Social Emotional Connections in Distance Learning
This blog post is sponsored by Acer Education, a partner of EdTechTeam.
Social emotional learning (SEL) is the “process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”1
This blog seeks to offer potential solutions and suggest how community members can take supportive action in sustaining connections that are essential to our vitality. For some the idea that “the show must go on…line” is uncharted territory; we can be most powerful if we unite as groups and communities that support learning of all types.
There are a number of online learning platforms or apps that lend themselves to keeping the social and emotional connections in distance learning. Whether using these tools in an elementary or university setting, here are some helpful virtual etiquette tips.
This list is just a sampling of some common applications. Since collaboration and group work is an important part of learning, many of these learning platforms have integrated, or users have found workarounds for how to utilize breakout rooms as places where social connections can be fortified. For many students, simply seeing their teachers will be a welcome relief. This can also be done by live streaming, an option some schools have chosen in these days of ‘Zoombombings’ (unpleasant visitors that drop in during classes). Note: It is important to set up privacy settings in all applications before users access video conferences.
Microsoft Teams – up to 250 members on a group video call; for how to structure breakout rooms, see this post
Zoom – host up to 100 participants for free; breakout rooms feature integrated
Adobe Connect – host up to 100 users in each room; breakout rooms feature integrated
Of course, just as we have classroom management/discipline issues in classrooms, issues are bound to occur. There are features such as video and chat recording that allow for accountability.
These applications can be used within many of the platforms listed above, or even during webinars, which some institutions are opting to use for security reasons.
Nearpod – free add-on for live lessons; student-paced option requires a subscription; SEL curriculum → sample lesson in Google Slides
Peardeck – free add-on to promote student engagement in lessons; SEL templates → sample lesson in Google Slides
Besides using these virtual and interactive tools for learning, they are also great to connect with family members that are far away or even in hospitals or centers. Some other potential apps for face-to-face connections (on a smaller scale) are:
‘Playdates’ with Moderators
Just as teachers might have volunteers come to help in a class or on a field trip, why not invite them to moderate a small group of students in an online platform? (see above lists)
Parents, guardians, teaching assistants, etc. (depending on the systems and structures in your organization) can take turns ‘hosting’ via the above-mentioned platforms or a tool used by the organization.
There is room for creativity, of course – there could be dance-offs, read-alouds or lunch dates. Just make sure the appropriate safeguarding measures are in place beforehand and in alignment with your school or institution.
Chat Groups with Guardian Hosts
Discussion tools that students are familiar with could also be monitored by parents and guardians, depending on the jurisdictions of the organization. This could prevent teachers from having to oversee multiple chats or breakout rooms, especially if they occur around the same time (and the teacher needs to briefly check in with each group). Of course, teaching Digital Citizenship beforehand also goes a long way.
For an example of how the discussion groups could work: a teacher might divide the class into groups that could potentially connect positively, from a social aspect. Then a time could be scheduled every day for students and families to ‘have a chat’ with a ‘topic of the day.’
For students that lack computing devices, many chat applications can be accessed with a smartphone.
For the groups that are not using video conferencing in students’ experiences, we can still foster social-emotional connections with mindful inquiry.
Here are a few sample summary/reflective inquiries (always better with visuals, for fun and to support language learners) that also promote metacognition:
What would you like to cut out ✂️of your day?
What part of your week would you save to come back to again?
How can you sum up/tie up 🎀 your learning?
What connections 🔗 can you make to previous lessons?
Power of Example
Many parents are now stepping into the ‘teacher’ roles at home but parents are essentially the people that their children learn from, first and foremost.
The kids are watching us – we are all role models right now. With that, there is a great opportunity as individuals and members of communities. Thus my inquiries for all of us are: How are we spending our time? What changes have we made for the better and worse? What can we do that benefits both ourselves and others?
With self-awareness regarding screen time usage, we might find that when we take much-needed breaks, the best kind of learning can happen. If we share our passions and strengths with the students and let them explore theirs, those amazing ‘ah-ha’ moments could occur in nature, by sharing a good book or an online yoga class. I believe it is best to offer activities that are tailored to your children’s needs (social, emotional and otherwise), interests and abilities, regardless if you’re doing so from a teacher- or parent-perspective.
This is an exceptionally unique time with much potential for growth. While there will be struggle, it can also be the impetus of creativity that arises while being forced to ‘think inside the box.’
If you would like to see how to apply these ideas for remote learning in various applications, check out our ‘10 Tools for Distance Learning’ online course!
- SEL & Wellness During Distance Learning – Google for Edu OnAir
- Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
- Stanford University Virtual Meeting Etiquette Tips
- New York Times article on Preventing ‘Zoomboming’
- 250 Conversation Starters