Philanthropy in the Classroom: Tech Tools for Empathy and Service

17 Jan

heartOf course, love belongs in our classrooms. Students learn best from teachers whom they know truly care for them. Teachers gladly go the extra mile for students who demonstrate a passion for a subject. Without working from a place of love, we cannot hope to develop empathetic, global citizens who care for one another. I strive to bring love into my classroom through daily actions, a patient heart, and a clear culture of respect, but I also infuse our curriculum with themes of social justice. The following sites and tools have proven helpful in this pursuit. No tech tool can be a panacea, but these are good places to start. They can help us infuse love for humankind into our daily work with students. is a microlending site that allows everyday people to loan to other everyday people. Kiva works with microfinance institutions around the globe to ensure that those requesting loans actually receive the funds, and when the loan is repaid, users can either donate the money to another user or take it back.

In my classes, I tell students about the site, ask them to explore the stories, and select people to whom we should donate. I then collect a dollar (now a Euro) donation on a voluntary basis. Some give nothing. Many give more. The money is then “kept in rotation” as it is repaid, and new donations are added to the communal pot.

Kiva is a very concrete way for students to practice empathy and gain experience in directing where their donations go. I look forward to seeing how we can grow our donation pool, and it will be a nice legacy for each group of students to leave for the next year’s students. A student introduced this app to my classes through the philanthropist chore in our Digital Farm work. It takes only seconds to install, and it turns your computer into a donation generating machine. It could be considered an example of slacktivism, but I am not so cynical. I think it is an easy way to remind students about charity on a daily basis. My students gladly use it, and learn more about causes that interest them.

UNICEF Tap Project: This site turns your phone into a donation generating device. You simply have to visit the site…and then stop using your phone. The time of inactivity triggers a small donation, and more importantly, the site provides meaningful information to users. My students have been using the site on their own, but sometime soon, I want to make a designated zone in my classroom with a QR code to the site. Then, students can come into the room, and leave their phones in that spot while doing good. I’ll probably get even better response if I use a wireless charging pad. I have one a student working on this idea now, but if she is unable to make it happen, I’ll be sure that it does. This online flashcard game battles world hunger. Each time a user clicks on a correct answer, a food donation is triggered. Most users learn English vocabulary but there are many different languages and categories to choose from (INSERT SUBJECT LINKS HERE I particularly like the famous paintings category [INSERT LINK]. helps American teens start service projects. The site has all sorts of ideas, so it can be a good resource for global classrooms, too. In the past I have had students use connect with a project or inspire a service action of their own. works in a similar way to but has a global focus. As a “marketplace of good” it is a logical place for students to connect with agents of change or to find inspiration for their own service projects. I have not yet used it as I just discovered it while researching this post, but I’m excited to see if my students and I can put it to good use.

Follow this link to find more anti-slavery resources my students and I have curated. Perhaps the most immediate and educational, especially for anyone unfamiliar with slavery’s presence in today’s world, is this survey at Note: you do not need to create an account to take the survey. My students and I have taken this survey as part of a unit about modern slavery, and we created guerrilla advertising campaigns to encourage our school community to take the survey and get involved. This survey would be an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to infuse his or her curriculum with abolitionism.

Samasource: I had never heard of MICROWORK before, but as I was researching this article, I came across this interesting concept. Samasource strives to empower people by giving them the gift of work. I do not know how I would use this idea in the classroom, but I found it intriguing, so I include it here.

Read more about Social Justice and Philanthropy in the classroom:

“Charity Doesn’t Always Begin at Home”

an interesting article which argues that infusing curriculum with philanthropy clearly increases the chances of future action

“Creating Classrooms for Social Justice”

a article at Edutopia that gives inspiring suggestions on how to infuse social justice into your curriculum.

excellent resources for bringing social justice into the classroom

The Hive Society

an insanely inspiring classroom brimming with action, not just words.  Constructivism, community, and social justice drive the learning.

I would be thrilled to hear from you about how you incorporate philanthropy and empathy into your classrooms. Please share your ideas, and I hope you find these suggestions helpful.

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