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Pros: Excellent teacher resources help provide a head start in creating meaningful exchanges.
Cons: Time zone differences can make connecting live with another classroom across the globe challenging.
Bottom Line: Teachers will find almost everything they need to create the opportunity for meaningful exchanges with students from faraway places.
Empatico is a free platform for classrooms around the world to connect through video exchanges. Teachers can add information such as student ages and dates they're available -- and can pick some of Empatico's pre-made activities -- to get matched with another teacher. There's a library of daily practices, classroom activities, and virtual exchange ideas that integrate with other platforms like Flip. Once matched, you can chat with your partner teacher to prepare for an upcoming session, and provide photos and videos of your class if desired.
Teachers could also use the social and emotional learning (SEL)-based lesson plans without connecting with another classroom, and some come with additional materials like printouts. Activities focus on fostering empathy, and although students may get more out of an exchange with another class, not all activities require such a connection.
Most importantly, be mindful of why you're using Empatico and how you plan on assessing learning. Students need to be aware of expectations up front, and there should be enough time given for reflection afterward. In addition to any content they might be learning, students can use Empatico to practice communication skills and possibly to reflect on the SEL that's happening in areas such as empathy, self-control, and humility.
Empatico is a platform that allows teachers to connect their students to other classrooms around the world. After signing up, teachers set up their profile with information about their students' ages, location, availability, and classroom language (English, Spanish, or both). Then teachers search or wait for a match. Once a matching teacher has been identified, the two teachers can communicate through messaging, photos, videos, or live video calls, all on the platform. Ideally, teachers work toward scheduling a live video session during which their students can meet each other and exchange ideas and experiences.
If teachers aren't quite sure what to do with the students, there's a large activity library with lots of ideas that focus on fostering empathy through emotions, thoughts, and actions. Many lesson plans have instructions on how to prepare students for their exchange and what to do during the live video call with the partner classroom, as well as suggestions for reflection afterward. Some suggest using additional resources such as Kahoot, or slideshow presentations. Continue with as many live or recorded exchanges as both teachers want. If teachers want to continue collaborating with the same classroom, they can do so, or they can search for a new one.
Empatico takes the pen pal tradition into the 21st century and makes it easy to connect your classroom with others, near or far. Pretty much all the tools teachers would need are right there at their fingertips, from finding a partner classroom to communicating to lesson planning. The one missing piece might be assessment: Teachers will need to decide on their own how they'll gauge and evaluate what their students have gotten out of the experience. The chances for success in finding a good match is very much dependent on the variety of teachers who decide to sign up; of course, the more buy-in there is, the better each teacher's chances are of finding a great match.
Though Empatico offers most of the tools teachers could need, the success of any exchange depends on how well those teachers are able to collaborate and facilitate a meaningful experience. In fact, the biggest hiccup might be difficulties in finding a time when two classrooms on opposite sides of the globe can both have students in the classroom to participate in a live session, though asynchronous experiences are also possible. Overall, the potential for growth is really high when students are able to make connections with other students and explore what's similar and what's different about their lives.