What would happen if we provided our students with the opportunity to develop empathy through global connections while recognizing their need to communicate academic learning with various audiences? Recently, in Elizabeth Aderholdt’s fourth grade class, she has been doing just that! With the free program, Empatico.org, the fourth graders in this class were connected with other classrooms from across the globe.
The mission for Empatico is best explained by their Founder, who also happens to be the Founder & CEO of KIND Snacks:
We want kids to adopt a sense of responsibility to other human beings. This should not only help them understand how to prevent conflict, and how to develop critical listening skills that will come handy in their own lives, but also to positively cement the areas of their own identity that they can be proud of. It should also help a new generation of leaders recognize our shared responsibility to solve society’s biggest challenges.
Daniel Lubetzky – CEO & Founder at KIND
This global connection is relevant to our vision at Feaster Charter because we also work to prepare our learners for a multi-cultural society. This is one tool that we can use to keep our students connected globally instead of simply locally.
Once a teacher has logged in, chosen a lesson and available times, they are connected with another educator. Together, they plan out the questions and logistics behind the video chat. Right before the video chat, both teachers log onto their Empatico accounts and the video connection begins right from the Empatico website!
During this chat, I instantly saw the students light up because they were given a different audience to connect with. To them, their learning had a purpose beyond gaining knowledge for an assignment or assessment. Together, both classes recognized that they had the opportunity to demonstrate their learning and gain a different perspective.
The video connection also allows time for a Q&A session. This is where I saw the students really come to life and demonstrate their social intelligence. Through this interaction, I saw how meaningful this connection is to the development of communication and leadership skills. Students on both ends are given the opportunity to ask relevant questions and hear others’ responses which allows them to contribute to the academic growth of others, build and potentially maintain a relationship, and foster leadership skills as they facilitate a group discussion.
The Empatico connections give the opportunity for students to explore learning beyond their own classroom and even beyond their own cities.
- Collaboration: students are collaborating within their classrooms and with their partner class throughout the lesson by exploring standards and academic concepts as they facilitate conversations.
- Communication: learners are given a different audience to communicate with so that they can share their thoughts and hear the thoughts of others. This helps them recognize other perspectives and communicate their own perspectives with audiences who may not have as much in common with them as their school peers.
- Critical Thinking: during the Q&A portion, students are given the opportunity to think beyond what they have researched during their lesson. This, often times, requires them to think from another perspective other than their own, which helps develop empathy.
- Creativity: throughout the process, students are “open and responsive to the perspectives of others” (P21 Framework)
All of these skills are relevant to the academic standards and applied throughout the learning connection.
- Global Connections: students learn about others and participate in meaningful interactions.
- Social Emotional Learning: in elementary school, students can learn how to develop positive perceptions of others and be well informed about their own identities and the identities of others.
- Perspective: students have their own perspectives and, now, they can work to recognize the perspectives of others who may have a different life experience partly because of their geographical locations.
- Academics: lessons and activities are planned out and teachers can collaborate together to make them best supportive and effective for their learning environments.
- Teacher Professional Learning Network (PLN): connecting with other educators from around the world can help us reflect on and develop new best practices.
- Audience: students are now learning to share and collaborate globally with others who are also participating in a shared learning experience. Emaptico provides the lesson, connection, and platform for our learners to share their thoughts globally while hearing the thoughts of others living elsewhere.
After the video connection, in Ms. Aderholdt’s class, students were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and take aways during a brief trust circle. They reflected on the academic concepts they now know because of this lesson and they reflected on the thoughts and ideas that they learned because of the conversation with their partner class. Both classes plan to continue the connection using Flipgrid to record their reflections and watch the reflections from their partner class.
Starting with third through fifth grade, this program works to develop not only empathy through global connections but also a connected learning that includes lessons based on grade level standards. Recently, it has expanded to include first through fifth grades!