Teaching Empathy in Digital Learning Environment

STE Standards for Educators

3 – Citizen – Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.

3a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.

When students and teachers are bewildered by the endless mass of streaming content, the average person spends upwards of 10.5 hours a day in front of a screen instead of socializing in person. How can educators help students develop empathy in the digital learning environment and are there any digital tools available for educators to use in teaching empathy? 

What is Empathy? 

Empathy can be divided into two parts with different meanings. Emotional empathy is the natural ability to share how another person is feeling. For example, we get happy when a friend shares her recent engagement, or feel sad when others are crying. Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, takes more conscious effort. It’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or understanding why someone is feeling sad without yourself feeling the same way(Noonoo, 2019).

Both empathy and cognitive empathy increase a person’ ability to communicate a relationship and help people to cultivate shared experiences and bring essential understanding to our differences, such as kindness, helpfulness, collaboration, authentic connection, happiness and joy are all byproducts of empathy expression. (Howell, 2017)

Teaching Empathy in Digital Learning Environment 

According to Howell(2017), research has shown digital stimulation associated with screen time can damage an area of the brain called the insula. This area is directly related to empathy development along with other brain activities such as executive functioning. All of this is hugely important to the brain functions and happiness of our students. He also believes that empathy requires time and attention to active listening and thoughtful speaking, empathy development is deep and sustained eye contact, especially in times of conversational discomfort, and it cannot exist without vulnerability either.

In order to understand what others are feeling, one must first find that experience within himself/herself and have the cognitive and emotional ability to bridge that feeling and enter a relationship to access empathy (Howell, 2017). Can these learned skills be taught virtually? 

Virtual reality has been used successfully in exposure therapy, a psychotherapy approach that systematically introduces triggers to help overcome phobias and trauma. Can virtual simulations teach a human skill like empathy which requires understanding and sympathizing with real people? 

“When virtual simulations attempt to build more empathy, they do it by presenting scenarios that are often emotionally fraught, stressful or challenging—and maybe a little dramatic. The goal is to provoke an emotional response in participants and give them a taste of what that situation can feel like from someone else’s perspective”(Noonoo, 2019). A simulation software from a company called Kognito, which specializes in creating one-on-one virtual conversations, and they believe that virtual humans dynamically react to individual choices in simulation will remember those dialogue choices going forward. In addition, when a digital character has a memory, they start to feel more alive, and create a better opportunity to practice empathy skills. (Zeiger, 2019)

In addition to using virtual simulations, there are steps to teach empathy in our digital learning community according to Stanfield (2019). 

Step 1: Assess your Student’s Empathy Skills

• Emotional sharing

• Empathic concern

• Perspective-taking

Step 2: Teach the Language of Empathy

Step 3: Teach the Skills

• Self-Regulation

• Connecting with Others

• Sympathy for Others

• Cognitive Empathy & Perspective Taking

• Reading Faces, Tone, and Other Communication Subtleties:

Step 4: Put it in Context, one example is having the variety of guest speakers that are available remotely. Kids can meet people from different backgrounds that they might not otherwise be able to meet and see new perspectives.

Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect by helping kids get a chance to feel what it is like to be in situations they haven’t yet encountered by using virtual reality. 

However, Noonoo(2019) also points out that simulations are also an imperfect substitute for in-person interaction, because when people are talking with each other, behavior can change. The confidence we feel in a controlled scenario might not carry over to a real life situation.


Noonoo, S., (2019). Can Virtual Simulations Teach a Human Skill Like Empathy? EdSurge. 


Howell, M., (2017). Developing Empathy in the Digital Age. edCircuit

Zeiger, B., (2019). Strengthening Empathy Skills: From Digital to Reality. Kognito.

Stanfield, J., (2019). How to Use Technology to Help Students Develop Empathy. James Stanfield.

How Can We Make Virtual Conference Work for Everyone?

ISTE Standards for Educators

5 – Designer – Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability.

5a. Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

Educators have been using virtual conferences technologies to create and deliver content and social emotional learning experiences to students due to the pandemic remote learning. While all teachers are using virtual conference tools like Zoom and Teams with their students, how do these virtual conference tools accommodate learner differences and needs? In this post, I am going to compare Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet accommodation to users with disabilities. I will also explore virtual meeting engagement strategies and practices that meet learners with different learning styles. 

Learners/ Presenters with Disabilities

(Wetherbee & Caruthers, 2020)
MS Teams 
(Nopanen, 2019)
Google Meet
(Wetherbee & Caruthers, 2020)
-Keyboard Navigation
-Screen Reader Support
-Live Closed Captioning by Human
-Automated Live Closed Captioning
-Low Vision Support
-Transcription of Recording
-Live Captions
-Translation feature in chat
-Zoom feature
-Zooming presented content
-Dark mode or high contrast mode
-Immersive reader
-Voice message on mobile device
-Shortcut keys
-Focus time and notification settings
-Voicemail: speech to text
-Speaker Attribution (adding speakers’ names to captions)
-Automated Live Closed Captioning
-Compatible with magnifiers and screen readers
-Limited Keyboard Navigation
-Spoken feedback

Among the three popular virtual conferencing tools, Microsoft Teams has invested heavily in its user accessibility. However, according to the article “Hosting Accessible Online Meetings” from the University of Washington, the most effective strategies to ensure online meetings are accessible are not technical strategies. They involve the following practices:

  • Distribute slides and all other materials to attendees in advance.
  • Clearly state the meeting agenda up-front, including which features of the meeting tool will be used.
  • Ask meeting participants to state their name each time they speak.
  • Create pauses during and between activities, so students who are taking notes, students with slow Internet bandwidth, or students using captions or sign language interpreters can catch up.
  • Don’t say “click here” if demoing something on the shared screen. Not everyone can see what you’re referring to. Students might be blind or have low vision, writing notes, looking at the textbook or dealing with a notification that popped up that they haven’t figured out how to turn off. Instead, specifically identify what you are clicking on.
  • All meeting participants can benefit from captions, both of live meetings and recorded meetings.

