Belonging and Purpose: Embracing Empathy and Building Compassionate Communities

Change display time — Currently: Central Daylight Time (CDT) (Event time)
Location: Room 393-4
Experience live: All-Access Package
Watch recording: All-Access Package Year-Round PD Package

Participate and share : Interactive session

Barbara Bray  
Dr. Ilene Winokur  

How have implicit bias and inequities impacted a sense of belonging and purpose? Feeling accepted and a strong bond with others provides a sense of belonging. During this session, attendees will connect belonging with purpose through stories and activities using technology that address equity, social-emotional learning and global collaboration.

Audience: Principals/head teachers, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS
Laptop: Mac, PC, Chromebook
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: We will be sharing some of the following apps. The participants will not need accounts for the presentation. We want to demonstrate that there are multiple apps, tools, and software that can help develop a sense of belonging and purpose.
Twitter (
Mentimenter (
Buncee (
Zoom (
Wakelet (
Canva (
JamBoard (
Anchor (
Topic: Social emotional learning
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Education Leaders:
Empowering Leader
  • Empower educators to exercise professional agency, build teacher leadership skills and pursue personalized professional learning.
For Educators:
  • Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.
  • Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
Related exhibitors:
, Canva for Education
, Edpuzzle
, Swivl, Inc.
, Zoom
, SpacesEDU & Curipod

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Educational challenge/situation

The pandemic impacted teachers who have been overwhelmed, burned-out, and in some cases, demoralized and wanting to leave the profession. Students felt isolated, confused, bored, and depressed. Remote teaching was difficult to build relationships and a sense of belonging. They lost purpose and were searching. Attendance was down. Participation was decreasing. It was about being seen, heard, and valued which was difficult during the pandemic.

Technology Intervention
Teachers were looking for strategies to engage and empower students to be motivated to participate and want to learn. They were also looking for strategies to redefine their WHY for themselves about wanting to make a difference in children's lives. Technology provided opportunities for students and teachers to connect, collaborate, curate, and create.

To connect, teachers used video-conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet and social media tools like Twitter.
To collaborate, they learned about and used Mentimeter for polls and word clouds and JamBoard to brainstorm ideas.
To curate resources, they found Wakelet to share a variety of resources and links in collections and Padlet to use as a place to collect and save resources for projects and lessons.
To create, teachers used Canva and Buncee to design images, backgrounds, and animations. Educators started podcasting using multiple tools like Anchor and create green screen videos with tools like Do Ink and WeVideo.


The timing is for a creation lab session (90 minutes). We initially thought it would be an interactive session. Then we reflected on the activities and realized we need more time for interactivity and discussions.

1. Welcome and Introductions (6 min)
Presenters will introduce each other and the outcomes for the presentation. They will invite participates to share a picture on their phone that makes them smile to 2-3 people. Presenters will share the link to the Google Slides and the Google Doc with a place to build connections and community.

2. What do you know about Belonging? (5 min)
Add the first 3 words that come to mind about belonging to Mentimeter.

3. What is Belonging? (8 min)
It isn't about fitting in or being compliant. It is about becoming a good ancestor. The presenters will share how they connected at ISTE and began a great friendship. They ask attendees to answer with table group or in the chat: Do you have someone like that in your life? Are you still in touch?

4. Empathy Slides (15 min)
Review resources on a sense of belonging curated in Wakelet and why they support wellbeing. Show Brené Brown’s video on Empathy. Introduce story exchange from Narrative4. Pair and listen deeply to each other’s stories. Retell the other person’s story from their point of view. Whole group discussion on what it felt like to listen to someone else tell your story.

5. Connecting Belonging with Purpose + Purpose with Belonging (8 minutes)
One presenter explains how their friendship led to starting a Twitter chat, one podcast, then a book about the WHY. A little bit later, the other presenter started her podcast and a book on the sense of belonging. They worked together and helped each other. Ask participants to pair/share with another about a relationship that helped grow their sense of belonging & purpose. Share with the table what stood out.

