Disruptive Innovative Review

Katrice Wright                                Literature Review EDLD 5305

Research Backing my Disruptive Innovative Proposal: Empathy in the Digital World

  1. Reason for review

Empathy in the digital world. Middle School students learning Empathy and technology to promote student ownership.

  1. Introduction (Abstract)

Students have lost the meaning and action of Empathy. The focus and research are geared toward middle school students. Students with 1:1 device and the applications of several meaningful technology tools to better their learning and ownership of digital etiquettes. Most of the students in this innovative plan are in a Title One school with many outside situations that can cause a deficient in their Empathy.  This research can help with changing the culture of such young and impressable minds.

Many have study and documented their research with this phenomenon of children having a lack of empathy in the digital world some have concluded screen time and the lack of face to face social interaction. The research that was used for this review focuses on education and using technology to enhance empathy and ownership of actions in the digital world.

  1. Research

      A. Research shows cyber-bullying aids in aggressive behaviors

Using solution-focused dramatic empathy training to eliminate cyber-bullying

The purpose of this study was to enlighten or give a better understanding of cyber-bullying, which has become an unfortunate reality suffered by thousands of students and appears to have become part of the landscape of adolescent communication patterns. (Hicks, LeClair, Berry, 2016). Cyber-bullying is a subset behavior of typical face-to-face bullying has become a worldwide phenomenon (Cassidy, Faucher, & Jackson, 2013; Holfeld & Leadbeater, 2015). Taylor & Francis may be a victim to the schoolyard, cyber-bullying takes place in the digital world where cruelty and victimization are not governed by typical constraints of physical presence, time, and opportunity. Because of the permanent nature of messages sent digitally, victims can re-experience bullying as often as they reread their posts (Chibbaro, 2007; Hicks & Crews, 2015; Hicks, Skoog, & Crews, 2015). Comments sent electronically are done so with phenomenal speed and can remain in the cyber world indefinitely (Hicks & Crews, 2015; Hicks et al., 2015).

The literature discusses risk factors associated with cyber-bullying (Haynie et al., 2001; Nansel et al., 2001; Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2009; Wolak, Mitchel, & Finkelhor, 2007). For example, the more often youth use the Internet, the more likely they are to bully or cyber-bully others (Li, 2007).

Rice et al. (2015) reported 4% of youth to admit to being perpetrators and 5% of youth between Grades 6–10 report being victims of cyber-bullying. Juvenon and Gross (2008) reported earlier that one-third of youth between the ages of 12–17 are victims of cyber-bullying, whereas Li (2007) reported that one in five students 380 J. FROESCHLE HICKS ET AL. in junior high school have suffered at some point from cyber-bullying. Thus, schools must address this problem (Chibbaro, 2007; Hicks et al., 2015).

With more cyberbullying and students taking less responsibility for their actions, we have another teen-driven form of cyber-bullying is the use of emoji. Emoji is a Japanese cultural phenomenon that allows people to express themselves using images in place of words. These images or icons are based on any number of platforms and variety is expanding rapidly. While text messages or tweets are often misinterpreted as being fueled by disdain or anger, emoji icons communicate a concise message (Emoticons, 2015). For example, emoji offer meaning without written speech, voice intonations, syntax, or varying nuances. Initially, emoji were used to communicate proper social conventions such as smiling or in Japan, bowing as a form of respect. Now, emoji have morphed into direct communications that can have a hurtful, stinging, and threatening effect. Recently, a series of emoji were released by the Unicode Consortium allowing teens to take a stand if they witness bullying or cyber-bullying. Madov (2015) stated that 60% of teens want to take a stand but need knowledge on how to proceed. These new emoji offer a unique and safe method of responding to those teens who fear speaking up. The icon consists of a speech bubble blended with the image of an eye and implies I know what you said and it’s not cool. The use of these icons could be incorporated easily into cyber-bullying interventions as a method targeted towards teaching teens to support one another.

  • Research with the Issue of Digital Empathy

The Emerging Issue of Digital Empathy

Having read and the researchers’ study, middle school students are truly struggling with more than face to face harassment they are dealing with digital bullying (Cain& Terry, 2016). Research shows that, with modern advances in technology, however, the appropriate expression of empathy in today’s age is being threatened, largely as a result of psychological processes that form online disinhibition (Cain &Tery,2016). “We offer a definition of digital empathy as the “traditional empathic characteristics such as concern and caring for others expressed through computer-mediated communications.” (Cain &Terry, 2016). In the article, the authors believe that “While there may be other influences, the online disinhibition effect14 describes several subtle, but powerful underlying factors that contribute to the nature of communication via digital devices. These factors may help explain the sometimes toxic and aggressive nature of online communications (Tsikerdekis,2012).

