Is teaching empathy through technology possible? Empathy is a key element of Emotional Intelligence. Emotionally Intelligent people are able to manage and control their own emotions. Besides that, empathetic people pay attention not only to what they are feeling but also they can perceive someone’s thoughts and feelings.
Nowadays, empathy is one of the most important soft skills in the workplace and everyday life. An empathetic leadership style can have a positive impact on productivity, performance, and collaboration.
The importance of Empathy in the Classroom
Empathy is crucial for developing healthy relationships, and there’s tons of research on the importance of empathy in the classroom. First of all, teachers need to be empathetic, which means being able to listen to and be present for students. The more a teacher can empathize with students, the more the teacher will make students feel good about themselves, and safe to make mistakes. On the other hand, it’s necessary to teach empathy to students, from an early age.
It means that empathy is a skill that can be developed and learned. Considering the growing use of tech in the classroom, what’s the role that technology plays in teaching empathy?
How technology can help kids become empathetic digital citizens
VR immersion training is an effective teaching method to develop empathy. One of VR’s biggest strengths is its ability to tap into students’ emotions. Some studies have found that embodying avatars of other races can reduce racial bias. Another study developed by Stanford University and called “Becoming Homeless”, demonstrated that people who saw in virtual reality what it would be like to lose their jobs and homes developed longer-lasting compassion toward the homeless, compared to those who explored other media versions of the VR scenario, like text. So, what’s the benefit of virtual reality in education?
Firstly, VR allows them to learn new skills, including empathy, by creating the perceptual illusion of “embodiment”: introverted children can control their feelings and reactions and make practice in a “simulated reality”. This exercise will help them to develop their self-awareness and self-confidence, as well as their empathy.
What if VR is not available? In the last year, global education changed dramatically, with the rise of e-learning. In this scenario, it’s crucial to help students to become more responsible as digital citizens by building empathy in digital spaces through distance and remote learning tools.
Teachers are responsible to maintain the sense of connection and fun that normally students experience in the physical classroom. They also should be holding virtual office hours and offer new ways to engage with the classroom, without missing the social aspect of the learning experience.
Moreover, all the variety of digital tools and apps allow students to meet people and guest speakers from all over the world. This will help them to see new perspectives and to broaden their perspective. In fact, empathy and kindness come naturally with meeting people in different places.
Last but not least, online group work allows developing empathetic interaction among smaller groups of students. Teachers can encourage to work on cooperative tasks and this promotes the rise of collaboration, empathy and healthy relationships.
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