Pakistani PenPal.