Nicole Krueger
Explore empathy and storytelling with Ashley Judd

Technology certainly plays a role in equipping students for success in the digital age. We can use it to teach them skills that will serve them well as productive workers in the global marketplace. We can use it to meet standards, improve test scores and raise responsible digital citizens.

But what good is living in a connected world if students don't learn to connect from the heart as well as from a mobile device?

Empathy is the magic ingredient that helps students become not only responsible digital citizens but conscious global stewards. It's also the magic ingredient that transforms technology's destructive potential into a gateway for improving conditions for all human beings — not to mention for the planet itself.

Fortunately, a growing number of educators are responding to the call to bring more empathy, passion and heart-based learning into schools.

"Shouldn't we place at least equal attention on developing students' innate empathic drives, so that we can prepare the next generation to think and act as part of a global family in a shared biosphere?" social theorist and author Jeremy Rifkin said in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"New teaching models designed to transform education from a competitive contest to a collaborative and empathic learning experience are emerging as schools and colleges try to reach a generation that has grown up on the internet and is used to interacting in open social networks where information is shared rather than hoarded."

Storytelling — whether through digital or traditional means — provides a powerful entry point for engaging students' empathy. By teaching students to share their stories, educators not only tap into their natural capacity for empathy but empower them to become the authors of their own lives.

"As we develop an understanding of each of our students, and help them to become the best learners they can be, we need to give them opportunities to share what they have learned: to become advocates and authors of their own stories," said fourth grade teacher Erin Petley. "In this technology day and age, the abilities for students to share their stories are endless. As teachers we need to provide meaningful ways for this to occur."

As a humanitarian and activist, actor Ashley Judd has traveled to child brothels in Cambodia to witness firsthand as human trafficking victims told their stories. She has learned the power of empathy in helping even the most downtrodden children begin to trust again. "At the end of our lives, all we have is our story," she said at TEDxNashville.

See what she has to say, and don't miss her opening keynote at ISTE 2014.