What do third graders in Pakistan and Arkansas have in common? They’re about to find out. I’m excited to introduce Empatico, a free, online tool that recently launched with the bold vision of enabling more than one million students to discover how their peers around the world live. Along the way, students will explore similarities and differences with curiosity and kindness, while practicing communication and leadership skills needed to succeed in an interdependent world.
Empatico is a product that’s co-designed with teachers, which means that every decision we make as a team is rooted in feedback from the classroom. We’ve worked to identify the greatest pain points experienced by teachers as they think about connecting their students to peers in different parts of the world.
After speaking with 100+ teachers who are passionately teaching students about other cultures and different life experiences, we’ve identified the top three common pain points:
- Identifying and connecting to teachers in other countries is a time-consuming, manual process.
- Teachers lack access to valuable content that’s fun for students and easy to plug into existing curriculum.
- Incorporating live video technology in the classroom can be a challenge.
To address these challenges, we’ve created one-stop shop for virtual exchange
Empatico matches classrooms through an easy-to-use online platform. The platform combines live video technology, seamless connections (meaning teachers are automatically matched and can communicate within the platform), and high quality activities that are research-based and designed specifically for 8-10 year olds – all in one place.
Teachers will save time as they no longer have to toggle between applications to find other interested teachers, schedule a connection, and find the right activities. Best of all, Empatico is (and always will be) completely free to use.
How does Empatico work?
Empatico recently launched in English for classrooms with students ages 8-10. To get started, teachers can sign up on empatico.org. You’ll need an internet connection and a computer with a camera. Matches happen automatically between classrooms at least 100 miles apart. They are based on the availability and activity preferences teachers share when they sign up.
Empatico activities are designed to promote greater understanding of similarities and differences and help students build character skills like curiosity and kindness. Currently Empatico offers four activities on universal topics – like play, weather, geography, and students’ contributions to their communities – to expand kids’ world view beyond their classroom and community. Over the coming months, we plan to collect feedback to continue to improve the tool and release more content and features.
Why is Empatico limited to third and fourth graders?
Neuroscience suggests that changing the adult mind is an uphill battle because so much of our brain has already been wired, and we have developed default assumptions about those who are different. In 8-10-year-olds, however, biases have yet to become deeply rooted. Around this time, kids are asking questions about their place in the world. Giving them an opportunity to develop this curiosity and have positive experiences with diverse people can strongly influence how they perceive others in the future. We aspire to make global exchanges a normal part of kids’ educational journey; hoping that someday it will be a widely-adopted way for kids to connect with one another and explore their similarities and differences. We’re starting in English with 3rd and 4th graders, and will expand to other languages and ages from there.
We’re looking for passionate educators to help us shape the Empatico experience
Empatico is in the early stages of development. We’ve been working with leading technologists, passionate educators, and global education experts to create the beta version. Now we’re looking for feedback from teachers so we can continue to improve the Empatico experience and make sure it is the best tool possible for classrooms.
Sign up for free today at empatico.org
We’re partnering with organizations like the Teach SDGs Task Force, Ashoka, Teach For All, and Participate to spread the word about Empatico and hope you’ll join us to ensure as many students as possible have access to global exchange opportunities.
Author bio: Kristin Ohnstad is Director of Business Development at Empatico. She was formerly Chief Program Officer at Blue Engine, an education startup in NYC, and Vice President of Strategy at Teach For America. Kristin got her start in social impact work as a journalist in international child adoption and advocacy and as a 2nd grade teacher in California. She has been working ever since to ensure all kids can realise their potential and pursue the opportunities they deserve.