XR for XRistos - Students Taming Extended Reality for the Lord

Tom Kuster (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Tom Kuster, after pastoral positions in Madison, Wisconsin and Muskegon, Michigan, spent his career teaching Communication courses in college, for 20 years at Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, and 25 more at Bethany Lutheran Seminary and College, Mankato, Minnesota, where he helped develop a strong Communication major, helped design Bethany's first media production studio, and in 2009 founded the Christ in Media Institute. He and wife Judy have nine children.

The following presentation is revised from GOWM 2019 where the XR Project and Festival was announced for the 2019-20 school year. Of course, circumstances prevented its completion that year. We are revising the venture for the 2021-22 school year. At this writing, the following five Lutheran High Schools are participating, with more welcome:

      • California Lutheran Academy
      • Fox Valley Lutheran High School
      • Luther High School – Onalaska
      • Northland Lutheran High School
      • St. Croix Lutheran High School
For more information, go to the Festival website or contact Dr. Tom Kuster.


How can XR technology be used to serve the Lord? We don't know the answer but we know how to find it: ask the kids!

"XR" (extended reality) includes VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality). [google "XR VR AR MR what's the difference?"]

During the current school year, the Christ in Media Institute at Bethany Lutheran College has invited high schools, both Lutheran and public, as well as our fellowship colleges, to explore the potential in XR technology for education and outreach. For Christian schools, "outreach" means creating and delivering effective Gospel messages using XR.

Participating involves two stages: the Project and the Festival.

The Project:

In this fall semester of 2021, schools are forming teams of interested students. Together, they are working to learn all they can about XR technology in general. Then they will select one narrower aspect of XR (VR, AR, MR) to explore in depth, and finally, they are invited to create either a description or a demonstration of a way to use their chosen aspect of XR for either education or outreach.

While this at first seems like a Project only for "geeks" or "techies," we are emphasizing that it is not. Students interested in any subjects should be interested in XR. Designing a virtual tour of the Tabernacle, or creating an immersive children's story, or conducting a virtual hymn-sing (to imagine a few ideas) requires imagination, research, and creativity. It's the ideas of those students we are looking forward to seeing at the Festival.

Oculus Quest 2

The Festival:

  • Schools are invited to bring their teams to Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota, on Friday evening and Saturday, April 1-2, 2021.

  • Each may have an assigned time slot to present the results of their Project work to other Festival attendees, industry reps, and the general public.

    As an incentive to encourage participation, each school that registers is receiving a free Oculus Quest 2 standalone Virtual Reality headset. Generous donors have also made funding available to assist school teams, especially those at a distance from Mankato, to travel to the Festival.

    In addition to the school showcases, the Festival will feature other events, including workshops, fellowship, worship, a demo by Bethany's varsity E-Sports Team, and two outstanding keynote speakers.

    Christine Lion-Bailey

    Expert in emergent XR technology and its impact on learners, Christine Lion-Bailey has promoted AR and VR in her own "Certified Future-Ready" New Jersey school district and in local, national, and international conferences. A Google-for-Education certified innovator, a BrainPop certified educator, and adjunct professor of educational technology at Ramapo College of New Jersey, she is Chief Strategy Officer for Ready Learner One LLC, providing educational solutions with emergent technology for educators in K-12 and higher ed. Her book, Ready Learner One: Harnessing the Power of AR & VR in the Classroom, came out in January 2020. Prof. Lion-Bailey says, "By leveraging VR, educators can expose students to the world far beyond the walls of their communities, make international connections that build empathy and awareness, and foster informed and motivated global citizens who will someday become global decision makers."

    At various times during the Festival, individual consultations can be scheduled with Christine Lion-Bailey.

    Brian Klebig

    Bethany's own Brian Klebig brings to the Festival his experience as a designer and manager of the CARISMA state-of-the-art VR Laboratory at Michigan State University. A professor of Communication at Bethany Lutheran College and Seminary, and an ordained Lutheran minister, Dr. Klebig has devoted many years to discovering ways of using technology of all kinds to reach new audiences with Gospel messages. His expertise and energy will help XR Project school teams explore XR potentials during the 2021-22 school year.

    The cost of attending the Festival is low; a Festival registration fee of $40/person covers four meals and all materials. Festival registration will open early in 2022.

    For more information, go to the Festival website or contact Dr. Tom Kuster.

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  • Discussion

    Judy Kuster 2021-10-24 4:40:18pm
    What an amazing opportunity for students who are so far ahead of me in understanding VR and AR. I'm looking forward to learning from them and the impressive speakers lined up.! Nicely done and I hope it will create a lot of interest. Is there any way some parts of this festival can be streamed and recorded (e,g, the two keynote speakers) for interested people to access. Could a small fee be charged? Just wondering.
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2021-10-26 4:28:39am
    At this point the agenda for the April 1-2 XR Festival exists only in broad outline, so we have time to incorporate good ideas such as you suggest. Thank you for them, and watch for how they appear in the plan!
    Jim Aderman 2021-10-26 2:52:40pm
    This is a great idea! With wonderful potential for kingdom building.
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2021-10-27 3:06:42am
    Thanks for your comment, Jim. We'll see how the Holy Spirit works out the potential in this venture. We're calling on the ingenuity of our good Christian young people to come up with ideas, and from experience we know they are good at that. But primarily, it reminds young people how they can use their interests and skills, whatever they might be, to engage in Gospel outreach mission work.