Learner Engagement in Virtual Meetings 

An engaged virtual meeting for students includes dynamic, interactive communication and the ability to create shared experiences together. Spencer(2020) recommended the following strategies to boost engagement in a virtual meeting. 

  • Do a social / emotional check-in
  • Incorporate movement
  • Use the Q&A feature
  • Use polls
  • Allow students to show off their pets
  • Use the chat function
  • Make use of hand-gestures
  • Incorporate silence
  • Integrate other platforms into the virtual meeting
  • Use breakout rooms strategically
  • Use hands-on learning to take it off-screen

Spencer(2020) also stated there is limitation to use virtual meetings for direct instruction, larger group discussion, and class presentation. He suggested if a prerecorded option is available for certain activities then pre recording might be a better option because class video conferences should be highly interactive and centered on deeper, free-flowing discussions, or to clarify ideas or make decisions together as a group.

Learners with DIfferent Learning Styles in Virtual Meetings 

Researchers recognized that different learners had different cognitive styles and habitual information-processing strategies that determine a learner’s typical mode of perceiving, remembering, thinking, and problem solving(Zapalska & Brozik, 2006).

According to Zapalska & Brozik (2006), Kinesthetic learning focuses on active participation in the learning experience. Unlike visual, auditory, read/write learners who are comfortable watching videos or reading textbooks, kinesthetic learners prefer to be in motion and engage all their senses. The article “Kinesthetic Learning in an Online Learning Environment” suggested the following strategies to meet our kinesthetic learners need in virtual meeting:

  • Enhancements to lectures such as including pictures or sound effects can help remind kinesthetic learners of the real-life situations that the material is related to and can thus increase retention.
  • Keep lectures short and novel and include interactive elements.
  • Send students on virtual field trips.
  • Remind students to take a break and walk around.
  • Help students visualize complex processes.

Teachers must understand how students learn, how they perceive, and how they process information. Learning styles of online students must be identified so that the instructor can plan appropriate teaching strategies to accommodate individual strengths and needs during virtual meetings. 

Regardless which virtual conference tool educators choose, the most effective strategies to ensure online meetings are accessible, engaging, and accommodating learner differences and needs are not technical features or strategies, educators need to incorporate meaningful practices to make learning and teaching effective.  


Hosting Accessible Online Meetings. Retrieved May 13, 2021, from https://www.washington.edu/accessibility/online-meetings/

Nopanen, V. (2019). Microsoft Teams is also about inclusivity and accessibility. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from

Wetherbee, J., & Caruthers, B. (2020). UNC Charlotte. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from https://spaces.uncc.edu/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=79398695

Spencer, J. (2020). How to make virtual meetings more interactive for students. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from https://spencerauthor.com/virtual-meeting-interaction/

Zapalska, A. & Brozik, D. (2006). Learning Styles and Online Education. Retrieved May 15, 2021, from https://www.qou.edu/ar/sciResearch/pdf/distanceLearning/learningStyles.pdf

Kinesthetic Learning in an Online Learning Environment. Center for teaching and learning: Wiley education services. (2020). Retrieved May 15, 2021, from https://ctl.wiley.com/kinesthetic-learning-online-learning-environment/

Digital Portfolio for Educators

ISTE Standards for Educators

Leader – Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and improve teaching and learning.

2c. Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.

A digital portfolio is a collection of digital works, they can be essays, posters, images, videos, and artwork. It can be different aspects of one’s life and interest, for example, work experience, employment history and other professional or personal related experience. Centre for Teaching Excellence suggests that a good digital portfolio should be more than just a collection of products, a good ePortfolio is both about being a product (a digital collection of artifacts) and a process (of reflecting on those artifacts and what they represent) (2017). According to Basken (2008) in the article “ePortfolios Explained: Theory and Practice”, ePortfolios “are a way to generate learning as well as document learning”.

Digital portfolios can be used by students to put together portfolios for capstone or research projects. Teachers can use a digital portfolio to create a professional portfolio or gather items around areas they would like to explore. According to Kilbane and Milman, research studies focusing on portfolios in teacher education have centered on preservice and not inservice teachers (2017). How can inservice teachers use digital portfolios as a tool to assess student learning and use as self reflection to demonstrate and improve teaching practices?

Kilbane and Milmant conducted a study with the purpose to examine high school teachers’ perceived impact on their teaching and their students’ learning resulting from the creation of digital portfolios by both the teachers and their own students. The result of study demonstrated that digital portfolio creation resulted in increased teacher learning about technology, a reexamination of their pedagogy, better comprehension of their students’ learning, reflective processes, and assessment, and reciprocal learning between teachers and students (Kilbane and Milmant, 2017). 

