I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
– Albert Schweitzer,
French philosopher and physician
I am a firm believer in kindness. And being kinder than necessary. To me, kindness is when you see a person, a thing, a situation that needs something and you help fill that need. To serve others is truly the way to make a positive impact on the world.
In my role as Learning Technology Teacher in the Junior School, one thing I see across all classes is students who are motivated to help other students when using technology. Someone will ask me to show them something. I will show them and then their neighbour will want to know too. Before I can show them, the first student I helped will lean over: “I will show him!” and the two of them will chatter away, leaving me out of a job. It is the best kind of unemployment I could hope for!
I explicitly build this into my teaching, asking “Who thinks they could teach someone how to….(do whatever we are doing)?”. “Who thinks they could help someone else?”. It is not always a zen-like state of bliss but I am hopeful that kids will see the value in learning from each other. And that these behaviours will spill over to other facets of their life outside of technology.
New perspectives. Sharing understanding. Building on ideas. These are reasons I choose to be connected as an educator and I believe these are ways students can make a positive impact through the use of technology. Technology allows us to go places we may never go in ‘real life’. This exposure to ideas that were previously beyond our reach must make us more empathetic, more inquisitive, more inclined to think, question, and wonder. Some examples that come to mind:
- Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and the incredible way in which he has shared his understandings of planet earth with us from his reflections in outer space.
- Humans of New York genius, Brandon Stanton and the way he captures humanity from behind his camera lens in NYC and, a few months ago, around the world when he partnered with the UN to bring us snippets of humans in Iraq, Jordan, Uganda, Keyna and six other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
- Peter Menzel’s Global Family Portrait: Material World and his Hungry Planet: What the World Eats both give amazing insights into what people have/have not in this world. This is one thing that is so hard to explain without experiencing it first-hand (especially poverty) but this goes some of the way to allowing students to connect globally to the ideas of others.
So, how can students use technology to make a positive impact on the world? I think Hugh Macleod has some great advice:
He doesn’t stop there. Here is a Hugh-inspired, play-by-play for you and your students:
- Inspire and Be Inspired: Look, explore, inspire
- Become “Intoxicated by Possibility” – so much to do! So little time!
- Dream big! – Nothing is out of your reach!
- Make a dent in the universe – The time is now, the person is you! Make A Dent!
I think in some ways, the key question here is misleading – or at the least, tends to lead us in a direction that we may not need to go in. The use of technology is not the key point. The ability to make a difference in our world is the key part. Technology can help that process, it can accelerate that process, it can inspire that process. The desire to connect with others, the opportunity to make a difference, that is what should be driving this process.
Use technology to connect, to inspire, to dream, and to act. That is how we will change the world.
If you are still looking for some support to help you in this quest, one of my favorite, favorite websites is Inspire My Kids. The name says it all and it does just that with a wealth of amazing resources designed to connect kids that want to make a difference.