At SchoolSphero Team
A group of young students high-five each other at a working table in their classroom while the build with littleBits.

Contributed post by Kate Sheppard.

Technology provides some of the most effective educational tools for kids to enhance their learning and development. From support with spelling and math to engaging in social and emotional learning, a lot of technology, at its core, is designed to support learning.

In this article, we will be focusing on how technology can foster social and emotional learning in schools. 

What is Social and Emotional Learning and Why is it Important?

A school is a place for learning. It’s where kids are introduced to people from different backgrounds, with different abilities, likes and dislikes, and beliefs. And, through social and emotional learning, kids learn to develop empathy for one another that will help them progress well throughout their lives.

According to National University, social and emotional learning (SEL) is used in schools with the “aim to help students better understand their thoughts and emotions, to become more self-aware, and to develop more empathy for others within their community and the world around them.” 

The benefit of social and emotional learning and development in schools is that kids are exposed to people who are different from them. This challenges them socially, teaches them to be more self-aware, and helps them understand how what they say and do can affect other people. 

Learning these skills from a young age helps kids grow into responsible, empathetic adults who are socially aware and capable of approaching a variety of social situations positively throughout their lives.

How Technology Can Foster Social and Emotional Learning

Technology is being increasingly adopted within school settings. In fact, according to Arizona State University, “The first computer labs appeared during the 1980s as personal computing technology became more affordable and easier to use. By 2019, 53% of K-12 public school teachers reported that their students use digital learning tools every day to learn [...] Others engage with technology through gamified digital learning experiences that make hard subjects more palatable.”

Today, technology is used to support students’ social and emotional learning. Here is how technology is achieving that within a school environment.

1. Supports Healthy Emotional Expression

Kids can sometimes struggle to express their feelings in a healthy way. This could be due to emotional immaturity, lack of role models, or even trauma. As Olivia Marcellino, VP of Research at shares: “Trauma occurs when something you experience overwhelms your ability to cope.” Therefore, learning healthy emotional expression is vital for kids in overcoming past struggles. It also ensures kids learn healthy coping mechanisms to help them overcome future challenges in a positive way.

Technology can offer great support with this. Many teachers find technology tools, such as short videos, interactive games, pictures, and animations, are very effective at teaching kids how to express healthy emotions. 

Many schools are using technology to teach the practical application of social and emotional learning within different online settings. The purpose is to help kids understand their emotions within a safe digital environment before transferring what they’ve learned into the real world. Technology can help model things like healthy perspectives, conflict resolution, resilience skills, kindness, and effective communication, all of which help advance students’ social and emotional learning.

2. Engages Kids in Cooperative Play

Did you know that technology is fantastic for engaging kids in cooperative play? Teachers and parents know how difficult it can be to encourage kids to play nicely together. From arguments to fights, kids can struggle to play nicely together. This is all part of their development, however, they must learn to cooperate to have healthy long-lasting relationships. 

According to The U.S. Department of Education, “Play is arguably the most important and fundamental experience that children can have. However, the types of experiences that children have and the types of play they engage in is changing. Technology now plays a very large role in the way children of all ages play [...] It has been found that well-designed games can provide positive experiences that foster children’s learning and development.” 

Technology involves kids in cooperative games, encouraging them to explore and problem-solve together. This enhances effective communication and helps them enjoy group activities in a healthy way.

3. Develops Self-awareness

Students need to learn self-awareness to understand their own abilities, interests, and progress within a learning environment. Understanding their learning journey and how well they are performing at school is essential for maintaining focus and providing continued motivation.

Technology helps kids develop self-awareness through the creation of self-assessments and goal setting, for example. This allows students to assess their knowledge and receive instant feedback that supports their learning. 

It also allows students to visualize areas for improvement and shift their focus from individual subjects to the overall process of learning itself. This is vital for building self-awareness and helping kids progress well through education.

4. Can Improve Social Skills

When used in a collaborative environment, technology can provide opportunities for improving kids' social skills. For example, many teachers use technology, like Sphero robots and STEAM kits, to enhance social and emotional learning through cooperative play-based learning. Through hands-on  activities that come to life through coding a robot, teachers can encourage students to work together as a team, improving cooperative learning both on and off digital devices.

5. Develops Positive Language Use

Learning the intricacies of language can take time. For some kids, it takes longer than others. However, the use of technology in schools is fast-tracking language learning through interactive apps and games specifically designed to promote language engagement and development. 

Everything from vocabulary-building games to interactive storytelling and spelling activities helps engage kids to overcome their communication challenges. This supports relationship building, better communication skills, and emotional maturity around language use.

Technology often utilizes gamification to provide a dynamic learning environment for kids of all ages, including teenagers. This makes language learning fun and accessible for everyone and allows teachers to personalize the learning experience to the individual needs of each student.

6. Supports Emotional Development

The subject of emotional development is a concern for many parents and educators – especially where screen time is involved. In an increasingly digital age, many parents and teachers are worried their kids and students spend too much time on their devices and too little time interacting with the world around them. 

It’s important to advocate for a healthy balance between the digital and real world, ensuring that technology is used to enhance social and emotional learning in schools and not to distract or disengage students from real-life interactions.

One way technology can be used to support emotional development is by offering content that teaches compassion, understanding, and empathy for others. This can be through interactive storytelling, games, and apps that present scenarios for kids to problem solve. 

Understanding different emotions is one thing but learning how emotions relate to situations and the appropriate responses is a separate skill set. Technology can help bridge this understanding gap and enhance kids’s emotional learning and development.

Final Words on Social and Emotional Learning & Tech

Technology offers tools that are being used strategically within school settings to engage kids in learning and facilitate healthy social and emotional development. 

When used alongside more traditional teaching methods, and hands-on lessons and activities that require reflection, technology can be useful within school settings to benefit kids’ development in numerous ways.

And while technology can provide powerful tools for learning, safeguarding and ensuring security is paramount to protecting kids while they’re online. Teaching kids and teens about digital literacy, and checking tools’ privacy and security policies before introducing them to students can help them use and learn from technology responsibly.  

As the industry leader in programmable robots and educational technology, Sphero considers privacy and student safety and security to be of the utmost importance. Learn more here.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

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