IJLM Example 2: coping with trauma

by annick
Last updated 10 years ago

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IJLM Example 2: coping with trauma

A student programmed an avatar to tell a trauma story. She could not share this painful story with a live audience – but the avatar could. Hence the virtual world provided her with the safe environment she needed to start coping.

IJLM Example 2: Avatars to cope with trauma

This student suffered an assault when walking in the street with her family. As her dad coped with the aggressor, the children were told to run and escape. Then the aggressor saw that her mom was calling the police on her mobile and threatened her too. The student had been unable to share this story though the teacher felt that she had suffered some kind of trauma. The teacher related how the avatar's story was told in a virtual world that provided the student with the safe environment she needed to start coping. The student also programmed the avatar to cry – and displayed the very emotions that had not been comfortable displaying in public herself: Reflective Scale analysis on the clip transcript showed that the student’s processing activity was located mostly in level 1 (description of the event) and mid scale to level 2 (reporting feelings of anxiety) with only some hints of level 3 comments (partial explanation such as “the police could not reach us in time”). This material is deemed transitional because the avatar alludes to the sensitive topic affording her a vehicle to share her feelings by proxy – as a transitional object would. This use of the electronic object is comparable to a younger child divulging her fears to her furry companion.The situation however is not affording her further learning, as the clip's narrative does not progress further into stage 3 or 4 where she would be formulating ways to cope. Hence, she has also not yet reached the stage where she can articulate specific learning for future events (stage 5 on scale). More processing work is needed though before the student can be seen as having successfully dealt with the challenge.

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT:An incident happened to me and my family not so long ago which left me scared of the own area that I live in…the crazy guy on the bike came straight onto my dad and asked him what he had called him… and pushed him in the bushes… young kids had to experience this [incident] and this could have left them scarred for life. This could have been a one-off, but it could happen right again, when you least expect it.(Cindy Street Safety clip; 2:18, August 2008)

Click here for the Diver analysis of the animated clip

Complementary observational material collected around this student reinforced the direction of the Reflective Scale results. In interview, her teacher reported that the student was less quick to partake in group learning tasks than before the traumatic event. However, the teacher noted that the story as reported via the Avatar had helped students and teachers in the school understand the predicament of her student and how she was discussing with the parents ways to help the student overcome these obstacles to learning. Students also reported that "MARVIN (the animation software) has given us a voice" and has helped city officials to listen to their opinions (Observational data below left). The student avatar animation analysis is also reinforced by the teacher's Digital Story. In this narrative, she relates her own journey in dealing with students' working with animation and avatars - she describes her fear of being unable to teach using the technology (Reflection Scales Level 2) and some partial resolution is sketched (Reflection Scales Level 3) but not further elaborated (view Teacher Digital Story below right).


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