An educational app has been launched that aims to teach young people about black stories by creating augmented reality (AR) statues of black figures and plaques in their honor.
History Bites was initiated by the British charity Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health (BLAM) as a way to “teach young people about individuals who fought for black freedom,” according to the association.
At the start of the lockdown, BLAM UK launched a free online learning platform for people aged 6 to 16. London-based studio Landmrk then contacted to develop a web application that uses AR to enhance the experience.
BLAM UK founder Ife Thompson told Design Week that the app is an attempt to make “black stories more accessible to all”. You can access the app here.
From Bristol Bus Boycott to NASA
The app is web-based, available by scanning a QR code on your phone. There are currently six course areas, including the Bristol Bus Boycott and Black Contribution to NASA Space Technology.
Each section has its own educational content (all created by BLAM) which includes lessons, podcasts, and essays.
After the lesson there is a quiz with multiple choice questions. If you pass the quiz, you earn a badge and unlock one of the AR statues or plaques.
Using your phone’s camera, you can then place it in your environment, save the image and upload it to your “scrapbook”. It also connects it to an interactive app so you can see where other users have earned badges and unlocked statues.
“The omission of blacks in this program is detrimental”
History Bites was born out of a desire to fill in the gaps in an “overly Eurocentric” curriculum, according to the charity. He adds: “The omission of blacks from this program is detrimental because black children these days do not have a full understanding of their history, culture and impact on the world.”
UK, only up to 11% of GCSE students study modules that refer to the contribution of blacks to Britain. BLAM quotes academic research which shows how teaching their history to black children is “an important part of preventing the negative effects of living in a world full of racist experiences and discrimination”.
He hopes the app promotes “positive identity development”. Different learning styles have been incorporated, including visual, auditory and kinesthetic, according to Ife Thompson. She says BLAM’s previous work on youth projects has helped the team have the most empowering experience.
“We don’t have enough black statues in the UK”
The conversation about statues in the UK came to a head this summer after the overthrow of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. This sparked conversations about many British statues related to the slave trade and colonialism.
Design Week also explored how the Black Lives Matter movement could affect the branding world, as brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s set out to rid their identities of racial stereotypes.
“We don’t have enough black statues in the UK,” Thompson told Design Week. “We wanted to teach young people about under-celebrated black heroes and sheroes and the still whitewashed tales of our history.”
“We also wanted to present real black statues of those who fought for the human rights and dignity of blacks to be restored and defended forever,” she adds.
Some of the AR figures are based on actual statues while others are plaques (reminiscent of the blue plaques seen across the UK).
“We wanted to bring this tribute closer to the United Kingdom”
History Bite stories aim to diversify teaching through a long sweep of history. One of the lessons focuses on Mansa Musa, an Islamic political figure from West Africa who ruled Mali in the Middle Ages.
More contemporary events are also covered, such as the Bristol Bus Boycott. The 1963 case against the Bristol Omnibus Company resulted in the reversal of the company’s discriminatory employment policy: previously blacks and Asians were not allowed to work for the transport company.
Other prominent figures include former President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah, who led the Gold Coast of West Africa to independence from Britain in the 1950s.
“A lot of people have statues of them in their respective countries,” says Thompson. “We wanted to bring this tribute closer to the UK. “