As all teachers know, the education of a child involves much more than filling a head with facts to be regurgitated on a test. We want more; we want to prepare young people for their role in society, we want to help them become caring human beings and rounded individuals who will go on to make a positive contribution to the world. So what role does technology play in cultivating the global citizens we hope our students will become?
The true power of technology in the classroom lies in its ability to help students build authentic, creative, and collaborative relationships through which they can learn and grow. Being able to engage in global synchronous and asynchronous conversations enables our students to make the necessary leap of imagination needed to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and develop empathy.
To conclude a unit of study about the hydrosphere, I challenged my students to identify a community struggling with water related issues. They were required to develop an action plan, implement and evaluate it. Their research covered the globe and they finally decided to help the people of Zambia by acquiring an Ecodome waterless toilet for a small village called Chilupula. After many emails, and with the assistance of the co-founder of Project Cope in Lusaka, they were eventually able to connect with the village via Skype. They were beyond excited to explain the plan but their bubble was burst when the head tribesman told them that they already had an Ecodome toilet.
They were initially stunned into silence as their plan disintegrated, but then an amazing thing happened. They began to have a real conversation. They started to ask questions about life in the village, about farming and the environment and the challenges the villagers faced. And right there a relationship was born. Technology has allowed my students to learn first-hand about the fears, frustrations and aspirations of their Zambian friends, and they are committed to improving their quality of life. They are now leveraging technology to raise funds for the village to buy two two-wheel tractors, which will help kick start a sustainable economy. They are creating and doing; they are developing crucial collaborative and interpersonal skills; they are learning on a much deeper level.
The true power of technology in the classroom lies in its ability to help students build authentic, creative, and collaborative relationships.
The potential of technology to positively impact learning – not to merely facilitate the delivery of curriculum- is real. If we use it to facilitate the development of empathy in our children, we are more likely to nurture world problem solvers who can eliminate their own assumptions and generate genuine solutions.
As educators we are fortunate to be able to utilize technology to activate the dispositions that our students need to thrive both now and in the future.