Based on their research and study, “as online communication can be asynchronous, individuals do not have to manage immediate reactions to online conversations and can remove themselves from the repercussions of online discussions, even avoiding ownership for hostile and intimidating comments. Third, even in a completely nonanonymous environment (ie, computerized medical record, e-mail correspondence, blogs), the nature of online communications is such that individuals are physically invisible to others, permitting them to disregard any type of eye contact or physical reaction of the other person(s). A significant portion of traditional face-to-face communications tends to be nonverbal (eg, body language, tone of voice), and without these cues, online conversations lack an essential element of understanding (Mehrabian,1972)

The authors of this research suggested the process of reflective writing should be considered in any curricula, as this approach was successful at developing empathy (Ahrweilef, Neumann, Goldblatt, Scheffer, 2014). Self-reflection activities have been successfully introduced into curricula through a variety of formats, including group peer discussions (Duke, Grosseman, Novack, Rosenzweig,2015) and mindfulness training (Riess, Kelley, Bailey, Dunn, Phillips,2012).

Based on findings of empathy, the results of a confirmatory factor analysis on the Interpersonal Reactivity Index supported Davis’s (1980) findings that empathy comprises four components: perspective taking, fantasy, empathic concern, and personal distress. Factor intercorrelations, however, were not the same as those reported by Davis. MANOVAs (Multivariate Analysis of Variance) was used to examine gender and age effects on empathy. Girls were more empathic in general than boys, and older children showed more empathic concern than younger children. 

  • Research shows that literature and picture books can give a false study or perhaps push a different feeling on the child.

The structure of empathy during middles childhood and its relationship to prosocial behavior

Much of this attention has focused on empathy, and they now exist a considerable body of evidence indicating that empathy is related to the altruistic behavior of adults (e.g., Eisenberg et al., 1989), although there are contextual effects. However, it has been difficult to come to similar firm conclusions with respect to empathy in children.

The FASTE (Feshbach and Roe’s 1968 Affective Situations Test) presents the construct of empathy in terms of “effective matching.” A series of pictures are presented, accompanied by stories, and children are asked how they feel and how a child in the story feels. A number of significant problems with the FASTE have been noted in the literature. Hoffman (1981) objected that the overall empathy score was difficult to interpret because it represented an aggregation of responses reflecting a mixture of euphoric and dysphoric emotions such as fear, anger, and happiness. The FASTE elicits gender differences in empathy–girls show more empathy than boys overall–a finding that may be attributable to the type of measure used (Feshbach, 1982). Its effects may easily be confounded by social desirability (Eisenberg & Lennon, 1980), by situational cues (Lanotti, 1977), and by the gender of the experimenter (Lennon, Eisenberg, & Carroll, 1983). Moreover, Hoffman (1981) noted that the required veridicality of responses may cause empathy to be confounded with verbal ability.

We predicted that older children would report less personal distress than would younger children, but the results failed to reveal age-related changes in self-reported personal distress. These findings suggest that although empathic concern becomes a more prominent response duringmiddle childhood, accompanying decreases in the tendency to experience personal distress fail to materialize, and these two types of response continue to coexist. That is, empathic concern adds to the youngster’s repertoire without diminishing the presence of personal distress (Litvak-Miller and McDougall,1997).

  • Connecting students to technology responsibility in real-world and online

Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically

Moving into a digital world and education is the pathway for the proper usage, “The Internet as we know it is the 21st century…It is what these students have known their whole lives. They’re connected, they’re creating, they’re discussing, they’re collaborating.” (Sheninger,2011). These changes in technology are causing school leaders to add new policies and guidelines for safe and appropriate use, while simultaneously working to improve their own skills in digital literacy. Karen Cator of the U.S. Department of Education stated that educational environments need to be safe places for students (Cator, 2009). The American Library Association policy statement on digital use included a reference to school personnel’s responsibility to “educate minors to participate responsibly, ethically and safely”. (American Library of Association Council, 2009).

