Social Screen Time: How Best Practices in Edtech Enhance Social Emotional Learning

Social Screen Time: How Best Practices in Edtech Enhance Social Emotional Learning

Technology has advanced so rapidly in the last two decades that many educators may feel a disconnect between the classrooms in schools they attended as children and those they teach in now. It wasn’t so long ago that researching papers meant using card catalogs and coordinating group projects required face-to-face interaction. With the rise of blended learning, students are using online and digital tools more frequently. Now that students are relying on educational technology for everything from individual assessments to large-scale collaborative projects, educators might wonder if all this screen time is taking away from another key area of development: social and emotional learning.


While it’s true that the schools of 2018 look very different from those of 1978—or even 1998—students still need the softer skills that will help them succeed in their careers and in life. Along with academic skills, such as comprehension and critical thinking, students need to master emotional and interpersonal skills, such as collaboration, emotional well-being, and introspection.


Using educational technology in the classroom does not compete with developing these skills. In fact, best practices in edtech and blended learning encourage teaching students positive social messages, such as self-awareness and digital citizenship. Read on to find out how using edtech can be a support—not a distraction—from social and emotional learning.

 

The five core competencies


The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) divides social emotional learning into five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. By looking closely at each of these five areas, we can see how blended learning helps students develop the social skills they need in this modern world.

 

1. Self-awareness

CASEL defines this area of social-emotional learning by healthy personal introspection, including such traits as:

  • Identifying emotions

  • Accurate self-perception

  • Recognizing strengths

  • Self-confidence

  • Self-efficacy

So, can educational technology help a student look inward? A great deal, as stakeholders in personalized learning can attest. In a recent article, Tiffany Wycoff, co-founder of Learning Innovation Catalyst (LINC), argued: “Students need to be taught connectivity to self in relation to others, and have agency in their learning. Agency is at the heart of 21st-century learning.”


In addition to enabling educators to create more personalized learning opportunities for their students, edtech also allows students to conceive of their own thinking and learning as individuals as opposed to one of the crowd. Edtech gives us a variety of personalized learning options in the form of self-paced educational software, assessment technology that determines areas of strength and weakness, student dashboards that communicate student areas of strength and identify areas of growth, and time-saving tools that allow educators more one-on-one time with each student.

 

2. Self-management

Increasing self-awareness goes hand in hand with developing self-management. CASEL lists these traits as indicators of self-management:

  • Impulse control

  • Stress management

  • Self-discipline

  • Self-motivation

  • Goal-setting

  • Organizational skills

While unlimited screen time may seem to encourage the opposite of self-management, best practices in edtech actually give students a solid foundation to set personal goals, manage their time, and keep themselves on track. Even the simplest tool—such as usage guidelines, a cellphone timer, or a countdown clock—can be used to structure homework time or provide reminders of upcoming deadlines. Using spreadsheets and interactive calendars also allows students to learn how to budget time for each of their responsibilities and manage their time accordingly.

 

3. Social awareness

Many educators understand the value of teaching students how to listen and learn with empathy. CASEL defines social awareness skills by these traits:

  • Perspective-taking

  • Empathy

  • Appreciating diversity

  • Respect for others

According to a recent article by the Center for Global Education at Asia Society, a leading education organization dedicated to promoting and strengthening relationships around the world, technology and digital media can expand empathetic and global learning in many ways. As opposed to simply reading texts about another country, students can engage by reading and analyzing media from around the world, publishing their own work online, and interacting with students in other countries through chat rooms, video, and blogs. This digital age has made our world increasingly globalized, and students now have amazing opportunities—and responsibilities—to learn how to interact with awareness and respect. Additionally, technology allows us access to the most current content, whereas paper-based media is not updated as frequently and can quickly become dated.

4. Relationship skills

In this day and age, our students’ social lives often have a digital component—whether they’re sharing photos on social media or texting to keep in touch, students are already using technology to build their relationships. Within the classroom, edtech can be used to expand on this competency in relationship skills, including:

  • Communication

  • Social engagement

  • Relationship-building

  • Teamwork

According to edtech speaker and author Lisa Nielsen, there are many digital tools that allow educators to make deeper connections with students and their families. Creating online groups for the class on Facebook, Edmodo, or Google allows students to have a safe, moderated space to practice collaborating online. Updating students and parents on announcements and daily learning through Twitter, Facebook, or Class Story demonstrates how digital media can be used to build understanding and deepen relationships between home and school.

 

5. Responsible decision-making

Like many powerful tools, the internet can be a wonderful resource when used wisely and a dangerous threat if not. With this in mind, digital citizenship teaches students many of the CASEL-defined areas for the decision-making competency, including:

  • Identifying problems

  • Analyzing situations

  • Solving problems

  • Evaluating

  • Reflecting

  • Ethical responsibility

In an Edudemic article that presented a teacher’s guide to digital citizenship, Kristen Hicks summed up the importance of responsible decision-making online: “Teaching digital citizenship means embracing the reality that we’re all interconnected through the internet, and that we therefore need to understand the responsibilities and risks that come with life online.” By addressing serious concerns about using online tools, such as illegal downloading, cyberbullying, harmful digital footprints, and more, students learn to think before they post and evaluate their ethical responsibilities.


Although classroom resources have changed in the digital age, students’ need to develop social and emotional learning has not. By using best practices in edtech and blended learning, educators can help their students build important social and emotional skills on and offscreen.

 


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