What is VRtality?
I am seen. My ideas matter. I am really creating something that will help others. The adults in this library are pretty cool and treat me like an equal.
That is VRtality through the eyes of a teen.
VRtality is a library-led virtual reality (VR) program. The mission? To improve and destigmatize teen mental health. Teens work with adult mentors, largely library staff. Together they co-design a VR experience over a period of several months. VR draws the teens in. What they walk away with is a sense of achievement and real relationships.
What do we mean by “co-design” and “VR experiences”?
A VR “experience” is the immersive world that someone sees when they put on a VR headset. They are transported to another place or even another world. They might become someone else…or even a cat, as in one of the VR experiences created by one of our teen groups! With VRtality, teens aren’t simply using VR to explore cool worlds. They are DESIGNING those worlds. Not only that: they are building these experiences with the goal of helping to de-stress OTHER teens who will eventually put on a VR headset and enter these newly-created VR experiences. Teens build VR experiences and relationships and then pay it forward in the form of the final deliverable meant to help others.
Co-design, in the VRtality program, is the process of teens working as EQUALS with adult facilitators to create a VR experience together. The team collaboratively decides on a concept for a VR project or “experience” that they will build and works through structured sessions to turn concept to reality.
What are the tangible VRtality assets that this website offers to library staff?
VRtality has two focuses in helping libraries to launch this program:
- Building a roadmap for steps leading up to launching the program
- Planning sessions
Building a roadmap includes helpful tips about: building a team, recruiting teens, and selecting technology. An interactive Roadmap Builder on this site will customize your plan.
Session planning can be customized for your library. The VRtality program suggests how to format each session so that your group hits its goals and launches a gratifying VR experience as the grand finale of the program. An interactive Session Planner on this site will customize your session, or you can print the full set of sessions. To help guide the way, the Seattle Public Library has also shared a rich collection of lesson plans, field notes, and miro boards used during their pilot program
Who is involved?
Participants are teens, usually in high school.
Non-technical adult roles are filled by library staff who often wear several hats, from recruiting teens and ordering VR headsets to scheduling, planning, and facilitating sessions.
A “VR developer” working with the support from a “VR developer college intern”, programs the VR experiences based on the ideas created by the teens in the co-design sessions and design sprints.
When does it happen?
VRtality is a 4-6 month program with sessions scheduled every other week. Each standard session lasts 90 minutes while occasional “design sprints” last 3 hours.
Where is the program delivered?
Libraries have successfully launched VRtality both virtually and onsite at their libraries. Libraries can also choose a virtual/in-person hybrid approach.
During a time of heightening teen mental health issues, libraries implementing the VRtality program become more valuable than ever to their communities by helping teens to build real relationships and learn some fun technology along the way. Even after a teen’s 4-6 month program is complete, the relationships built and the positive library experience continue to enrich the teen, library and community.