Week 11: Educating for Critical Civic Empathy

I’m not asking for some all holy savior to come and coddle us
into equality
I’m asking for you to understand our struggles and our hardships
To understand that if we have to learn with each other we should also
learn about each other so we can bring each other up

– Excerpt from ‘Bored in 1st Period’ by Obasi Davis

Happy National Poetry Month!

Your blog posts this week are filled with powerful and provocative questions; thank you for your good work and make sure you catch up with each others work if you haven’t had a chance.

Let’s also takes some time to give feedback to each others Connected Learning and Equity slides (not yet shared beyond this group). I can make a final copy of our slideshow for next week; this week take a look at what others contributed and see if there is anything else you’d like to add or ask about before we share it online.

Good work, everyone!

Over the next two weeks, I’d like to organize our work around the question “What rises when the focus is on teaching and equity?” and to start our exploration with a focus on empathy and connected teaching.


What is empathy? Let’s do some exploration of that this week, starting with Brené Brown:

Then spend some time this week with Educating for Empathy: Literacy Learning and Civic Engagement. Read pages 7-14 and then Chapter 4, Navigating the Digital Public Sphere Through Connected Learning (and Teaching). (Note that I requested this for the library but I’m not sure it’s there yet. For those who couldn’t buy it, I’ll add these pages to our Canvas forum for your access if needed.)

Nicole focused on ELA and literacy teachers here, yet I have often heard her say things like “All disciplines are essentially civic disciplines” as she repeats in a related NWP Radio show and I encourage us to all think about this notion in the week ahead.

What does that even mean? What can it look like? … What happens when we think through our disciplinary lens but take a civic empathy perspective? What happens when we think through our disciplinary lens but take a critical empathy perspective? (We even had a civics teacher in our mix to learn alongside too 🙂

Now let’s look at some work collected and created by teachers and students today that connected civic empathy, critical empathy and/or both. We can visit a group of high school students in Charlottesville, Virginia with students and their teachers in considering the role of monuments in the wake of white-supremacist violence in 2016: Engaging Community History and Civic Dialogue in Charlottesville

This collection was highlighted in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom and if you didn’t have a chance to spend time with it, do that now: Upstanders, Not Bystanders collected by California educators starting in 2013 and including the voices of elementary, middle, and high school students. In what way do you see empathy surfacing here? What’s important about it? A related resource is On Becoming Change Writers.

Another example might be this Fourth Grade Service Learning Project by Philadelphia teacher Robert Rivera-Amezola. Or this Immigrant Alphabet project created by students at Northeast High School (and which you can go see now in person at the Cherry Street Pier in Philly). Also when thinking disciplinarily, don’t miss the work of organizations like the Algebra Project and The Youth People’s Project.

I recently found and was struck by this TEDTalk by Ebony Green and the way she expressed being a teacher as well as a learner. To me this is one ways we start to surface empathy:

Finally, as promised awhile ago, take time this week to browse a set of final projects created by former participants in ED677. One thing I think you’ll notice is a the diversity of educators who have been in this course and the different ways they approached created connected and equitable pathways for learners and teachers.

What inspires you in thinking about your inquiry question and what you might build to take forward from this class? Where do you see empathy playing a key role in their work? What would you like to learn more about and what questions are raised?


Embracing the connected learning principle of openly networked learning is manageable. It does require, however, that teachers and other facilitators of learning make small moves toward openness and connectivity. … Small moves, but with powerful impact. – Bud Hunt, Chapter on Openly Networked from Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom

To prepare the students to be producers in a production-centered classroom, I took small, consecutive steps. For each move I made, I examined the success of the change. I then adjusted these changes as needed, to reach the desired outcome. – Lana Iskandarani, Production-Centered Classroom Environment Increases Students’ Understanding and Interest in Learning Foreign Languages

In chapter 4 of Educating for Empathy, Nicole asks us a range of questions to consider while exploring Connected Learning and teaching, including a focus on these small moves that can make a difference. Let’s use her questions this week to grease the wheels of our making (not to mix too many metaphors!).

Do some writing and reflecting on these questions during the early part of the week and use them to create your make a day or two later (ps. you don’t have to post this writing to your blog but you are welcome to if you’d like to do so).

  1. Consider the policies and practices around technology that exist in your school/learning site. What narrative about technology is being told? Explore the 21st century or connected learning elementary and reflect on how learners and teachers internalize these narratives.
  2. Which of the Connected Learning principles resonate most with you? Which feel more difficult to implement?
  3. What is the new media tool that you would like to explore in order to tease out its own potential pedagogical uses? How could you structure your own Genius Hour experimentation?
  4. Think about potential partners you could enlist in your local context to help you move from traditional to connected teaching. What small moves could you make to cultivate this partnership?

Ready to make and share? Focus in question 4 and this idea of “small moves” and see where that leads you. Take what you wrote and put together a short performance/presentation to share with us that is 3-minute long. Record and your performance/presentation on a shared Flipgrid that I created for this (me and your classmates only will see this).

I have posted a link to the Flipgrid in Canvas so that the open link will remain private. Please find it there and also find a related discussion thread in case you are having any problems or want to ask questions about it.


This week, find examples and resources and tools you might use to support empathy building, especially of the critical and social/political engaged variety, in your context and/or those of your classmates.

Feel free to find new things and/or go back in time and resurface things you already found, link to what others found, and/or things that were in the readings/watchings … bring a focus on empathy may support us in seeing things with new eyes this week. I encourage you to also use the chart on page 11 of Educating to Empathy to support your search.

You also might try a new search engine this week to do your searching! I admit that I use Google almost all the time — I also often use Google’s Chrome Browser (Firefox is my safe alternative, but I use it less). However convenient this is for me, I know that I compromise my online privacy in doing so and constrict what I am seeing to what Google’s algorithms want me to see. From time to time I’ve experimented with doing a Data Detox to make my online environment more healthy; read more about Data Detox here.

From Day 1 of a Data Detox the suggestion is to use alternative browsers (like Firefox) and search tools that don’t collect your information – they also suggest using alternative search engines just to experience how different engines work. DuckDuckGo or Startpage are two non-commercial search engines they suggest that don’t collect or share your personal information or searches. They also don’t provide personalised search results – try them out this week and see how the results vary.

Common Sense media also reviews kid-safe browsers and search sites if you looking for those … I just learned about Ecosia.org which has a mission to plant trees; this is a search engine I’d like to learn more about too.


We have another online gathering scheduled for tomorrow evening, Tuesday April 2 at 7pm ET. Find the link on our Calendar in Canvas. We will start to talk and think more about final projects that we can design to take beyond ED677; join us if you can and we will record it if you can’t make it.

In connected solidarity,


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