Global learning and social and emotional learning (SEL) are two increasingly important concepts in education–and rightly so. With global learning, educators develop teaching strategies to ensure students have the knowledge and skills to investigate the world, weigh perspectives, communicate ideas and take action. Educators also integrate SEL competencies into a variety of content areas to help students “apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Individually both of these concepts are terrific, but coupled together they make for a powerful and deeply meaningful learning experience for students.

Earlier this year when we discussed SEL and global competencies we shared that these concepts blend together nicely because with SEL we first understand who we are, the emotions we have, and how to manage them. Once we are able to grasp these concepts and manage them, we can move into how we interact with others. That’s where the beauty of global learning comes in.

Students must apply SEL skills to many of global learning concepts, such as recognizing one’s own perspectives and the perspectives of others, communicating ideas and taking action. In line with this idea, Brandon Wiley, Ed.D. (@Bwileyone) of Buck Institute for Education has said, “Students generally want to make a difference in the world, locally, globally or both. High quality projects can capitalize on students’ passions and innate curiosity about why things are the way they are, especially things they perceive as unjust.” So the question is not if this is possible, but how it is possible? What are tools and opportunities that allow students to have these important experiences?

One way to blend global learning and SEL is through Project-Based Learning (PBL). Our Project-Based Learning Q&A blog post offers guidance on how to get started with PBL in a meaningful way. Another way to get started is through technology tools. This school year, there is a new tool from Empatico, an initiative of the KIND Foundation. Empatico is a free technology tool which helps elementary school teachers connect to classrooms around the world to collaborate on learning activities, each of which authentically interweaves global learning and SEL strategies.

SEL Benefits from Global Connections

Curiosity and kindness. These are two themes Empatico wants to spark in students. How do curiosity and kindness map to global learning and SEL? Curiosity encourages students to investigate the world by learning beyond what is familiar. Empatico connects students with their peers from around the world and allows them to work together on learning activities.

By provoking exploration of similarities and differences with others, Empatico builds understanding and impacts the way students navigate their classrooms, community, and world. The curiosity sparked by these connections also enables students to develop their social awareness as they begin to learn about the students in their partner classroom. Through this learning students may begin to understand and develop, new perspectives. Kindness is also a facet of both global learning and SEL. To communicate effectively with diverse audiences, some basic level of kindness must be present. By interacting with classrooms around the world, students will have a chance to deepen their communication skills and work on being kind to one another. Something as simple as learning how to take turns while speaking on a video platform can be seen as a kindness. Kindness is also foundational to building and maintaining positive, healthy, and rewarding relationships.

I am sure you are thinking, “this all sounds great but, what are the activities and how will students actually develop global competence and SEL skills?” Empatico’s activities have been created in partnership with Educurious, and they are high-quality, standards-based content, so your students can deepen their learning with one another. All of the activities on Empatico follow a three step progression to deepen learning:

  1. Activate: An entry activity that helps students connect their prior knowledge of the topic to what they’ll learn. The activity starts with the knowledge students currently have and provides context before new knowledge is presented.
  2. Interact: A live video interaction where students meet their partner classroom and discover new ideas and perspectives about the topic. Partner school interactions deepen learning as students apply knowledge to different contexts and practice perspective-taking and communication skills.
  3. Reflect: A Reflection Circle is an activity that strengthens learning and helps students understand their perspectives and those of others. Reflection Circles help students make sense of their developing ideas, build community, and encourage honest dialogue for students to navigate challenging issues and questions.

Check out the four activities called Spark activities on the site (Empatico plans to add more as the school year progresses).

Image Courtesy of Empatico.org

Creating a Globally Connected Classroom

In our Smart Planet series, we stressed that in order “to deliver quality education for all worldwide, we need exponential growth in collaboration among educators, students, parents and communities.” This growth happens through global partnerships, networks, and connections. Empatico is a great tool to bring together like-minded global educators in pursuit of profound learning experiences for students. The site itself is also easy to use. Empatico digitizes the manual process of finding like-minded teachers and it simplifies the scheduling logistics. The site also has its own technology integration built into it which is simple and easy to use even if it’s your first time bringing live video into your classroom. And best of all it’s all free.

If you and your students get started with Empatico, we encourage you to join us in the #SmartPlanet conversation.

Initial Focus on Ages 8-10

As an educator, I am sure you would agree with research that shows having early positive experiences with diverse types of people can strongly influence how children develop perceptions of others in the future. Empatico’s activities incorporate insights from child development research in order to create meaningful experiences and positive perceptions among children around the world. In addition to the research Empatico has pointed to, SEL research, as noted by CASEL, has also shown us that “the five sets of SEL competencies are important from very early in life but are especially relevant as children begin to spend time with adults outside the home and to socialize with peers”. While plans to expand to additional age groups are being considered by Empatico, the decision to first focus on young ages is a smart one and is backed by research.

How Do I Sign Up?

An early version of Empatico launches early November 2017 for teachers with students ages 8-10 who are conversational in English. To participate in Empatico, teachers must have access to at least one computer device with a camera. Visit empatico.org to sign up for access. Once you sign up you will complete four easy steps, and then you will be on your way to connecting to a partner classroom.

Image Courtesy of Empatico.org

If you are an educator looking to bring the world to your classroom, like testing new products, and want to blend global learning and SEL strategies as a part of your instruction, Empatico’s new online tool is one great place to start.

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