Empathy in Ed Tech

Educational technology (ed tech) is used in most classrooms in some form. Whether it is an app, software, or videos, ed tech encourages critical thinking and creativity. Now, ed tech is being leveraged to encourage socio-emotional learning and empathy.

Humans come equipped with an innate bias to empathize more with people who look like us. It is important to actively work to deconstruct this cognitive behavior in the classroom and highlight social impacts.

Rusul Alrubail, executive director of the Parkdale Centre for Innovation in Toronto, Canada, recently attended the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. In writing for the PBS NewsHour about her experience learning how other teachers utilize ed tech to build empathy, she says:

“I met Edgar Ochoa, a seventh grade social studies teacher from Phoenix, Arizona, who uses Cisco’s Global Problem Solvers (GPS), part of the tech giant’s Corporate and Social Responsibility initiative. It consists of an animated series made up of characters and an activity that challenges students to create their own solutions to real-world problems… Social impact projects are also a great opportunity for cross-grade level collaboration, so the older students work together to mentor the younger students.”​

More from ISTE20

PBS Learning Media has a new interactive platform, and on it there is a lesson called Design Apps that Help Others and Build Empathy. This lesson not only teaches students to build empathy, but also gives them practical ways to make their ideas a reality, from learning how to make a pitch to potential investors to navigating the US patent process.

The PBS NewsHour also has a section of their website devoted to invention education. There, students can learn about inventions that have improved society and the environment. Then, they are challenged to create their own invention to address a current issue in their community. ​

10 lesson plans on invention that will change the world | Lesson Plan | PBS NewsHour Extra

Because the ed tech industry is growing exponentially, it is important to evaluate the tech offered at schools and for parents to ascertain if it truly will help children learn. Using ed tech to build empathy equips kids with a valuable skill set so they can make the world a better place.

Reality Changing Observations:

1. Have you ever used technology to make someone else’s life better?

2. Why is it important to learn to empathize with people who are dissimilar to you?

3. How could social media be used to teach empathy?

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