It is all about Empathy. The Course #2 Final Project

Our Course #2 final project goal was to create a collection of resources that would help educators teach … Empathy. Empathy was one of the key elements of this COETAIL course. Our main focus was the ISTE standard for Educators 3.a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that builds relationships and community.
Our group (Simona Schultz, Christel Toilier, Paul Mooney, Luis Moreno, and myself) gathered to create a collection of great resources for other teachers. As our team consists of 5 participants, we came up with the title Hi 5! Resources. “Hi 5!” shout out itself sounds very positive and friendly.

A Better World – YouTube

All of us tried to look at teaching empathy from our own perspectives. I’ve developed a unit plan on teaching empathy through online digital tools, empowering students for online communication and collaboration by writing reflective blog posts. By sharing their posts, students could also contribute to the school community. Simona, as an artist, decided to spread kindness teaching empathy through the art lessons and uploaded her lesson plans accompanied by visual materials, created by herself. Paul decided to make his contribution to our website as an IB teacher and relate an empathy topic with his TOK lessons. Luis works as an Educational Technology Coordinator and Christel is Teacher-Librarian at the MHS Library decided to share even more exciting ways to teach empathy.
This collaboration project made us know each other better. Our first communication was via email, however, we came up with a common decision that Twitter Chat would be more efficient for quick and effective communication. One of the collaboration challenges was getting to live communication knowing the fact about the different tines zones we all live at the moment – South Korea, Brussels, Panama, Lithuania…

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

During the Course #2 I was greatly excited and pleased by opportunities of global collaboration. I’ve familiarized myself with such projects as Ematico and PenPal Schools. These resources inspired me for global communication even more. Even after a great experience of 7 Traveling Tales 🙂 Participation in similar projects is very effective while teaching empathy – you can see it grow with the involvement of every additional school and student from somewhere out there in the wide world.

Working on this project I felt even more nostalgic about our school. This school year we are not coming back to school because of the pandemic, even though it has passed it’s highest peak in our country. I feel that mostly I would like to come back to school and teach the unit about empathy as well as empower students’ communication and contribution to our small school community. Can’t wait to test it out 🙂

Empower to Foster Contribution

“Dos” and “Don’ts”

My biggest take away from the University was: “We have to keep telling our children what to do, but not what not to do”.
This is a common mistake all adults make. They are afraid that children (or students) will take risks and “burn their fingers”. They always say: “Don’t touch!”, “Don’t share your private information online!”, “Don’t visit untrusted websites!”. Don’t….. Don’t….. Don’t…… and many more “DON’TS”.
Meanwhile, what’s happening in the child’s head? – “Hmm…What should I do then?”
My biggest belief is that we have to take our children and students to that dark forest of what should be done and what shouldn’t together and explain all the dangers and advantages of doing something, let them try, let them explore. It is their life and they have to be ready for their future life. How else can children learn and satisfy their curiosity? How will they know, that oven might be hot if they have never touched it?
Students need their own real-life experiences, good or bad. It is amazing, how many new fantastic ideas students come up with when they are allowed to use the online environment and explore/try its opportunities. I found this TedTalk really powerful: Extracurricular empowerment (McLeod, TEDxDesMoines).

Most schools have technology Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) which contain lots of negative phrases. How about an Empowered Use Policy (EUP) instead? In other words, instead of saying “NO, NO, NO!” all the time, how about saying yes? Scott Mcleod (http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/)
I personally agree with this statement. Students got used to hearing restrictions quite often at school. When I ask my students about internet safety they usually begin a sentence from a word don’t. Then, I ask them to paraphrase – “What should we do?” For example: If I can’t share my password with anyone, what should I do with my password? Students get confused, but sooner or later they give me a positive statement, and eventually, they learn it.

Contribution Wanted

Technology is a powerful tool and I can only imagine how this COVID-19 pandemic situation would affect education without all the technology tools. Online communication skills are extremely valuable at the moment. They are very useful during all the collaborative projects with between various grade levels, other local schools, or even schools all over the world.

Over the past several years, our school has been participating in the creation of 7 Travelling Tales. The purpose of Travelling Tales is to raise one or more Global Goals related problems, that, through the digital storytelling, is then developed in the tale, as well as solved at the end. Five different schools around the world collaborate on the creation of one tale. It takes about 6-7 weeks for the tale to be completed. I have to warn you – this project is contagious. Once we tried participating in it and now we can’t stop. It has some great advantages like – teamwork in the classroom. Everyone is involved in the process, everyone takes turns in order to suggest his/her own contribution. Students are so engaged in this project. They take Global Goals for Sustainable Development very seriously. Thanks to the Travelling Tale projects, almost all of our elementary students know almost all Global Goals for sustainable development. Travelling Tale is also a great tool for teaching empathy. I can only imagine, how many more students around the world found out the same generally relevant and valuable information.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id3w0IA81cA

One day colleague of mine – a Russian teacher – asked me about her students’ (Russian learners) participation in this project. Joel Bevans was happy to hear about our idea and gave us all permissions, as well as necessary online tools in order to help us make our tale come true. We made it happen and I value this experience even more. This time, I was searching for possible participants, and this way I could make new great connections with teachers in our country. It wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it 🙂 Can’t wait to do it again.
I often remember our first TT, which included 4 different continents. Incredible and so simple as well. We all have connections and it is so powerful when we all come together for the same generous purpose.
Participation in this project really pushes students to think about other people around the world, living without food in poverty, nature, and animals that are killed just because of our constant need for convenience. This way students become more empathetic regarding all those global problems. Empathy is a key factor in this project.

