Does Interactive Digital Instruction Help to Nurture Social Empathy?

June 27, 2016 | By: Dr. Dovi Weiss, Ph.D. and Yair Adibi, M.Sc.

Empathy is our ability to recognize, feel and respond to the needs and suffering of other people. Studies have linked low empathy to increased bullying, narcissism, rigid belief systems and civic apathy. While the digital age has given children more ways than ever before to connect with others, many researchers are concerned with how social networking and decreased face-to-face relationships may have contributed to the 48% drop in empathetic concern for others that has taken place over the past few decades.

Educators have a moral obligation to rethink how they teach kids to care in a digital world. Incorporating empathy into instruction can have positive results for a teacher’s immediate classroom, as well as for the community surrounding the school. Here is why:

1. Empathy builds positive classroom culture:­ Students learn to understand each other.

2. Empathy strengthens community: Children who learn empathy skills incorporate them into their lives in their community.

3. Empathy prepares students to be leaders in their community: Leadership articles emphasize human development as an essential quality (Leaders must understand the people that they lead)

Where school curricula seems to focus more on skill acquisition than socio­emotional learning, how can we foster empathy in classrooms? Can digital education nurture social empathy? Empathy related training seems to be of great importance, considering that it is a core constituent of emotional intelligence.

25 children participated in a research on the topic and were divided in two classes: Class A (the experimental group) and class B (the control group).  The study explores the relationship between empathy in kids with special needs and digital storytelling.  The research shows positive results¬ in group A, kids were told stories and developed greater social empathy than group B (in which kids didn’t participate in the interactive digital storytelling.) The researchers noted that after their work concluded, the empathic expressions continued to increase in the experimental group. (To learn more about this topic, please see our white paper.)

In Time To Know, we believe these findings showcase the vitality of eLearning as well as its benefits. Digital storytelling is only one of the endless possible shapes an educational software can take. For this very reason, we expect a positive trend in the future where teachers, through digital ways, will creatively educate their students and empower them with soft skills in the process.

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