A global service learning project led by students.
Most students on Earth have zero access to the Internet. Using satellites, Project Empathy can broadcast digital files to these vast "Internet deserts." We then hand the reins to youth, asking, "What should we broadcast?"
The magic happens when students get to answer that question, send content, and hear back from other students around the world. Students can send their own work and even collaborate on projects, like building a power-generating windmill.
How it Works
Project Empathy is an ongoing exchange of ideas and digital content between classrooms that have Internet access and those that do not. Using satellites and very low data communication tools, like Twitter, classrooms around the world can communicate and share digital works via Project Empathy.
To participate, we have created a Project Empathy curriculum that introduces interested "on-grid" classrooms to key concepts for being a Project Empathy citizen.
The Project Empathy curriculum consists of several different lessons and projects that are extremely flexible in how you use them. They are broken into four parts. Their goal is to give students a good editorial foundation for contributing to Project Empathy. We have designed Project Empathy to be used by educators in either a classroom or after-school setting. So far the age range has varied from 7th grade to an undergraduate seminar.
You can get started with Project Empathy right now. There is no registration and no cost. If you choose to get a Project Empathy kit in order to receive broadcasts from space, that is the only cost. Learn more about Project Empathy kits here.
- Define the problem of global information access.
- Begin framing the editorial approach of Project Empathy.
What Makes Us Human?
In this introductory week, students will face the reality of global information access, namely that 4.2 billion people cannot access the Internet. They will also read about traits that are universal to humans around the world, regardless of economic status, by studying Carl Sagan's Golden Record project. This will help create an editorial mindset that is not colonial, but rather one of mutual sharing between peers.
- Research an existing Project Empathy partner school.
- Learn about how copyright affects what Project Empathy can share.
- Build a bin of content and send it from space.
Becoming an Editor
Look through the list of Project Empathy partner classrooms around the world and pick one to work with for the creation of your first "bin." Bins are collections of digital content sent from space to our network of schools. We call them bins because they are the digital equivalent of a bin of books you might send to a school after a book drive.
To best know what to put in your first bin, students should research their recipient school to better understand their audience. Students can even talk to their school on Twitter, which uses small enough quantities of data to work in the Internet-less places we operate. Then, students begin to triage their bin size (no more than 1 MB) - how much for education? How much for music? Send one video on Malaria or ten PDFs?
- Build and test a Project Empathy kit.
- Fill the kit with a foundation of good content and send it to a disconnected school abroad.
Building a Space Radio
Project Empathy kits use Raspberry Pi as their foundation. These credit card-sized computers are great learning tools in their own right. Students will complete a Raspberry Pi project to acquaint themselves with the hardware, then assemble the Project Empathy kit and send it to their partner school. Students will test the kit to make sure it works, create a set of instructions on how to use the kit, and an introduction to what content they have installed on the kit's storage drive. We like to fill the kits with content so that they can be used right away and not wait for Project Empathy content from space. Empathy will be critical here as students put themselves in the shoes of students who have likely never worked with this type of technology before.
Project Empathy is a living project. The curriculum is designed to prepare students (and teachers) for becoming knowledgeable participants in the global sharing of content that Project Empathy enables. Like other online collaborative projects, like Wikipedia, it is certainly acceptable to learn, participate, and then move on. But Project Empathy is perpetually moving forward, so this curriculum also arms participants to be recurring contributors and keep learning. Learn more about how you can keep participating beyond the initial four part curriculum.
“Empathizing with Earth’s disconnected majority is hard - kids who have Internet have grown up with it everywhere.
It’s like explaining to someone who has had a car their whole life the value of giving someone a bicycle. But then letting them design and build the bicycle together.”
— Thane richard, Project empathy lead
Heavily censored Internet.
Free, open Internet.
Where We Operate
When students publish their work with Project Empathy, it reaches all of these locations. Project Empathy also sets up participating schools with Twitter accounts. In most places where Internet is unavailable, low bitrate messaging services like Twitter still work. This enables a global exchange of ideas.