“We aren’t destroying the biosphere because we are selfish. We are doing it simply because we are unaware.”
– Greta Tunberg (Gowthaman, 29th Sep 2019)

It is amazing, how huge is the impact of Greta Tunberg’s ideas on many of us. Personally, I think that children’s strong voice can be heard even better, compared to any adult. We all are more sensitive about children and awareness raised by them sounds more important. Being part of participatory culture, youth often contributes to spreading a word and raising awareness about global issues by communicating through social media.

While writing this post I’ve found several great resources, which I will try using in the future while teaching Empathy and help students become more connected with other students all over the world:

Empatico – Communicating with another class on the other side of the globe is a great way of exchanging all kinds of experience – from personal thoughts to academic knowledge. While using this platform, students’ motivation to learn raises nearly 100%! I found this really useful while teaching geography, cultural facts and of course, empathy. Here is one of the examples of how this kind of project can be very successful.

PenPal schools is another online collaboration project, which has really caught my eye. This great tool/project allows communication between students all over the world with teacher support and assistance. PenPal Schools connects half a million students from 150 countries to practice writing, create original projects, and make friends from around the world. This is a great way of learning proper online communication. The world is so close to us now 🙂

What’s on your digital plate today?

Think before you post! This is the PHRASE I use when I begin teaching my students appropriate behavior online. Posting online can be useful and harmful together. By demonstrating a specific behavior, people can shape our opinion about them. Everyone, who posts or “scrolls” online creates his/her own digital shadow. As an educator, I do care about my own digital shadow as wells as my students’ shadows too. When your digital traces are put together to create stories about you or profiles of you, these become your digital shadows. These can give others huge insight into your life, and they can also be totally wrong. Either way, once they’re out there, they are almost impossible to control… Me and My Shadow

However, the phrase “Think before you post” can be used in way more situations, than for regular communication online. How many of us, participants of this COETAIL journey, have stopped to think if it is appropriate to post some of our thoughts to the public. I have. Just because I care about my reputation and I feel responsible for sharing my opinion and appropriate information, but surely still learning to get things done well using various forms of media. But are we all thinking the same way? Are all of the online contributors taking responsibility for the content they are posting?

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

According to Pew Research Center, today around seven-in-ten Americans use social media connecting with each other, engaging with news content, sharing information, or simply entertaining themselves. Moreover, social media is part of people’s daily routine. This means it is really important to think before you post, because of a huge audience who can access the content you have posted. Media shapes our understanding of the surrounding world very often. That’s why it is recommended to everyone, who reads media news online to train your “skeptical eye”. This term was suggested by Media smarts in the “Sorting Fact from Fiction” article. They recommend paying extra attention to the following factors on sorting out fake news/facts:
Non-news content, such as ads and opinion pieces, that looks like news;
– Entirely false news stories, including satire and fake stories that purport to be true;
– Genuine news stories which are significantly compromised by the source’s bias
.
Moreover, research suggests that most people judge a news source based in part on whether it looks like news.

What is Media Literacy?

According to Frank W. Baker, this term can be split apart – media and literacy. Media is a well-known term for all of us which includes the internet, newspaper, magazines, television, etc. Literacy is the ability to read, write, write, and comprehend. Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom, 2nd Edition

We want students who can read, write, think critically, and contribute to society.
– Frank W. Baker

Curiosity and Truth

Being an educator of 21st-century education, I feel big responsibility of preparing students to be active and “professional/smart” contributors to our online community. No matter if my students are quite young for this – they are also reached by media every day. For example: at home by watching TV, especially, if they are doing it together with their older siblings, who are very often a role model as well. So how can we help our students balance their media diet? Here is a good video that can help us do that – it talks about the media diet that can help students understand how modern media makes a good show and look beyond the news that is fed to them (suitable even for young students).

My biggest take away from this video is a tip on reading more different news feeds in order to be able to recognize misinformation and bias information. This broadens our understanding of the content we are receiving from some resources, also, it is possible to do the fact-checking and avoid irrelevant information. Moreover reading more of different resources, allows us to find out something new and exciting, increasing the level of curiosity.

Fact-checking is one of the most important processes in any research process. I teach my grade 5 students research every year. We agree on at least three different resources for fact-checking. Teaching research is impossible without media literacy elements. Together with my students, we discover various media forms during this process – we read magazines, watch YouTube videos, read blogs, explore websites (professional and other), etc. During these classes, we also compare examples of various media forms, discuss when is it appropriate to use them for certain research topics – when can we use bias informational resources and when do we need scientific facts as well as specialized websites.

