EDTECH: How can technology be used to support SEL needs for students?
Froehlich: You have to remember that it’s not the tech itself that supports the SEL, it’s what you’re doing with the tech. If you can find a tool that provides students with a sense of belonging, a sense of connection, that’s the one you should be using. Everyone seems to love Flipgrid right now because it’s so easy to use and it’s free. It’s like the golden child of all ed tech tools at the moment.
Holland: You can’t just use technology like Zoom or Google Meet to replicate an in-person experience. The successful strategies I’ve seen involve engaging students through a variety of modalities from video to audio to chat. With students joining classes remotely, teachers need to be aware of equity issues. A student might be joining the class from a parked car or a crowded apartment. Offering flexibility for live classes creates a more inclusive environment. I have also heard that teachers use tools like GoGuardian, which basically lets the teacher ‘walk around the room’ and check in with students and give them support as they work.
Hiefield: I think it’s important for the technology to not be isolating. It needs to involve human contact — notes from your teacher, brainstorming solutions with fellow students. When technology fosters connections between people, or can help you develop empathy or skills for managing your emotions, that’s when it’s valuable as an SEL tool.
One thing COVID has done is, it has disproportionally affected our English language learners. Because of that, we’ve started researching the use of translation software — like Microsoft Translator and ParentSquare — to communicate with students and their families. I’m hoping this is something we see more of coming out of the pandemic as a way to foster a more inclusive learning environment and allow parents who don’t speak English to participate in their children’s education.
DISCOVER: These 3 online learning tools help boost remote instruction.
EDTECH: How can teachers encourage SEL in their remote classrooms?
Eakins: One way to improve is just through better listening — and not just listening to kids, but also their families. Sometimes we make assumptions based off our biases. You know, because this child is from this neighborhood, maybe this is their home situation or maybe their parent doesn’t care. But we don’t know, we’re just guessing. It’s better to reach out and ask questions and see if they’d be open to engaging.
Hiefield: One thing my teaching partner and I did during summer school was open up our virtual room 10 minutes early. We said to our students, “Hey, we’re going to be eating breakfast and talking. Feel free to come and chat if you like.” A few kids did come in early, and some of them ate breakfast with us. From an SEL standpoint, you’re just trying to provide opportunities for connection, meeting people where they’re at.
Holland: I think one of the keys is to not always focus on the academic piece, but to give kids space to interact and reach out. Teachers can leave their Zoom room open for 10 or 15 minutes after class so that students can hang out. Or, if you’re an elementary school teacher, host a short dance party or a singalong.
EDTECH: Will any SEL support initiatives implemented in this remote state stick around after the pandemic is over?
Hiefield: For students who take the bus, they might not have the same type of access, for example, that a bike rider or walking student has, if they need to see a teacher after school. So that’s kind of an interesting thing, if a teacher now says, “I’m going to be in my Zoom office room for a half hour after school. If you have any questions, you can check in and just have a face to face.”
Microsoft Education has new features for social-emotional learning. Learn more at edtechmag.com/k12/MSFTSEL.