Empatico is a free video conferencing tool that connects classrooms of children aged 7-11 across the world, all in a bid to make the world a little much kind. The tool is created on the foundation of empathy. It is believed that when children learn empathy at a tender age, it goes with them into adulthood.
From its launch in 2017 till date, Empatico has generated more than 2,000 users in over 50 countries across the world. Beautiful connections have been made between classrooms across the world, and amazing feedbacks have been received from teachers and pupils likewise.
Earlier this year, a classroom in Nigeria was able to connect with another classroom in Connecticut, USA. This connection was facilitated by David Omololu Aiyeola, an alumnus of the African American Institute (an organisation in partnership with Empatico on scaling the tool in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa).OLUWASEUN KAYODE had an interview with Mr David to discuss his experience using the Empatico tool. Read his thoughts below


David Aiyeola

Can I meet you?

My name is David Omololu Aiyeola, the CEO of Edufunfunds Ventures, one of the British Council top 50 social enterprise start ups of 2017. An alumnus of Enterprise development center (SSM).

Just some weeks back, the internet went agog about the Empatico connection that happened between a classroom in Nigeria and another in Connecticut. Looking through this exciting news, it was discovered that you facilitated this connection. First, how did you get to know about Empatico?

I am an African American Institute (AAI) alumnus, having undergone one of the Transformation Leadership Program (TLP) at EDC=, Social sector Management Program SSM6. I do get the newsletters. I read all and look out for opportunities which I take pleasure of sharing with all my friends via all my social media channels. The last newsletter was unique as it made mention of the great plan of a partnership with Empatico. It also said that AAI is supporting the expansion of Empatico free digital learning tool in Ghana and Nigeria through its education partnerships across the African continent, bringing educational opportunities to young people across the African continent according to its mission to expand the boundaries of how kids learn, and also help teachers integrate kindness and curiosity into their lesson plans, and give students a new way to explore how their peers across the world live. To me this is good news. So, I looked up the website and instantly signed up.

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How seamless was the sign up process and how soon were you matched to the classroom in Connecticut?

So easy. You log in your name and email, and you get a confirmation email which you need to activate to validate your signup. Next, you need to fill the schedule time table to indicate the time of availability so that the admin can match yours with another teacher in another clime.
I was matched few days later. This was after I have received a welcome email. I was first matched with a teacher in India. I initiated a chat and waited for 2 weeks and there was no response. So, I reached out to Erick Roa and we had a brief exchange of emails. I actually got his email from the newsletter. He advised that I cancel the first match and request another which I did, and was re-matched with another teacher in Connecticut.

Pupils from both sides of the world connect through Empatico

How can you describe the experience your students had with the classroom in Connecticut?

Our first interaction was good. The experience was quite revealing. The children asked why the kids at the other end are not putting on uniforms. It was a bit challenging to easily grasp what the American kids were saying because they are fast in speech. Our children were a bit shy at the beginning and later they grew bold.
To arrive at that point, we had to agree with the other teacher the best time for both parties based on the 5 hrs time difference between Nigeria and the US. Next, we chose the same activity (Folktales to learn from) and fixed a time to virtually meet via the video tool on the site.
After that, the whole team got really busy in the activity that was selected. We streamed the videos, read it out loud and summarise the lessons of each story. On the D-day, we appeared in our best to have real fun. We asked the children what lessons was gained from the activity from both sides and why they chose such points.

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How did they feel before and after the connection?

At first, when we shared the information with the children, they were very excited. The founder of the school, Aunty Tosin as she is fondly called added so much Efizy (pump and joyous expectation) to the announcement. The head teacher Miss Taiwo also resolved all their scepticism while she selects the pupils capable of participating as you know they must be able to communicate very well in English. So, the expectation was quite high.
After the interaction, I was bombarded with questions. Oh! the other school was so beautiful. Will the kids come to Nigeria? How can we get to know them better? When next to connect? What kinds of food do they eat? What kinds of sport do they play? etc. So, I asked them why they didn’t ask the kids from the International Magnet School for Global Citizenship Connecticut USA directly.
That was what led to the unanimous decision to organise the second interaction which was also successful and all questions were asked while we, on our own part, used that opportunity to teach the other kids few things about Nigeria and our rich cultural heritage in dance, chant and songs to the cheers and admiration of their peers at the other side. Who will believe this will be possible and all for free. Empatico is simply awesome.

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The pupils in a group photograph after one of their Empatico sessions

You can tell that Mr David had an amazing experience using Empatico, and it also validates the tool for use by other Nigerian teachers. If you are a teacher and will love to use this tool. It’s free and easy to sign up. Just visit empatico.org and click on sign up. Fill in your details and follow the steps.

News Reporter
Kayode is a Social Entrepreneur who is passionate about Educational Development in Africa.

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