Technology may be the last thing that comes to mind when you think about social-emotional learning.
Typically, the opportunity to practice SEL means students are not on devices, and instead are authentically interacting with one another. Studies show that screen time and social media use can negatively impact teens’ mental health. Young people who report spending the most time on smartphones — 5-7 hours a day — are twice as likely to report being depressed as those who use their phones for one to two hours a day. A study in JAMA Psychiatry showed that 12-15 year olds who spent more than six hours a day on social media were three times more likely to externalize their issues, which often shows up as bullying, compared with those who did not use social media.
Of course, it’s not the technology itself that leads to a negative impact on our social, emotional, and mental wellbeing, but how we use technology. Are students working independently in front of screens, with limited peer interaction? Or, are students collaborating in groups and using devices as-needed to look up information or keep track of project plans? Here are 3 ways technology can be used to scale social-emotional learning efforts and make SEL more accessible.
- Use technology to strengthen existing relationships. Technology connects us, making the world just a little bit smaller. How can you use technology to connect students more deeply within their existing relationships? Maybe this means connecting with peers in other classrooms or across the district or leveraging technology to bring families into the classroom. Using technology can help students strengthen existing relationships and integrate those relationships into the classroom learning environment, strengthening SEL and integrating SEL into academics.
- Use technology to maintain consistency. Social-emotional learning is core to teaching and learning, and as such SEL practices will look different in each classroom throughout a school. However, it’s beneficial to ensure some kind of consistency across SEL practices school-wide to strengthen the overall social, emotional, and mental health of a school community. A common language around emotions and emotional regulation strategies, for example, means that all students and teachers, regardless of grade level, can support one another and quite literally speak the same language when it comes to social and emotional wellbeing. Leveraging a digital SEL curriculum or program ensures consistency of practice across a school building.
- Use technology to ensure fidelity of implementation. It’s difficult to track whether or not social-emotional learning is happening in classrooms, buildings, and district-wide without the support of technology. Just like we use technology to help hold us accountable to many of our physical fitness goals, we can use technology to ensure regular engagement with social-emotional learning. We wouldn’t count going for a run just once as ongoing physical health; exercise needs to be built into our lives in an ongoing way to make an impact on our health. Similarly, social-emotional learning needs to be a regular part of our teaching and learning routine and a habit that we cultivate. Technology can ensure that’s happening at scale.
It takes a coordinated effort to ensure that all students have opportunities each day to build social and emotional skills and care for their overall well-being. Technology can make it easier for schools to scale SEL initiatives and make SEL more accessible. Social-emotional learning requires active engagement and authentic experiences, and leveraging technology to incorporate simple, thoughtful practices can maximize the impact of SEL for students, educators, and families.
Image by Getty