More research can, “to help educators begin to address specific technology and citizenship issues, such as cyberbullying (and other technology misuses), has become a focus for educational leaders. Many anti-bullying programs and tools are available but with little direction, instruction or follow-up, and these programs often have less than favorable results. Technology users of all ages are now reaping the benefits, as well as the problems, that go along with more than a decade of rapidly increasing technological advances, without direction about appropriate use. Educational leaders have a responsibility as protectors of students, and as such can become part of the problem, if they do not take proactive steps to begin finding solutions to cyberbullying and other technological issues” (Ribble,2010)

“A concern related to technology misuse is the lack of empathy that students are showing towards each other.” (Miller and Ribble,2010). Increases in reports of K-12 cyberbullying incidents also indicate this lack of empathy. This type of behavior must not just be written off as ‘kids being kids.’ The audience that students have today is much larger than in the past and they have the ability to connect with this audience immediately. It is imperative that educational leaders’ access and utilize all the positive aspects of the new technologies as they also find ways to reduce or eliminate the negative facets of these tools, for all students. Ignoring the problem is not an option. The time is now to act quickly and responsibly to address the issues of cyberbullying and personal responsibility. To address the potential cyberbullying, as well as other technical issues, educational leaders need to guide students, faculty, and staff in recognizing their own responsibility, and in developing empathy and understanding for others. As students are thrust into an odd combination of RL (Real Life) and OL (Online Life), they can often have hundreds of “friends” that they never meet [12]. Students are using tools created for adults, which requires them to become more mature in their interpersonal skills of how to balance their OL interactions with those in RL. Students need to put a “face” to their postings and realize that they are interacting with real people, not just inanimate laptops or smartphones. All users need to regain some of that empathy and etiquette for others, to think about others and their needs, as well as their own. Times and technologies have changed, but the need for basic skills in humanity is important no matter how people connect with others. Today’s students live in a highly technical world with increasing online communications options while having fewer visual cues available. School leaders must find ways to enhance relationship-building, using technology, for themselves, their faculty members, and for their students. (Ohler,2010)

  • Movin up the middle

Movin Up to the Middle

The researcher Rick Wormeli has a very informative article covering middle schoolers and their transition to the weird years.  Let’s take a  ride in middle schoolers emotional rollercoaster, “Given the fact that a year in a middle school student’s life is a much larger percentage of his or her overall life than it is for an adult; and given all the growth taking place — the mistakes, conflicts, insights, joy, tension, wisdom, and risk-taking; and given that students lack the perspective that comes from life experience, it’s no wonder that students experience their first year of middle school as intense and tumultuous. Every day is the end, or beginning, of all life as they know it. (Wormeli,2011)

Middle schools with the best transition programs are the ones in which faculty members are in touch with their inner, young adolescent; these educators can empathize with students because they remember what it was like when they were that age. This empathy helps teachers understand students’ major worries: homework, demanding teachers, bullying, and getting lost. Schools should build practical advice for handling each one of these concerns into their transition programs. (Wormeli,2011).

The only reason students raise their hands to answer a question, turn in assignments, or participate in the world is that there’s hope for a positive outcome. Without hope, a child will throw down the ball and go home — and we can’t teach a child who is not physically or emotionally present. Let’s put hope into every day. This is not a syrupy greeting card sentiment — it’s visceral. (Wormeli, 2011). The author also states that we should build hope middle school students struggle with controlling impulsive behavior. Sending a text message instead of using real communication to handle things. They make snide or rude remakes and actions.

  • Using disruptive technology in the classroom

Using disruptive technologies to make digital connections: stories of media use and digital literacy in secondary classrooms

Although mobile phones and Web 2.0 tools (i.e. blogs, wikis, video sharing websites, podcasts, and social media networks) have been labeled as disruptive to the learning process and sometimes banned from schools altogether, many secondary teachers rejected the label and incorporated these digital tools into their classroom lessons because of their students reliance on the technology. A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 78% of the teenagers questioned had a mobile phone and nearly half had a smartphone (Madden, Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi, & Gasser, [36]). The average American high school studentspends a lot of time on their mobile phone – watching videos, searching the internet, and for some teens sending over 200 text messages each day (Lenhart, [30]; Nielson Company, [42]). Approximately 73% of American teenagers used social networking sites and school was a regular topic in social media posts (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, [31]; Richardson, [51]).

