I may be dating myself when I reference “Ebony and Ivory,” but do you know Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s song? It was released in 1982 and became #1 on the Billboard chart for seven weeks not long afterward. While it was meant to address racism, I do believe that the song has some relevance to my topic. Before I discuss my issue, though, in researching more information about “Ebony and Ivory,” History.com notes, “Without the black keys, the white keys on a piano would pretty much be stuck playing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ and ‘Do Re Mi.’ If you want anything more interesting than that . . . you’re going to have to get the two sets of keys working together” (par. 1). I like the way the authors added the last phrase, “you’re going to have to get the two sets of keys working together.” Racism is still a problem today–a fairly big problem. People need to have more empathy for one another and remember to see every individual as a valuable human. Moreover, it takes having cultural empathy to help people overcome their differences. Racism is just one part of that.
I am looking at ISTE standard number 7, “Global Collaborator,” specifically element 7a, which says, “Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning” (ISTE). The question I am asking this week is, “How can digital tools help students demonstrate multicultural empathy?”
I read a great TED-Ed blog related to empathy entitled “4 Ways to Cultivate Empathy in the Classroom.” I like this article, how simplistic their advice was, and how easy it would be to implement them in the classroom. They are:
- “#TravelingTuesday: Inspire an overall LOVE of learning in your students by connecting them to people and places outside the walls of your classroom or school.”
- “Leaning into discomfort: Encourage students to embrace difficult and courageous conversations to build understanding and empathy.”
- “Expand collaboration opportunities: Build or modify an activity that asks the students to interact with another student, teacher, parent, or friend outside of their classroom.”
- “The world is your classroom: create a class of global literate students that have greater empathy and understanding.” For this last one, the author added six additional steps to help expound on her point.
I want to note the writer of #4’s first point because it will tie in with my digital tool. Preshoff states, “Create connections with other classrooms across the globe and listen to their stories” (4). While there are many digital tools to allow students to connect with others worldwide, I want to offer GridPals an excellent digital tool for students (link here). Way back, when the internet was a baby, people had to send actual letters to one another to reach each other worldwide. Today, we can connect with people immediately regardless of where they are in the world. GridPals, through FlipGrid, allows students in classrooms to communicate with other students somewhere else in the world. This is a great tool to help build multicultural empathy. The addition of video gives students the opportunity to be seen and heard instead of sending a handwritten letter and some photographs via “snail mail.” Also, because of the speed of technology (the internet), the messages can be received in minutes rather than weeks. A teacher could set aside time each week for students to connect with their “pal.”
Before any of this occurs, though, I think students must look at themselves to gauge what social identities are important to them: ethnicity, race, first language, etc. I have to give my colleague credit for pointing out the importance of understanding oneself to help cultivate multicultural empathy. Thanks, Karen! She also provided me information on helping someone discover their social identity using a “social identity wheel” (you can find a whole lesson here, and you can find Karen’s blog here).
One of the lines in McCartney’s song says, “We all know that people are the same where ever you go.” I think that what McCartney is saying is that, although we live in different cultures, come from different backgrounds, we are all humans. I hope that students will make an effort first to see each other as humans regardless of location, then empathy is something that will come more naturally.
Graham, E. (2018, January 15). 4 ways to cultivate empathy in the classroom. Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://blog.ed.ted.com/2018/01/15/4-ways-to-get-your-students-to-be-more-empathetic/
Iste. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://www.iste.org/
Offered by LSA technology services. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/