Technology and Empathy: Transforming Education

Thoughts from a Classroom Teacher

by Mary Jensen
July 26, 2016

Mary Jensen is a 10th Grade Art History Teacher at Boulder Valley High School in Colorado. 


Information and communication technologies have quickly revolutionized industry sectors but educators are noticing that so much of the traditional school environment still often remains static: desks + books + teacher = education. Why is there this lag in a more complete implementation of technology? I can’t believe it is necessarily about money and instead I’d like to think that what is missing is motivation and philanthropy.

What makes a person want to change? What makes a teacher want to change his or her pedagogy?

The answer, I believe, lies in benevolent incentives and encouragement to change –not threats of “Annual Yearly Progress” achievement from the federal government. What does this look like? I can tell you as I experienced it through the philanthropic and private funding of Impact on Education and the Boulder Valley Public School system back in January 2016.

Several of us were chosen to design and pilot lessons using digital and virtual learning as part of a research and development strategy to implement CyArk and Trimble’s technology-enabled Atlantic Slave Trade teaching tools.

Public-private partnership is exciting! Through CyArk, Trimble and Impact on Education, LiDAR, 3-D scanning, imaging rovers, unmanned aerial systems and SketchUp models from Trimble are replacing Power Points, textbooks, lectures and movies. A few weeks after the January workshop, I taught the lessons my colleague Kristen Lewis and I had prepared on the Atlantic Slave Trade. 

A few days after the lesson, Mary received the following email from a student:


Hi Mrs. Jensen, I've been thinking about what you said to me after our scored discussion was over on Friday. I do want to be a part of the change because I really do believe slavery was terrible. In addition, there hasn't been a presidential and congress apology for slavery. We should apologize because we need to recognize that slavery was horrible and if we don't apologize, it will make other people think that we didn't care about the African lives that were taken away. They do matter because they were humans too and they were forced to leave their homes in order to build the United States we know today. I don't get involved in discussions in the class and I want to apologize for it because I do want to make a change in the world and it starts by getting involved in the classroom. My goal for your class is to get involved as much as I can so that I can express my opinion to the class. Thank you for turning my brain on and letting me know that my opinion does matter in the class and what I say could change the world one day.


Clearly, the new lesson had awoken something in this student.

I could not have done it without the partnership of private industry: I needed the incentive to change my pedagogy and the guidance of how to do it. Public-private partnerships can become a national model. I know it won’t fix the problems with education but private companies can bring a much needed boost to the morale and training of teachers by embracing partnership. Just as I received an incentive to change, perhaps the federal government can give incentives to private industry to increase its partnership with public education. I will look forward to this model of cooperation!