  • Teachers in the study indicated that using digital portfolios required a greater amount of time, challenged them to rethink existing planning and teaching practices, made teaching and students’ products more interesting, engaged students more in their own learning, incorporated more 21st century skills, and fostered a teaching and learning environment. 
  • The development of digital portfolios promoted increased use and integration of technology in teaching. 
  • Through the creation of their digital portfolios, teachers and students engaged in a reciprocal process of learning, in which teachers and students alike “struggled together to learn and create”.
  • Reflection, understanding (learning), and standards were all a part of the process for students to create their own digital portfolios. 
  • The development of digital portfolios changed not only how teachers planned, but also how they assessed or intended to assess their students, including how they viewed assessment.
Your Teacher Portfolio

There are many digital portfolio tools available for educators and students to choose from. I am investigating Bulb as a digital portfolio tool in this post to examine its usage in self reflection and demonstrate and improve teaching practices for educators.

According to Karlin, Bulb is a web based platform where students and educators can curate, create, share, and showcase works. The main goal of this platform is to provide a space where students and teachers can evaluate and share the meaningful works they have created. 

Currently, bulb has three plans to choose from:

When users first sign into the bulb, the main dashboard will show up and that is where users can create a Page or a Collection of pages. The free plan only allows 10 portfolio pages while the paid plan offers unlimited pages. One of the features for a paid plan is to create groups. It is beneficial for teachers when we want to add in groups for different classes and add students to groups. In the paid plans, Bulb can work in conjunction with learning platforms, with teachers sending out assignment details through their district required learning platform, and students submitting their work through a Bulb Page. Another feature of bulk is users can keep the portfolio even if they stop paying for it. They’ll get downgraded to the free plan after one year if they don’t renew their plan, but they won’t lose any of their pages. 

According to the CommonSense website review,  teachers can create their own Bulb collections and pages to share content for a unit or lesson. Assemble a series of primary-source images or articles as pages in a collection, and encourage students to review the pages and respond to them in writing or discussion. Each student also might contribute a page to a teacher-created collection. Students can submit responses that other students can then review and comment on. Alternatively, teachers can ask students to create their own pages or collections. Students can also use their Bulb collection as a place to show off their work over the course of the year or assemble a series of articles or images on a related topic. 

Teachers can use Bulk to track their professional development and demonstrate their growth.  Here’s an English teacher’s example from bulb’s website, which includes pages with professional evaluation, lesson plans, and samples of work that the teacher has created. 

Jessa Jones | bulb

However, the CommonSense website also points out that it lacks some of the assessment features that distinguish other portfolio tools available. Teachers and students can comment on each other’s pages, but there aren’t extensive features for tracking students’ submissions or offering ongoing feedback or formative assessment. 

In addition to all the reviews about Bulb, I also reflected on a comment made by my peer, Joey Halbert, on how technology tools for education should have low barriers for educators and students entry. The low barriers should meet the following criteria: No extra account creation, works on any device, low bandwidth, versatile, and free. While Bulk offers teachers a free upgrade to Bulb+ which include unlimited portfolio pages and storage, I highly hope they can consider this upgrade to students as well.


EPortfolios Explained: Theory and Practice. (2019, March 04). Retrieved April 30, 2021, from https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/educational-technologies/all/eportfolios

Karlin, M., (2017, January 28). Bulb: Digital Portfolios for Students and Teachers. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from http://www.edtechroundup.org/reviews/bulb-digital-portfolios-for-students-and-teachers

Kilbane, C., Milman, N., (2017). Examining the Impact of the Creation of Digital Portfolios by High School Teachers and Their Students on Teaching and Learning. International Journal of ePorfolio. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1142755.pdf

Kievlan, P. (2021, April 06). Bulb review for teachers. Retrieved May 01, 2021, from https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/bulb

How to Demonstrate Cultural Competence in Your Class Blog or Website?

ISTE Standards for Educators 4B: Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.

Due to the global pandemic, many educators have been teaching remotely and using a virtual space to replace physical classrooms. For most educators, an online platform is a place where we can assign student learning tasks, share resources, and gather feedback. As mandated from school districts, many educators have chosen applications like Google Classroom, Schoology, and Canvas. However, a class website or blog for a teacher can be another effective and creative option. The difference between blogs and websites is that all blogs are websites, but not all websites are blogs. A blog is just a website with a standard set of tools for organization of content built right in – called posts, which can be further organized using tags and categories(Burt & Morris, 2020). Blogs are made to deal with information that changes frequently while a website is great for things we want to leave up for a while. It is not well suited to daily changes.

Blog has been preferred by many educators because it comes with an interface that will allow teachers to easily attach keywords to each post, or automatically format the date and title of each post. It also provides a way for readers to leave comments on each post which website doesn’t. Regardless of choosing a website or blog for our class, how do teachers demonstrate cultural competency when using class blogs and websites communicating and interacting with students, parents, and colleagues? 

Cultural competence is the ability of a person to effectively interact, work, and develop meaningful relationships with people of various cultural backgrounds which can include the beliefs, customs, and practices in daily life (Rosario et al, 2016). According to research from the U.S Department of Education in 2010, 45% of students were from culturally diverse families. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2043, the U.S. will become a “majority minority” country. Therefore, educators working with students and families need to pay attention to culture which is one of the foundations of effective teaching and learning (Pang et al, 2011). 

While educators are using virtual environments like blogs and websites, they need to be culturally inclusive which means mutual respect, effective relationships, clear communication, explicit understandings about expectations and critical self-reflection.According to the article “Culturally inclusive environment”, in an inclusive environment, people of all cultural orientations can

  • freely express who they are, their own opinions and points of view
  • fully participate in teaching, learning, work and social activities
  • feel safe from abuse, harassment or unfair criticism

Culture is also a key factor in human growth and development, and the creation of effective

conditions for learning (Pang, 2010). One of the strategies for creating a culturally inclusive website or blog is choosing culturally responsive images to connect with students (Aguirre, 2020). Being intentional about the images we use in our blog and website has a profound impact on classroom culture because when students see themselves reflected in our virtual environment, they are more invested in what they are learning. Therefore, images we choose to use in my blog or website should reflect the students and families in our community, as well as those across the country.