For example: “What people think about our government in the 21st-century?” For this type of research bias information is exactly what we need. But how can we know that this kind of bias information is actually written by people and not “Bots” (automated accounts capable of posting content or interacting with other users with no direct human involvement)? Scary, isn’t it? This is just another great example of how we can be uncertain of whom we are communicating with on the other side of the monitor. The rise of “fake news” and the proliferation of doctored narratives that are spread by humans and bots online are challenging publishers and platforms. The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online (Pew Research Center)

In essence, today we all have to be our own librarians, researchers, and fact-checkers. “Authentication 101 – Introduction” (Media Smarts)

My younger students create posts on Seesaw. This is a great platform for the discussion on “How my post should look like?” and “How can I help my peers by leaving a meaningful comment?” or “What can we say about each other from our contributions?”. Also, “How can sharing our learning outcomes help us shape our understanding of how we learn?” and even more – “Who we are as different personas with individual points of view?” or “What happens if some of us begin adding wrong information?”. Therefore, comparing our small Seesaw community with other media and social media platforms can show that similar processes happening all around us and we are going to be part of it in the future. Similar discussions help build a basic understanding of media literacy and the diversity of information around us.

No need to mention that all educators are role models for their students. Our example is really important. Writing this blog is a great example of how digital tools can be successfully and appropriately used for sharing knowledge and good ideas with the community. I could share this with my students.

Privacy Matters

While thinking about privacy online I remembered my personal experience with this matter. I always used to turn off my location sharing on my old cellphone. Unfortunately, one day I broke it and got a better one. This new device made me much happier. All the apps were working faster and better, I could use map navigation without any difficulties. It was so convenient! However, once I had to take my car to service, therefore I had to use public transport. When I got to a bus stop, my new phone was very kind to send me a notification with the schedule of buses coming soon. Obviously, I forgot to change my location sharing setting. This made me rethink how all of the convenience provided by the technology could bring possible danger to my privacy.

From: https://privacyinternational.org/

On the other hand, once I accidentally left my cellphone in a store. When I got back home, I realized, that I don’t have it. I immediately “Googled” how to find a location of my phone and Google helped me out 🙂 Find your phone only required to sign into my Google account and I could right away know the current location of my phone! The next morning I came back to the store and got my cellphone back. I was lucky that people were fair and kept my cellphone safely in order to return it to me. Yap, sometimes when your head is a mess – technology might be helpful even without respecting your privacy.

EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy By Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel

If you would like to make sure your privacy is protected while using smartphones, here are some useful tips that were emphasized by By Stuart A. Thompson and Gus Wezerek in an article – “Three steps to protect your phone
Firstly, making sure, that your device isn’t sharing your location with apps. This can be changed in your device settings. It’s great, that after disabling it your locations still will be known to emergency responders.
Secondly, disable your mobile ID. Your ID will not be sent to advertisers and app makers anymore.
And lastly – prevent Google from storing your location. Go to your account’s location activity controls and turning off location sharing.

Participatory culture and privacy

According to the research (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) students have to develop textual literacy as a central skill in the twenty-first century in order to become a part of participatory culture. They must be able to read and write. Moreover, new media literacies should be considered as a social skill.

Youth must expand their required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for the new. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Being a part of participatory culture enables students to take care of their personal data protection. Meanwhile, educators inevitably take an essential role in this process. Common communication in the digital environment requires knowledge of data protection.

In such a world, youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

There are so many regulations on data protection such as GPPR – General Data Protection Regulation – really important in all EU countries. FERPA – Federal privacy law that applies to educational agencies and institutions and applicable programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. IDEA – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy is a great guide to any educator. It includes all of the descriptions of regulations with scenarios.

As a teacher working in one of the EU countries I have to be familiar with and follow GDPR, which had a very big impact on my day to day job. It made me read all the policies even better, check compliance of online tools with GDPR regulations, etc. We have to keep our students’ names, birth dates as well as other sensitive information private. Almost nothing can be shared online without prior parents’ agreement. This created many difficulties in communication and collaboration with students from other schools. For example, before sharing any students’ works to exchange the experience, all the names have to be removed.

My role at school is to ensure the maximum level of students’ privacy and make sure publicly accessible data complies with GDPR regulations. I think all teachers need to have at least a basic understanding of how to protect students’ privacy online as well as be able to explain the main privacy concepts and even more importantly… browser/smartphone settings to students in order to ensure a secure educational process using online tools. This is mostly applicable to Middle and High school students where students are using personal cellphones. As an elementary teacher, I have to make sure, that I provide appropriate digital tools as well as ensure privacy settings on the devices, provided by our school. A great online tool for all educators to begin taking care of students’ privacy – Common Sense Media – it lists out essential steps for enabling a safe digital environment for students. Check out the list of evaluated online resources.