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 🙂

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