Break (10 min)

6. Share the WHY (6 min)
Introduce the Golden Circle for educators and starting with the WHY before the WHAT and HOW. Invite attendees to share emotions/thoughts about their WHY on notes. Table talk on How might your WHAT get in the way of your WHY?

7. Define WHY using ikigai (8 min)
Consider the 4 elements what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you are valued for. Pair/Share with another about their passion and how it addresses your purpose. Add your passion (what you love) on a Padlet with your name, text, pictures, links. Whole group feedback about passion and what that means as an educator.

8. Global Collaboration (8 min)
Consider What the World Needs: Share what the UN SDGS are (share link) and the UN SDGs collaborative projects such as Kindergarten in Texas and 9th graders in California using Zoom, Wakelet, and FlipGrid. How can you bring in what the world needs in your classroom? Turn and talk and add ideas, lessons, or projects on Padlet or JamBoard.

9. Belonging and Purpose to Address Equity and Inclusion Issues (12 min)
Consider How everyone feels valued (ikigai) How can we address issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? Have table groups or Breakout Rooms (4-6 people) discuss what strategies they could do to build relationships and community so everyone feels like they belong based on what they learned in this session. Then the whole group to share out.

10. Closing and Q&A (15 min)
Whole group discussion on what they learned and takeaways. Presenters will review resources, activities, and how to access the results of discussions. Presenters will give away signed copies of their books.

[The activities and timings are flexible depending on if virtual or on-site.]

Supporting research

Supporting Research

Bray, B. Define Your Why website:

Bray, B. (2020) Define Your Why: Own your story so you can live and learn on purpose. Alexandria, VA. EduMatch Publishing.

Brown, B. (2018) Dare to Lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. New York, NY: Random House.

Csikszentmeihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of invention and discovery. New York. NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Murray, T. (2019) Personal & Authentic: Designing experiences that impact a lifetime. San Diego, CA. IMPress, a division of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

Sinek, S. (2017) Find Your Why: A practical guide for discovering purpose for you and your team, New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin. An Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Taplay, A. (2018, October 18). What does belonging mean to you? Wordpress.

Winokur, I. (2021) Journeys to Belonging: Pathways to Well-Being. Alexandria, VA. EduMatch Publishing.

Story Exchanges from Narrative4 (

More [+]


Barbara Bray, Rethinking Learning

Barbara Bray is a creative learning strategist who hosts the Rethinking Learning Podcast, author of Define Your WHY, co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning, co-host of the #rethink_learning Twitter chat, and founder/owner of My eCoach. She is an international speaker, mentor, and coach who has been on a mission for over thirty years to transform education into innovative community learning centers. Barbara is focusing on redefining your WHY during uncertain times, challenging our thinking about what school means, and disrupting the status quo so every learner lives their story on purpose.

Dr. Ilene Winokur, Journey to Belonging

Ilene Winokur, Ed.D., is a professional development specialist who supports global educators, including refugee teachers. She has lived in Kuwait since 1984, and retired in June 2019 from her role as director of the foundation program unit at Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST). She also founded and managed a professional development consultancy in Kuwait. Winokur was a teacher and administrator at the early childhood, elementary levels and college levels in private institutions in Kuwait for more than 20 years. She has presented at local and regional conferences in the Middle East and internationally on topics such as Kuwaiti culture, administrators as visionary leaders, and inclusive teaching practices. Her academic interests include psychological safety, belonging, social-emotional learning, project-based learning and continuing professional development. Winokur currently mentors and supports refugee teachers and students around the world. She believes in the power of networking and leverages it to benefit marginalized populations such as the refugee leaders she supports and mentors in Kakuma, Kenya. She’s the author of Journey to Belonging: Pathways to Well-Being that follows her journey to belonging in two very different cultures and countries, the United States and Kuwait. She’s writing a new book that’s filled with lesson plans and activities to instill a sense of belonging in students and teachers. Prior to retiring, Winokur was a teacher and administrator at the elementary and pre-college levels for 25 years in Kuwait, specializing in ESL. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Lehigh University, an MBA from the University of Miami, Florida, and completed her ESL certification from the College of New Jersey.

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