Almost overnight, students and teachers were thrust online, with educators scrambling to develop virtual schedules, rethink assessment, and determine how best to mitigate learning loss during this challenging time.
Soon after the novelty of working from home and joining lessons or meetings in your pajamas wore off, the realization of how exhausting this new ‘learning lifestyle’ was set in. Thoughts soon moved to student and staff well-being, with schools looking for ways to look after their communities at a distance.
With the ability to physically check in on a child now not an option, and opportunities for students to have unstructured, informal time with their peers now gone, how was technology going to meet this important and growing need?
Many schools, communities, and organizations stepped up with new and creative ways of maintaining a sense of belonging and connection. Here are some new and/or repurposed examples of schools and organizations that have leveraged technology to enhance wellbeing.
- Many schools have introduced a virtual recess to provide an informal, unstructured time for students to simply be able to connect with each other again on a social, personal level. As my son pointed out one day, sometimes a vegemite sandwich with Dad doesn’t really cut it - he wants to hang out with his friends.
- The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has outlined a roadmap for reopening schools that puts social and learning at the heart of considerations for school communities and leaders. This guidance not only focuses on students but offers insights into how educators can look after themselves so they can offer their best to those in their care.
- The Making Caring Common initiative from the Harvard Graduate School of Education modified some of their already excellent resources so they could be better utilized online. These included free, easy-to-use activities to ensure all students were matched up with at least one other adult in the school community that was looking out for them and checking-in.
- Link Online Learners is a platform that was created to enable students to connect with other students around the world to chat about the issues and challenges that were important to them. A sense of belonging, connection, and community are concepts that transcend language and culture.
- A new startup that has combined the latest in neuroscience research around well-being is Clanbeat. They have created a platform that makes it easy for students to check-in with their teachers in non-confronting ways, and allows teachers to monitor their students wellbeing on a daily basis. All from a mobile phone.
- The lifeblood of many schools around the world is competitive sport. As organized sport stopped, up stepped scholastic eSports. Schools looked for ways to use the opportunities for collaboration presented by esports and applied them in new and interesting ways, such as building a full size virtual campus to maintain a sense of belonging and connection to the school.
- Some schools looked for ways to let students tell their own stories in their own ways. TEDxYouth@BBSKuwait is one example of how a school community has given a platform for its students to share their challenges and hopes for the future in their own words - and to have some fun while doing it! (if you want to join us, sign up here).
As we begin to talk about what a new normal may look like, we need to ensure that efforts which focus on student and community well-being are at the heart of our new systems.