Build Empathy: Connect Students to Others

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree

One of the greatest advantages of today’s technology is the power of connection. If we weren’t aware of it before the Covid19 pandemic, we are now. As a teacher in a rural Missouri high school, I always look for ways to expand the world for my students. Our community is small and is very supportive of our students, and while I bring in guest speakers from the community each year and value what they can offer my students, technology allows me to broaden our definition of community.

There will be an answer, let it be

I know that many of my students have never been out of the state, flown on a plane, or even come close to experiencing another culture. And, yet, in my room, for 50 minutes, they can (not so much the plane experience, but you know…) During the 2018-19 school year, I connected my students in a project based learning experience with students Rachelle Dene Poth’s students in Pennsylvania and with her, connected our students to classrooms in Argentina, and Spain. I watched my Spanish students engage with students in other countries, learn about their lives there, and share about their lives here. I knew then, (really really really knew) as I watched students find commonalities and connections among the differences, that this was how we build a global community.

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

So this year, my students participated in the DigCit Kids global digital summit with Marialice Curran and crew in October and connected with students from Mexico, New York, Texas, and more. My Spanish students spoke with students in Mexico about what it means to be a digital global citizen, and my English II students exchanged ideas with students from other states about how they work to be inclusive, share their voice with the world, solve problems, and empower others. We then connected with the educational technology company, Buncee, and discussed the careers they offered plus how they work to make their product more representative of people all over the world.

There will be an answer, let it be

As my students used Buncee to create social media public service announcements (PSAs) to promote the 5 digital citizenship competencies promoted by digcitcommit.org: Inclusive, Informed, Engaged, Balanced, and Alert, I discussed with them how their choices of clipart could also represent people who don’t look like them. We shared their PSAs on our district’s social media platforms throughout the rest of the first semester. The impact this had on students was incredible. One sophomore student was quite amazed that they could actually talk to the people behind the edtech tool we use in class.

"Character is not created in isolation or repose; it's forged through interaction with others, and the world." ~ David Corbett

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be

Another sophomore shared this quote with me by David Corbett regarding our video conference with Mexico, “Character is not created in isolation or repose; it’s forged through interaction with others, and the world.” She said that “When we interacted with them, it just was interesting to see the difference in the way they learn in their classroom, and it was cool that we were able to do that.” Another student said, “Participating in the DigCit Summit and connecting with other students from different parts of the country was a very interesting and cool experience. I liked hearing about how we lived differently and also how we live similarly.” By tearing down our classroom walls, we can build empathy in our students for others, give them a voice, and the tools to make our world a better place, starting now.

Headings are partial lyrics from the song Let It Be by John Lennon / Paul McCartney,
Let It Be lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

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