The year is 2020 and technology now seems like a utility (lights, electricity, water, etc.) in our lives. It is a way of life for our students growing up. With that, the basic needs of our students to develop the ability to manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, demonstrate empathy for others, build positive relationships, and make good decisions in a technological world that can lend itself to isolation can be a struggle.
How Technology Can Benefit Social-Emotional Learning
Since technology is now so integrated into our world, it also serves as a tool to help students develop the social and emotional learning aspect of their development. There are many students in classrooms everyday that would feel safer expressing themselves through technology. For some, the ability to not be face to face but still make a connection is part of the process for them building better relationships and overcoming anxiety in expressing themselves to others.
From my own experience teaching technology applications, I had software where I could see each computer in my room to monitor students’ work, take over a computer to model what to do instructionally, and to chat with the students. There were times when students felt better asking questions through the chat rather than in front of their peers.
Just this week, I was doing a walkthrough in a class and part of the review for the students was on Quizlet. The teacher had the classroom divided into teams, and since I participated, I was on a team also. Let me add at this point I did poorly on this review of spanish numbers above thirty, but I digress. Students immediately started working together on their team to get more points than the other team. There was nothing on the line, except doing better than their friends. Through technology, students were working together toward a common goal. Sounds like a soft skill that employers desire—which is another benefit of using technology to develop social-emotional learning.
Best Technology Tools to Support SEL
Classcraft is based on the Self-Determination Theory which is based on what drives individuals to engage in specific activities. Those factors include extrinsic or intrinsic motivators, cultural factors, and competency.
Each student has the ability to earn points and improve regardless of their starting point so each student has equal opportunity regardless of where they start. The games involve collaboration and competition and allows educators to connect with students.
The games meet the student where they are in their development and builds from there, so the game is helpful in meeting students’ needs and their various backgrounds.
Weird Enough Productions
At Weird Enough Productions, they have developed some superheroes called “The Uncommons” where “five unlikely outsiders must save each other to save the world.” The comics focus on social-emotional learning, literacy, and digital citizenship in such a way that students identify with the superheroes. The stories help students to embrace their quirks and be comfortable being themselves.
After looking at samples, I get the picture that their goal is to help students who feel out of place or not necessarily included to have a place where they can identify themselves in their stories.
This program focuses on three goals: connection, self-awareness, and self-regulation. The website provides detailed information on how Class Catalyst benefits teachers, administrators, students, and parents.
For teachers, Class Catalyst is discreet so that a student has a private way to connect with an adult and it provides a look at each student’s emotional and social needs. For administrators, Class Catalyst can de-escalate situations and help address Tier II students and their needs.
For parents the program helps to pinpoint issues before they happen and fosters self-awareness and personal responsibility. The benefits for the students seem fairly obvious in their SEL development.
One main difference between Class Catalyst and other websites is that it boasts there are no cartoons, tests, or cheesy content to follow.
This cloud-based program incorporates an interdisciplinary program with components of STREAMS (Science, Technology, Reading and Writing, Engineering, Arts, Math, and Social Sciences), digital literacy, computer science coding, 21st-century skills, and social-emotional learning.
One of the teacher benefits of FUNecole is that if you are not strong in computer science or coding, there are materials to help you through so that you can help your students.
The FUNecole diverse cartoons feature Mr. Attitude, Starjack the Innovator, Ram the Doer, and Systematic the Analyst. These characters all have features to reach out to the diverse economic and cultural backgrounds of our students.
In the end, as great as technology is and will be in all of our lives and the lives of our students, by its nature it makes it easier for the introvert or person who would rather ‘hide behind a screen’ to do so and not have as much face-to-face interaction. With that at times comes a natural regression in basic people skills.
The programs listed above and many more online will help many of these students have a safe and comfortable way to come out of their shell in a way that is more familiar to them and at the same time, learn valuable skills that will help make them successful in their future endeavors.