Especially with the rise in initiatives to create more opportunities for social emotional learning in schools, empathy is a hot topic in education. From video games to VR experiences asking individuals to step into the shoes of others, educators formally and informally, in kindergarten and in higher education, are leveraging technology to teach perspective-taking.

The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology at the University of British Columbia has started integrating discussions of empathy into design courses to get their students thinking more deeply about how to serve the populations with their design work. Instructors at the center are teaching their students the importance of understanding the user’s perspective and experience in order to develop better apps, podcasts, and learning platforms. By utilizing tools like empathy maps to anticipate user needs and contexts, designers may be able to create more effective learning resources.

Do you think exercises like empathy mapping lead to the development of better digital tools, resources, and courses? Join the discussion on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion:

@01:54 Rebecca Sullivan: I'm curious where dialogue and face-to-face encounter play into these empathy maps. It seems to me that the best way to understand another person's perspective is by interacting with them. I wonder if, in addition to imagining other perspectives, these developers actually encounter and engage with other perspectives.

@02:33 Dallas Milanovich: I think empathy is a buzzword that gets overused and used incorrectly a lot. I listened to this NPR podcast recently and it got me thinking about how differently people define it. It's important to understand why people think the way they do, the context of their desires, and how to design appropriate tools, resources, and courses for them based off these things, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that's a demonstration of empathy. It's good business is what it is.