Although the following strategies from “Promoting Culturally Competent Teaching” are not specifically for building class blogs and websites to demonstrate cultural competency, I find them share the same goal to promote a culturally competent environment for students and families. 

1. Recognize personal biases and how they may impact their expectations of students and families. Teachers can engage in readings and discussions about privilege or teachers can write personal identity stories that reflect on how their own identities are socially constructed.

2. Expand on teacher knowledge of their students’ cultural backgrounds. 

3. Include multiple cultural perspectives. 

4. Weave students’ own cultural backgrounds into curriculum through student-powered activities. 

5. Confront and engage in controversial topics. 

6. Engage parents and families by sending out regular communications and provide tools to translate information into different languages. 

Regardless of physical or virtual learning space, blogs or websites, our goal is to create a welcoming environment and establish the appreciation of similarities and differences among cultures.


Rosario T. de Guzman, M., Durden, T., Taylor, S., Guzman, J., & Potthoff, K. (2016, February). Cultural Competence: An Important Skill Set for the 21st Century. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/html/g1375/build/g1375.htm

Pang, V., Stein, R., Gomez, M., Matas, A. & Shimogori, Y., (2011, January). 

Cultural Competencies: Essential Elements of Caring-Centered Multicultural Education. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from 


Burt, R., & Morris, K. (2020, May). Best Best Teacher Websites In This Time Of Remote Learning. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://campuspress.com/best-teacher-websites/

Culturally Inclusive Environment. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.usc.edu.au/media/19149448/designing-an-inclusive-environment-2021.pdf

Aguirre, L., (2020, October). Choosing Culturally Responsive Images to Connect With Students.Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/choosing-culturally-responsive-images-connect-students

Promoting Culturally Competent Teaching. (2017, August). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from


Reflect and Redesign by Using the Understanding by Design Model


In this project, my goal is to create a lesson with technology-enhanced instruction by using the Understanding by Design Model. The UbD model is also commonly referred to as backwards design because the lesson plan begins by determining the outcome of the activity, or rather the learning objective that will be mastered by students. 

Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 2.00.03 PM.png

Besides using 8th grade Middle School Social Studies Civic Standards from OSPI, another focus in my lesson is to incorporate ISTE Student Standard 2 – Digital Citizen. This standard asks students to recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

In this post, I will be sharing the outline and my reflection of my lesson using the Understanding by Design Model to focus on Middle School Social Studies Civic Standards and ISTE Student Standards. 


While having the intention to redesign a lesson that previously was unsuccessful, I immediately thought of my 8th grade U.S history class. U.S government is a lesson I was not satisfied with in my time management, activities, and student engagement in the past. I am often struggling with the balance of the amount of content needed to be taught and the amount of time to let students explore and participate in activities. I believe this will be a great opportunity for me to reflect, revisit and redesign by using the Understanding by Design Model. 

5 Ways To Use Digital Resources to Teach Social Studies » Britannica

Outline of Lesson

Rubric for Performance Task: 


Understanding by Design is helpful for me to reflect and revisit the learning process and experience from my students point of view. My Reflection on the Six Facets of Understanding (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) emphasized on to apply” which asks students to effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts—we can “do” the subject, and “have perspective” which asks students to see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.

During this lesson, students will be able to explain the structure and powers of the three government branches by examining their rights and responsibilities through a real world situation which involves banning their favorite social media app TikTok. It interests students to investigate the process to make laws, carry out laws and review laws in our government. It connects back to the essential question to understand how power and responsibility is distributed, shared, and limited in the government. Students can apply this knowledge to take perspective in real world situations when they encounter policy change in the society and participate in civic movement to advocate through legal channels. 

While technology is integrated purposefully into the lesson, the following ISTE Standards are also weaved into the unit:

ISTE 2b. Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices. This standard is addressed in activities of Padlet post board, class discussion posts and responses to peers with expectation of responsible and respectful online behavior and language use. 

ISTE 2c. Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property. This standard is explained and included into the performance task to have students referencing and citing two credible sources. 

ISTE 3b. Evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources will also be addressed by engaging in fact checking activities. This standard takes part in our class as regular practice when we use digital resources as reference. 

Throughout this project, I feel thankful for the opportunity to redesign my lesson by using the Understanding by Design framework. I will continue to remind myself to be a learner before being an educator. Best teaching practices and strategies should be reflected and refreshed constantly and intentionally.   


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 

Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by Design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/ubd-chapters-1-4/

Technology in Global Education

According to ISTE standard 7, students will use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning, and explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions. Global citizenship is defined as awareness, caring, and embracing cultural diversity while promoting social justice and sustainability, coupled with a sense of responsibility to act(Reysen, & Katzarska-Miller, 2013). Global education allows students to appreciate diverse perspectives, understand the connections they have to the wider world, respectively and effectively communicate and collaborate across cultures and countries, and use disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge to investigate and take action on issues that matter to them and the wider world. I remember 10 years ago when I collaborated with a teacher in China and had our students in two countries working on a project about school lunch around the world. We encountered many challenges due to time zone differences, language barriers, and communication efficiency. Incorporating more advanced technology in our education today, what role technology plays in fostering students global awareness and engagement in global citizenship? 

