The COVID-19 unleashed an array of challenges that resulted in schools being closed for in-person instruction for many months. As I write this post, many have begun the year with remote learning, while others have opted for a hybrid model where a certain amount of kids are still learning at home. There are growing concerns about students' mental well-being as well as inter- and intra-personal skills, which have only been magnified by not only the pandemic but also advances in technology as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Over the past few months, many kids turned to digital tools such as social media or games to pass the time. So much so that one has to wonder about the overall effect on a social and emotional level. The fact is that we don't know the extent of the impact on kids and might not get a firm grasp on this for years.
In a recent article Venola Mason and Tawana Grover emphasized the priority to address the SEL needs of students during and after Covid-19:
Schools must be prepared for the aftermath of the pandemic. We have to elevate our attention to emotional Intelligence and can no longer view this work as optional. Covid-19 has forced us to see that being primarily focused on developing students' IQ is not enough, and in order to help students to reach their full potential, we must also help them to develop their EQ or emotional Intelligence. When we address social-emotional learning (SEL) we advance emotional Intelligence. Consider the model below as a guide to helping students navigate challenges through prescribed modalities in mind shifts.
It is essential first to understand where issues can arise. At the forefront are social isolation and a feeling of loneliness. Then there are other mitigating factors stemming from digital drama, selfies, digital footprints, privacy violations, cyberbullying, distraction, time management, and violent video games. The inherent challenge and opportunity are to build and foster SEL competencies, including self-control, communication, humility, integrity, compassion, perseverance, courage, empathy, curiosity, teamwork, and gratitude.
Some schools have been proactive in this area, as pointed out in an article by Jessica Berlinski:
Schools across the country use a digital program that provides kids a safe place to explore their challenges, learn and practice skills to navigate them, and build the confidence to ask for help. The 420 lessons in the program, called Ripple Effects, cover core SEL skills as well as personal topics ranging from anxiety, bullying and marijuana to managing fears around an undocumented parent.
Knowing what the issues are and how recent events have amplified them, the time is now to be proactive. Here are what districts, schools, and educators can do:
- Focus on the purposeful use of technology to support and enhance learning across the curriculum in both remote and face-to-face settings
- Train parents and students on SEL competencies, digital citizenship, responsibility, and cyberbullying
- Create anonymous tip lines for students and parents to report issues and concerns
- Model appropriate use aligned to SEL competencies, especially with the tools kids currently use (TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube)
- Communicate excessively with stakeholders using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other pertinent tools highlighting SEL competencies
- Provide professional learning support to teachers and administrators
As social media becomes even more prevalent in students' lives now and in the future, it is critical that educators and schools provide the necessary support while embracing digital leadership. Delegate when necessary, but also consider reaching out to teachers and students for ideas. You got this!
Be sure to check out my entire #remotelearning series.