Technology can help bring the world to students’ desktops, and it can empower whole communities to come together and make a difference: That was the key message of Emmy award-winner Jeff Corwin, who urged educators to use their position of influence to build students’ sense of compassion and understanding of the world around them.

Speaking at the 2008 Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Corwin–a wildlife biologist who hosts “Corwin’s Quest” and “The Jeff Corwin Experience” for Discovery Communications’ Animal Planet channel–said it’s important for students to learn how to become environmentally responsible citizens.

Corwin kicked off this year’s FETC on Jan. 23 with a keynote speech in which he outlined a vital challenge facing today’s educators.

“You’ve been charged with this incredible responsibility … to mold future leaders in an environment of incredible uncertainty,” he told conference attendees. “We are at a critical stage when it comes to the conservation of our natural resources.”

He described what he called a “perfect storm” of factors that will challenge future generations on this planet. These factors include habitat loss, global climate change, a fast-growing human population, and “environmental degradation,” or pollution–and they are conspiring to tax the earth’s resources and cause huge problems for its species.

“In the next 24 hours, four or five or 10 species will disappear from the planet forever,” Corwin warned. “Today, we have an unnatural rate of extinction.”

While the environmental challenges facing today’s youth are enormous, technology can help bring people together to solve these common problems. It also provides a platform for raising awareness of these issues, bringing images from around the globe to students’ classrooms.

Corwin’s programs for Discovery are a good example of technology’s potential to shrink the world. Video clips from his television show have been downloaded from Discovery Education Streaming, the company’s video-on-demand service for schools, more than 1.4 million times, Discovery Education said. Online video streaming has helped thousands of teachers incorporate Corwin’s lessons on conservation into their curriculum.

Corwin said having a four-year-old daughter has underscored the importance of his message: “It’s important to pass on a world that is equally healthy, if not more healthy,” than the one we have now, he urged attendees.

Links:

Animal Planet

Discovery Education

FETC 2008