The article Fostering Students’ Global Awareness: Technology Applications in Social Studies Teaching and Learning stated that global awareness enhances students’ abilities to work collaboratively with persons of diverse backgrounds, to understand and seek solutions to global issues, and to acquire 21st century skills to participate in global society, and global education helps students to develop self-awareness of their identity, culture, beliefs and understand how those connect with others in the world. Crawford and Kirby (2008) introduced a model called  “the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge”. The TPCK model offers a conceptual framework interrelated components of teachers’ knowledge in three areas: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. Technological knowledge entails knowledge of and the ability to use both non-digital tools and equipment, and digital tools. It requires educators to have the knowledge of how various technologies may be applied during specific aspects of teaching and learning, the knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technologies can help redress some of the problems that students face, and the knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge and to develop new strengthen old one. This framework can serve as a conceptual foundation for teachers to foster students’ global awareness in teaching and learning(Crawford and Kirby, 2008).

Global Issues Network is a great example of how educators use technologies to bring projects and opportunities for students to engage and participate in global learning. 

One of our international schools in our district has been hosting WA global Issues Network, the WAGIN, in the past several years and students have demonstrated skills and passion in participating in projects with teams across the country and the world during the event. The network features cooperation and collaboration through the use of  technologies to empower students leadership to develop sustainable solutions to address global problems and to implement their ideas with the support of the network created locally or globally through technology. It was unfortunate that the event in WA was canceled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, my students were able to collaborate with students in China on a sustainable goals project to learn global issues related to the 17 sustainable development goals in the U.S and China and how our current political relationship and issues impact the goals and solutions. During the project, students were able to utilize online meeting tools like Zoom, recording tools like the flipgrid to minimize the time zone challenges and online documents shared editing features to enhance the collaboration and communication with students in China. 

In conclusion, global education should not be represented as a one time project or only part of the students population can have access to it. The infusion of global education through the appropriate and effective use of various technologies is essential for preparing students to participate and engage as global citizens(Crawford and Kirby, 2008). 


Reysen, S. & Katzarska-Miller, I (2013) A model of global citizenship: Antecedents and outcomes, International Journal of Psychology, 48:5, 858-870,


Crawford, E. and Kirby, M. (2008). Fostering Students’ Global Awareness: Technology Application in Social Studies Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from 


Global Issues Network. (2020). Retrieved February 27, 2021, Retrieved from


Creativity in Digital Education

Image result for creativity in digital age

According to ISTE standard 4, students should use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions. It requires students to be creative and innovative in problem solving. Creativity has always been a part of a successful classroom, and it has always been teachers’ goal to see their students become innovative. With technology, it increases the ability for students to use thousands of pictures, videos, and music to be creative in their projects, assignments, as well as group and individual tasks. However, I often wonder what it means to be creative and innovative? What are the skills we are expecting students to have when we try to promote creativity and innovation in learning? With the integration of technology in our learning today, how can technology expand creativity and encourage innovation in students?

Gomez (2007) in the article “What Do We Know About Creativity?” explored different definitions of creativity. “Creativity is viewed in different ways in different disciplines: in education it is called “innovation”; in business “entrepreneurship”; in mathematics it is sometimes equated with “problem-solving”, and in music it is “performance or composition”. A creative product in different domains is measured against the norms of that domain, its own rules, approaches and conceptions of creativity” (p. 31)

According to Gomez, creative students show certain characteristics that make them “stand out” from their peers, and these characteristics can be enhanced through computer technology and hypermedia, especially the ability to use graphics more than text to convey meaning and provide links (p36). Among these characteristics are:

  • Originality. This is the ability to produce unusual ideas, to solve problems in unusual ways, and to use things or situations in an unusual manner. 
  • Persistence. Creative students are usually persistent individuals who are willing, if necessary, to devote long hours to a given task and to work under adverse conditions.
  • Independence. Creative students are independent thinkers, who look for the unusual, the unexplored. 
  • Involvement and Detachment. Once a problem has been identified, creative students become immersed in it, first researching how others have tried to solve it, and becoming acquainted with its difficulties and complexities. 
  • Deferment and Immediacy. Creative students resist the tendency to judge too soon. 
  • Incubation. By putting the problem aside temporarily, creative students allow the unconscious mind to take over, make various associations and connections that the conscious mind is unable to do.
  • Verification. Although illumination provides the necessary impetus and direction for solving a problem, the solution must be verified through conventional objective procedures. 
  • Discovers problems. Until recently, most studies of creativity focused on the problem solving aspect of creative behavior. 
  • Generates alternatives. One of the basic characteristics of creative thinking is finding different ways of viewing problems. 
  • Challenges basic assumptions. In solving problems, one must begin with basic assumptions. These are any ideas, principle, or truth deemed self-evident. They provide the foundational structure for problem solving.
  • Minimizes labels or categories. By using labels, one risks misrepresenting information. It is convenient to function with relatively few categories, but this often results in polar thinking, one must be either right or wrong

With the better understanding toward the characteristics and skills of a creative and innovative student, what can technology do to enhance these characteristics and skills? Lewis(2005) in the article “Creativity—A Framework for the Design/Problem Solving Discourse in Technology Education” argued that technological design is a medium through which dimensions of children’s creative abilities can be stimulated and augmented. There is a need for design and problem solving in technology education to be framed not so much in terms of methodologies of engineers, but as opportunities for students to step outside of conventional reasoning processes imposed by the rest of the curriculum. 

