In the Europe of the 21st century, many cultural, ethnic and religious groups must live and work together. It is clear that this is not always a smooth process and that cultural differences can lead to social stresses and sometimes outright conflict. Education in cultural sensitivity and understanding has a very significant role as a component of Personal, Social and Emotional Education. This is an educational domain in which attitudes and behaviours are much more important than knowledge alone, and in which the development of empathy is a key pedagogical mechanism.
Experiential approaches using role-play and case-studies have been shown to be highly effective for social, personal and emotional learning, but can be difficult and expensive to organise if actors or other human interaction mechanisms are employed, or limited by a lack of interactivity in the case of film or written case-studies.
eCUTE has developed innovative technologically-enhanced learning approaches in cultural understanding and sensitivity that will help to deal with these problems. It has developed and applied virtual world simulations with intelligent interactive graphical characters embodying models of culturally-specific behaviour and interaction in scenarios developed via a user-centred design process. It targeted two end-user types – late primary-age children (9-11) and young adults (18-25).