As I began reading this chapter on The Student as Global Communicator and Collaborator I got to the fifth line and the word ‘Empathy’ jumped off the page. Right from the get-go I was thrown for a loop of what I thought this chapter would be about and what it was actually. My first thought was having kids do online projects with others around the world to get a more global perspective – but to learn empathy – this really is the key to sooo many things that we teach our students and our own children. I immediately went back to a source I have read in the past by Michele Borba, Ed.D called Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to do the Right Thing. In this book she states that “Although children are born with the capacity for empathy, it must be properly nurtured, or it will remain dormant.” Going on she states that “Empathy-the ability to identify with and feel another person’s concerns-is the foundation of moral intelligence.” It is “what enhances humanness, civility and morality.” I know this is a tech class and not a character education course but November goes on to quote a CEO who believes “empathy is the most important skill students can master.” This seems pretty important to me!
Now, where does Technology fit into all this? Skype – in my opinion, the long distance communication tool of my generation – seems to be a perfect place to start. I used Skype last year with a group of boys who were participating in a book group in class. One of their members was out for an entire week, so we did their book club meetings using Skype to ensure everyone was involved – they LOVED it! I am in the process of arranging to communicate and collaborate with a school where I taught 14 years ago. This school is located on an Indian reservation in WA and we hope to be in contact with them as they and we study Native Americans. I really hope it works out!
The other way to do communicate and collaborate is connect to students with an authentic audience by publishing their work online or collaborating with another school/classroom to be their audience. My students all have personal blogs through school. They feel such pride and excitement when we post on their blogs and then they see comments from family and friends around the world.
Some final thoughts are these – I was standing in the hallway the other day doing my quarterly bus duty when a group of lovely mothers that I know well, stopped to chat. They mentioned a presentation they had seen that day by NAIS President Pat Bassett who is visiting our school. He had shared his 21st Century Skills and Values:
Demonstrations of Learning – 5 C’s + 1
- Critical thinking
- Cosmopolitanism – cross cultural competency
It was when they began describing Cosmopolitanism that I began to make a connection. This is the +1 skill and value our learners must have. This is the EMPATHY piece that November was mentioning. I was further intrigued by his remaining C’s and watched the following TED talk featuring him, in my home town actually. He takes you through his thinking on the educational shifts that will be occurring in independent schools around the globe. But it was his final piece that really struck me; students will move from “High stakes testing..to..high value demonstrations” – This means that students of the future will no longer be chosen by universities for their score on high-stakes tests, but rather they will submit their K-12 digital portfolio which will include their speeches, artwork, elegant mathematical solutions, robots, etc. It will be their digital presence! Very cool and scary at the same time!
Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing by Michele Borba (Sep 25, 2002)
Quotes taken from Who Owns the Learning: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age by Alan November; 2012 by Solution Tree Press
TEDxSaintGeorgesSchool – Pat Bassett – Schools of the Future http://youtu.be/y0cqrhvgBB0