Lewis(2005) argued “the problem for the field of technology education in the United States and elsewhere is that the overt description of the stages of the design process, observable when engineers do their work, has become the normative design pedagogy” (p. 44). Technology has a lot of potential to enhance students’ creativity if we recognize design as a creative rather than a rationalistic enterprise and educators must be more tolerant of failure. 

Saxena(2013) in the article of “How Can Technology Enhance Student Creativity?” shared that the following technological tools as creativity triggers that help students develop creative thinking and other essential skills. 

Blogs for creative thinking

-Cartoon and Comic Strip Tools

-Mind-Mapping and Brainstorming tools


-Video and Audio tools

-Digital storytelling tools


In conclusion, when technology keeps changing we can barely keep up with the pace to continue fostering creativity in students. Technology will not live up to its potential until we start to think of it less like televisions and more like paintbrushes. That is, we need to start seeing computer screens not simply as information machines, but also as a new medium for creative design and expression(Saxena, 2013). The more we learn about the ability of technology, the more we can utilized it to enhance our creativity.


Gomez, J. G. (2007). What Do We Know About Creativity? The Journal of Effective Teaching, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2007 31-43 Retrieved from


Lewis, T. (2005). Creativity—A Framework for the Design/Problem Solving Discourse in Technology Education. Journal of Technology Education Vol. 17 No. 1, Retrieved from 


Saxena, S(2013). How Can Technology Enhance Student Creativity? Retrieved from


Recognizing Confirmation Bias in Digital Age

Examples of confirmation bias

During the past 4 years working with middle school students in a Social Studies class, I have observed that students are more concerned with content relevance than with credibility, they are more likely to choose information that meets their judgments which are often vague, superficial, and lacking in reasoned justification, and they are more likely to believe information confirming existing beliefs and ideas of themselves, parents, or social groups they belong to. 

Confirmation bias is the “tendency to cherry-pick information that confirms our existing beliefs or ideas.” (Street, 2019). The tendency to confirm existing beliefs, rather than questioning them or seeking new ones became more concerning in the digital age among our students who access all kinds of information through technology. According to ISTE standard 3B, supporting students to evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources by recognizing the influence of confirmation bias becomes urgent. 

First, we must understand how confirmation bias works in our brains. According to Street (2019), human brains prefer to take shortcuts without using mental energy to evaluate evidence, especially since we are now constantly receiving new information and have to make complex choices under pressure in the digital age. Accepting information that confirms our belief is much easier and less metal energy consuming. Therefore, our brains tend to avoid contradicting information. It makes confirmation bias to be fundamental to our brain and reality that we might not even realize it is happening. 

Street (2019) argued that it is impossible to overcome confirmation bias without an awareness of the concept and behavior. Critically thinking is more motivated to happen when we are held accountable by others. “If we are expected to justify our beliefs, feelings, and behaviors to others, we are less likely to be biased towards confirmatory evidence.”

In the article “Enhance Digital Citizenship with this lesson on Confirmation Bias”, the author used the example of how the human brain is similar to computers in that it takes inputs, processes them and then produces outputs to explain brains can be hacked by bias. 

He listed out the steps for teacher to help students to confront confirmation bias by using examples in a lesson plan:

  1. Define Confirmation Bias
  2. Conceptualize Confirmation Bias With an Activity
  3. Connect Confirmation Bias and Digital Citizenship
  4. Develop Strategies to Overcome Confirmation Bias
  5. Put These Strategies into Action

The author also shared strategies for students to improve their reasoning process. 

  • If you have an opinion on a subject, assume that said opinion is wrong.
  • When looking for evidence (inputs), look for evidence that may poke holes in the original point of view.
  • The more inputs (evidence) you have, the more outputs (data, facts) you can produce.
  • Verify that your information is coming from a reliable source.
  • Always be willing to change your mind in the face of more evidence.

In conclusion, we must commit to the hard work to recognize and analyze how our biases have shaped us and our society. According to Diddams (2021), while questioning our own beliefs is difficult since biases also create blind spots, the power of unity can support us and our students to be more successful in dealing with biased beliefs in the digital age. 


Arreola, M. (2020, June 26). Enhance Digital Citizenship With This Lesson on Confirmation Bias. Https://Equip.Learning.Com/Digital-Citizenship-Confirmation-Bias.

Street, F. (2019, August 3). Confirmation Bias And the Power of Disconfirming Evidence. Farnam Street. https://fs.blog/2017/05/confirmation-bias/

Diddams, M. (2021, February 3). The Rationality of Irrationality. https://christianscholars.com/the-rationality-of-irrationality/

Promote Deeper Thinking Through Digital Learning

Our students who are graduating into our increasingly global, technology-rich knowledge economy will need an expanded skill set to succeed. Kivunja (2014) argued that the skills that young people need to succeed as individuals, citizens and workers in the 21st century are the skills of critical thinking and problem solving, effective communication, collaboration, as well as creativity and innovation. According to ISTE standard 1d, students need to understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies. Technology skills in our students are becoming more and more important in the digital age. What role should technology play in the preparation of 21st century skills in our students, and how can we empower learners to engage in deeper learning through technologies to be college and careers ready? 