Some research shows that students and teachers can foster a positive relationship with technology and media in a learning environment. Research into media uses and gratifications revealed that one of the main reason’s teenagers used disruptive devices was to escape from school (Dunne et al., [15]; Park et al., [46]). This directly conflicted with teachers’ desire to integrate social media networks and mobile phones into the school curriculum. This could explain why all three teachers cited the teacher-studentrelationship – the social-emotional bond that connected the two groups – as the driving force for their endeavors to connect with students through technology. The role of the teacher-studentrelationship in both teachers’ and students‘ decisions to engage online was an unexpected research finding. While the idea that social media met one’s socializing needs was not shocking, finding that educational social media interactions did come as a surprise. This information could help teachers build stronger online classroom communities in the future and should be considered before school districts or lawmakers make policy decisions regarding teacher-student interactions in digital spaces. Denying teachers and studentsaccess and interaction through social media networks would negate teachers’ goals for increased learning inside and outside the classroom. (Nowell, 2014)

Teachers’ interactions and relationships with students form a key component of their identities (Doherty & Mayer, 2003). In the classroom, teachers form a care-filled bond with students, which Noddings (1986) described as an ethical friendship where teachers and students “work together” in order to achieve moral and intellectual growth (p. 509). Beutel and Van Maele and Van Houtte (2011) found when students shared positive relationships with teachers, they were more engaged and successful in the classroom. Trust formed the basis of positive teacher-student relationships (Lumpkin, [34]; Van Maele & Van Houtte, [60]), including technology-mediated relationships (Carr, [ 6]; DeGennaro, [13]; Doherty & Mayer, [14]; King & LaRocco, [25]; Martin, [37]; Schofield & Davidson, [54]). As teachers employed digital technology as a teaching tool they improved student engagement and formed learning partnerships with students (Doherty & Mayer, [14]; Henderson & Honen, [22]; Mihailidis & Heibert, [40]; Prensky, [49]; Richardson, [51]; Sánchez, [53]). Social media created digital spaces where teachers and students work together to sustain learning and improve their relationships. (Nowell,2014)

Teens’ mobile phone use revealed the gratification of young people’s needs for entertainment, socializing, and escapism. Teenagers also use their mobile devices to get advice on school or life issues (Grant & O’Donohoe, 2007). Applying the theory of media uses and gratifications to this study provided a common vocabulary to understand why teachers and students chose certain new media technologiesand what they gained from its use as an educational tool.

  • Empathy and imagination

Empathy and Imagination: Nurturing children’s and adolescent’s spiritual well being in the digital environment

Hart (2006:172) explains that spirituality does not occur in the “I” but in the living out of human encounters “between you and me.” Living out experience with a person may allow people to gain an understanding of aspects of life they did not understand before a particular encounter. Hart (2006:172) describes how young people have a great capacity for empathy and are often very aware of another person’s emotions. “Sometimes they may be overwhelmed or confused by the feelings of another person; in other moments that deep connection leads to surprising understandings” (Hart 2006:172). These deep connections and understanding of others may lead to transcendence. Hornberger et al. (2006:459) describe the searching for the meaning of life as an action. This action or effort may result in greater personal awareness, connection to oneself and their environment. Hence, it is important to interact and be with people, to share in their lives and them in yours. It is in these experiences or actions of the living out of everyday situations where people find spiritual transformation. (Apostolids,2018).

Albert Einstein said: “I am enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” (Viereck1929:117). The importance of the imagination is also highlighted by J. K. Rowling (2008) who explains that without imagination people would not be able to empathize with what other people have experienced. Hence, imagination and empathy go hand in hand. Empathy is when a person can share the emotions of another person that moves them to act in a certain way in a social context (Overgaauw 2017 et al. 8). As was explained above by Hart (2006:172) young people have a great capacity to empathize with other people. Children and adolescents who are empathetic have the vital ability to constructively adapt to social interactions (Overgaauw 2017 et al. 8). However, the ability to imagine and empathize, Margalit (2016) explains, can be stunted by too much exposure to screen time and too little human interaction. (Apostolids,2018)

  1. Conclusion

Reviewing several different articles concerning empathy and the ownership middle school students have, it all comes down to the individual student, how secure they are with their work, themselves and their social relationship. The use of technology is not going away, with more districts and educators implementing technology into the classroom, more students need training on empathy and how to handle themselves in a digital world.


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