Empatico is a free platform, targeted to students aged 7-11, that helps classrooms connect in powerful ways. I’ve been collaborating globally since 2006 and have created more than 30 global collaborative projects in that time, co-winning the ISTE Online learning award with that first project in 2006. As I look for opportunities to collaborate, I look for simple, easy ways. If you teach children in the 7- to 11-year-old range, Empatico is a free tool that you should check out now. In this article, I’ll give you a review of the product, give you some classroom examples, and help you get started.
Creating Positive Experiences to Promote Diversity and Acceptance
First, I found this heartwarming Facebook post by Wendy Turner, 2017 Delaware Teacher of the Year. She is experiencing what I’ve also seen. When students at a young age have early positive experiences with diverse types of people, they are more willing to have positive perceptions of diverse peoples later in life. (See Lease, A. M., & Blake, J. J. (2005). A comparison of majority-race children with and without a minority-race friend. Social Development,14 (1), 20-41. also cited in this research brief about Empatico.)
When a researcher studied one of our projects all those years ago, I remember his finding that high school students who participated in a global collaborative project became less ethnocentric. This sort of change in perception and worldview often happens when a child travels at a young age. While not all of our children can afford to travel, all of our classrooms can afford to use Empatico, which is free. In fact, I might go so far as to say that our classrooms cannot afford to miss out on this.
In the video from the classroom led by Michael Dunlea and Stacie Delaney, they say something similar. For some background, Michael and Stacie’s class in New Jersey is predominantly white. They were paired with Melissa Collins from Memphis who has a predominantly black classroom. The classrooms (and teachers) have become very close (as you can tell from the video below.)
“I look at what we’re doing with the kids, and we’re providing them with those travel opportunities from the classroom.”
What is Empatico?
Empatico is a platform being incubated by the KIND Foundation which “fosters meaningful connections and empowers teachers and students to explore the world through experiences that spark curiosity, kindness and empathy.”
How Do Students Connect Using Empatico?
The Empatico platform connects two partner classrooms with live video, file sharing, and activities. These research- and standards-based activities are designed to promote meaningful interactions and positive perceptions among students.
The concept is that when students learn together and explore their similarities and differences with kindness and curiosity, they will develop practical communication and leadership skills. These hands-on activities cross cultural and geographic barriers.
Some of Empatico’s helpful features include:
- Student voice and communication with one another (the heart of what Empatico does)
- Easy for educators to plan together and connect as they join their classrooms
- A tool for scheduling the exchange that simplifies confusing time zones
- Simple activity plans to use with your classrooms (the work required has always been a challenge of collaborating globally, so this is fantastic!)
- Matching classrooms that are at least 300 miles or 483 kilometers apart (for a diverse community connection)
- Simple, stable tools that are there for you when you log in
- A free platform with a community of over 7,000 educators
I hope that all of you with classrooms who teach kids in the 7-11 age range will sign up for Empatico now and use this valuable tool. As I’ve shared in my books on global collaboration and in speeches around the world, children are the greatest textbook ever written for each other. I’ve also emphasized how we are building the bridges today that the society of tomorrow will walk across.
No one’s classroom is as diverse as it could be. Even a diverse classroom can be surprised when connecting with one that is not diverse! I think Empatico provides a fantastic opportunity for every classroom, and I hope you join in the powerful learning experiences!