We believe that deeper learning prepares students to master core academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively and learn how to learn. According to VanderArk and Schneider (2012), deeper learning occurs when students are able to merge their skills with opportunities to practice them in the context of meaningful projects that foster critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and other deeper learning skills. Digital learning enables new strategies and formats, such as online and blended learning and competency-based learning, which have the potential to contribute to deeper learning. Technology helps “teachers do more by creating new learning environments that leverage teacher talent and allow students to go deeper. It generates more personalization for students, and thus more motivation and persistence” (VanderArk & Schneider, 2012, p11). They also identified three primary ways that digital learning promotes deeper learning in students in their article. There are personalized skill building in preparation for deeper learning; schools and tools that foster deeper learning; and extended access to quality courses and materials online. For example, new technologies can be used to design curricula that can be readily adapted to individual differences, rather than curriculum-centered, approaches to teaching and learning; digital tools provide teachers with access to student data that can inform instruction in real time; and technology program can be designed to help students see what they need to learn, customized playlists to help students learn, and assessments and badges to show what they know in a personalized level. 


While we see the potential of technologies and simulations to push deeper learning, educator’s knowledge and approach to implement technology into teaching plays a significant role in the success of deeper learning. The 4 Shifts Protocol by McLeod and Graber (2018) emphasized on deeper thinking and learning, authentic work, students agency and personalization, and technology infusion. This protocol helps educators to redesign technology infused lessons and units to enhance students deeper learning. For example, an elementary school Social Studies “Mystery Skype” lesson to connect two classes from different places and have students ask each other “yes” and “no” questions to guess where the other class’s location through Zoom meeting was fun and engaging with the use of technology. Educators were asked to redesign this lesson around deeper learning and students collaboration by using the questions from 4 Shifts Protocol. 

  1. Is student work foruced around big, important themes and concepts that are central to the discipline rather than isolated topic, trivia, or minutiae? 
  2. Do learning activities and assessments allow students to engage in complex and messy problem solving?
  3. When digital technologies are utilized, do the tools overshadow, mask or otherwise draw the focus aways from important learning? 

In result, the students were able to demonstrate the same level of engagement with online connection and use that opportunity to construct knowledge around content and generate questions and solutions. 

4 Shifts Protocol | @mcleod

In conclusion, the benefit of technologies in promoting deeper learning which leads students to success in college and prepare for careers is clear. However, in order to fully empower learners to engage in deeper learning through technology needs to be intentionally and purposefully designed and delivered by educators and school leaders. 


Kivunja, C. (2014). Teaching students to learn and to work well with 21st-century skills: Unpacking the career and life skills domain of the new learning paradigm. International Journal of Higher Education, 4(1), p1.

VanderArk, T., & Schneider, C. (2012, June). How Digital Learning Contributes to Deeper Learning.http://www.worldwideworkshop.com/pdfs/GettingSmart_DigitalLearningDeeperLearning.pdf

McLeod, S., & Graber, J. (2018). Harnessing technology for deeper learning : (a quick guide to educational technology integration and digital learning spaces). ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.spu.edu

Mission Statement in Digital Education Leadership

Teaching in title one schools in the past six years and leading global education work in international schools, my experience in serving diverse and multicultural communities has shaped my personal and professional values in moving forward as a digital education leader. I am committed to support educators and students to take responsibility of digital actions to create and enforce a safe and secure environment for all students regardless racial and cultural backgrounds, to be aware and challenge media bias and develop vastly different understanding of basic facts in media, and to understand and utilized technologies to build connection and relationship in digital age.  

Responsibility, Privacy, and Digital Identity 

According to Ribble and Miller (2013), the current gap in technology knowledge and lack of leadership preparation related to digital literacy and citizenship for school environment can cause serious problems. Digital citizenship is a concern for educators, school leader and parents.  

I have been working as a middle school teacher in the past 4 years, I have witnessed student I personally had connection with experienced depression due to cyber bullying; I have worked with students who lost all their reading credits from online reading program because others logged on to their account to clear their effort; and I have experienced students posted threaten message in social media and our school needed to get polices to investigate. I have realized the urgency to prepare students, especially secondary students for a digital future that is safe, healthy, and effective, and the need to help students to take caution on their personal data and information use and be responsible for their digital actions.  

ISTE standard 7d addressed that digital education leaders should empower educator, leadersand students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect. The concept of privacy in students while they establish their personal identify in the digital community is critically important in digital citizenship education.During the study of Middle School Students’ Social Media Use by Martin and Wang (2018), middle school students have not fully established the awareness and capabilities to protect themselves and they also try to keep online social information from their parents and teachers. One of the data demonstrated their willingness to accept friend request from unknow people was 40%.  It shows that security education for middle school students is a concern and needs to be addressed in digital citizenship education.  

“Avital part of growing up is forming our identity. Identity is often reflected as how you perceive yourself as well as how other perceive you.” (Martin, 2018, p215) Students navigate websites and use different social medias, they post their pictures, their preferences, theirlocation or their personal life to establish their identity. They are not aware that their actions online if not easily anonymous when they are offline, and they need to take responsibility of their online actions in real life. Cyber bullying and online harassment often are the results of irresponsible online behaviors that can lead to depression and even suicide in real life.  

Digital privacy is where the boundaries are when sharing information about oneself and others online. The process of creating log in accounts, usernames and passwords is another way to establish an identity online. Students need to learn how to create strong passwords and protect their private information on their user accounts, such as address, phone number, or financial information. Educators need to consider including concept of identity theft, data theft online scams into curriculums.  In the ISTE blog (Zumpano, 2019), it is recommended that teaching digital responsibility includes the concept of digital privacy and identity, and it should be implemented into curriculum with scope and sequence in earlier age to ensure students are well prepared take responsibility to create a safe and secure digital environment for others as well.  

Bias awareness in Digital Information  

Bias regardless is conscious or unconscious against the value of diversity and equality. The community I am serving has a high percentage of students of color and students who are underserved.  Bias awareness allows us to build strong relationship with others and positive environment in our community.  

Media sources have tremendous power in influencing young people’s belief or perspectives toward their community and individuals in their community. Bias is especially harmful while individuals are not aware of their implicit bias and lack of reflection to examine the bias in digital sources. It is an important step for students to develop vastly different understandings of the basic facts of a digital information. 

ISTE standard 7a, our goal is to inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities. It requires students to understand diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness in using technology and digital communication tools in order to engage and challenge the issues in the community. Bias is a tendency to believe that some people or ideas are better than others, which often results in treating some people unfairly. “Particularly social media, bias enters through the backdoor of design optimization in which the humans who create the algorithms and hidden from view.” (Ruha, 2019, 5-6) According to ISTE standard 7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions, we need to help students understand their own implicit bias and to question whether information should be trusted or not. In the article of “How to Detect Bias in News Media”, it lists strategies to challenge bias in news media by asking ourselves questions:  

  • Who are the sources? Political perspective of the sources used in a story often tend to serve as megaphones for those in power.  
  • Is there a lack of diversity? Did the media reflect the diversity of the community they sever?  
  • Whose point of view is the news reported? Did the people evolve in the issue have their voice in the media?  
  • Are these double standards? Search for parallel example or similar stories that were reported differently.  
  • Do stereotypes skew coverage? Did the article or news involve in stereotypes and characterize individuals unfairly? 
  • What are the unchallenged assumptions?  
  • Is the language loaded? Language choice can give people an inaccurate impression on the story or issue. 
  • Is there a lack of context?  
  • Do the headlines and stories match?  
  • Are stories on important issues featured prominently?  

Here is a quote my district used to confirm the importance of using critical thinking as a strategy to examine information we received: “A democratic education means that we educate people in a way that ensures they can think independently that they can use information, knowledge, and technology, among other things, to draw their own conclusions. “by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond from Stanford University. 

Connection and Relationship Building 

When I think of connection, it means knowing, belonging, trusting, and respecting. I believe humans are profoundly social species; we want to connect with others since we were born as we want to have connection with our parents and throughout our lives as adults. Technology has changed the way we connect with others as it allows us to reach further and more.  

In the article of “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World,” Janna and Lee argued that technology has brought more positive impact to human connection than negative impact because “digital life links people to people, knowledge, education and entertainment anywhere globally at any time in an affordable, nearly frictionless manner”. According to the interviewer in their research, Daniel Weitzner who is a principal research scientist and founding director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative shared his idea that internet is the ultimate connection machine to fulfill the need of connection for human as “internet connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships.”  

Although I personally benefited from technology to stay connected with family and friends in other countries, it seems too ideal that technology only brings positive impact to our social connection. The article “The Digital Age: Are We Losing Human Connection?” argued thatvirtual connection in the form of cyber bulling, trolls and grooming can result in rejection which leads to a significant effect on individual resilience and perception of self in young children, and it can carry over into adulthood. It listed examples of people feeling rejected in virtual society: 

  • Social media enables and promotes social comparison to others and create a feeling of “I am not good enough”.  
  • The rise of the fear of missing out and lost the membership in a group occurs when people don’t tune in and keep up to date in social media.  
  • People lacking social skills to make friends on-line potentially leading to more isolation  
  • Constant checking, and interrupting ‘in the moment’ social interactions not only perpetuates immediate gratification for the user but can have a negative impact on others present.  

According to ISTE standard 7b, Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology. The goal to foster a culture of respectful online interactions should be built upon the foundation of positive social connections in the digital world. While technology truly bring the convenience to connect more people in more places, the social connection we make through technology should always be reflected on its quality.  

Quality student teacher relationships often can be reflected on student’s engagement, motivation, or performance. In the article “Creating birds of similar feathers: Leveraging similarity to improve teacher-student relationships and academic achievement”, Dr. Hunter Gehlbach and colleagues found that when students and teachers discover what they have in common, they are more likely to foster a positive and quality relationship—which can improve student performance and reduce achievement gaps, especially for our underserved students like African American and Latino students. One of the suggestions to build positive students teacher relationship is using “get to know you” survey and use student and teacher shared interests to start conversations and provide more small groups or individual opportunities to meet virtually and connect with students.   


Ribble, M., Northern Miller, T., “Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically,” Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17:1 (2013): 137-45 

Martin, F., Wang, C., Petty, T., Wang, W., & Wilkins, P. (2018). Middle School Students’ Social Media Use. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 21(1), 213-224. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26273881 

Zumpano, N. (2019, October 17). 5 things students should do to stay safe and secure online. Retrieved October 09, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/explore/Digital-and-media-literacy/5-things-students-should-do-to-stay-safe-and-secure-online 

Nickerson, R.S. (1998). Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises. Review of General Psychology, 2, 175 – 220. https://www.npr.org/2015/12/21/460602085/digital-culture-critic-abandons-fake-on-the-internet-column

Ruha Benjamin, “Introduction,” Race after Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Medford, MA: Polity, 2019), 1-32 https://fair.org/take-action-now/media-activism-kit/how-to-detect-bias-in-news-media/

Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World,” Pew Research Center, April 17, 2018 

Jones, L. (2018). The Digital Age: Are We Losing Human Connection? Retrieved from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-digital-age-are-we-losing-human-connection/

Gehlbach, H., Brinkworth, M. E., King, A. M., Hsu, L. M., McIntyre, J., & Rogers, T (2016).  Journal of Educational Psychology, 108 (3), 342-352. https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/todd_rogers/files/creating_birds_0.pdf