Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.
2.2.a Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.
2.2.b Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
2.2.c Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.
In the academic year 2022-23, I had the opportunity to participate in a schoolwide committee focused on social and emotional learning (SEL). This group comprised approximately 20 members that included representatives from the elementary, middle and high schools, as well as the school leadership team. I was one of several representatives from the elementary campus. Collaboratively, the committee was tasked to develop a sustainable schoolwide SEL framework, spanning from the early years all the way to high school (2.2.a).
To initiate the process, we gathered data on past SEL initiatives across all campuses. Delving into existing protocols, programs and activities, we pinpointed successful methods in nurturing students’ well-being while identifying areas of refinement. With the assistance of external consultants, we established a shared understanding and consistency in language, practices and resources. Furthermore, we recognized the significance of adult well-being, incorporating it into our areas of focus.
In my blog post entitled “A Look at Social and Emotional Learning,” (https://learners4life.org/social-and-emotional-learning/a-look-at-social-and-emotional-learning/), I shared this definition of SEL from The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning: “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain healthy relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2021). I love this statement because it encompasses all the important components of a healthy lifestyle. It is not enough that students pursue excellence in academics, but it is equally important that they also strive for emotional and mental well-being.
CASEL Wheel, also known as the CASEL 5
This wheel shows the five broad and interrelated competencies that make up the CASEL framework for SEL: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness (https://casel.org/).
As the school year concluded, each campus group devised an action plan. Within the elementary division, our primary objective was to incorporate a morning meeting into the daily schedule. This change in the daily schedule is now in place since the beginning of the school year. Currently, I serve as the 4th grade representative in our elementary school SEL committee. Our goal this year is to furnish teachers with specific SEL resources, such as unit plans, target lessons, games, and activities, ensuring that each educator is well-equipped to deliver SEL lessons that are both consistent and high-quality.
How does technology fit into the SEL framework?
Digital wellness, as defined by Boston Children’s Digital Wellness Lab, is “an intentional state of physical, mental, and social health that occurs with mindful engagement in the digital and natural environment” (2023). In another blog post called “Our Well-being as Digital Citizens,” (https://learners4life.org/uncategorized/our-well-being-as-digital-citizens/)
Passey (2021, p. 5) describes digital well-being as the “impact of technologies and digital services on people’s mental, physical, social and emotional health.” In other words, students’ overall health – social, emotional, physical, mental – is influenced by their attitudes towards technology, exposure to digital environments and access to and availability of technological resources. This involves how students interact with others through digital platforms and leverage technology to enrich their learning experiences. The growing presence of digital tools, media, platforms and technological gadgets presents an opportunity for these digital natives to increase self-awareness, develop empathy and care towards others, regulate their emotions, make informed decisions and contemplate how they can positively impact society.
A Tool For Everyone
When it comes to advocating for specific digital tools, issues of equitability and accessibility frequently arise. Integrating technology into our everyday, nitty-gritty classroom work means that as teachers, we need to ensure that there is equitable access to technology by all students regardless of their ethnicity, skill, background, socioeconomic status and age (2.2.b). Check out my blog post entitled, “There’s a tool for that!” (https://learners4life.org/iste/theres-a-tool-for-that/). In this post, I addressed some considerations when choosing the appropriate tools. Here is a recap:
- The tool promotes student engagement.
- The tool provides different entry points for students to access.
- The tool develops morale and confidence among students.
- The tool allows for varying learner abilities so each user can experience some success.
- The tool makes room for student collaboration.
In addition, there is a growing desire for students to have a voice in how they demonstrate their knowledge and showcase their work. With these in mind, here are some of the tools I am using:
- Seesaw (https://web.seesaw.me/), a learning platform our school has employed for several years, has been a consistent resource. It is an interactive tool – interesting and engaging while maintaining its user-friendly appeal. We used it before, during and after the pandemic, emphasizing its enduring relevance and value.
My students use Seesaw in a myriad of ways and in all learning areas. Students who are new to Seesaw access tools that fit their skill level. As they gain more experience, they turn to more creative and sophisticated features that Seesaw offers, such as drawing pictures, capturing videos, recording their voices or a combination of all these features.
- Canva (www.canva.com) is an online graphic design tool. When creating a project for the end of a unit, Canva is one of the choices I offer to students to showcase their learning. Canva has many templates and layouts that students can choose from, such as an infographic, a poster, slide presentation, newsletter or a video presentation. Students can also opt to create their own format if they choose to. Students can collaborate on design and content. In writing, students can choose to publish their work on Canva.
- EPIC (https://www.getepic.com/) is a digital library featuring over 40,000 high-quality books. Students can choose books from different genres that cover multitudes of topics, from fiction to nonfiction, chapter books, picture books, series books and books from different languages. Teachers can create collections of books for their whole class, a small group of kids or for individual students. They can also create leveled collections of books and assign them to students to ensure that they read just-right books. EPIC is also accessible at home. Parents can access their child’s account and take a peek into the books their child has been reading at school, as well as read books together at home. They can monitor their child’s reading routine and make suggestions on books to read.
- Zearn (https://www.zearn.org/) is an online math learning platform. Because it is new this year, I get to learn alongside my students on how to use it. Students learn math content with their teachers and when they log on to Zearn, they can continue to explore and practice with onscreen teachers, games, visuals, pictures and digital manipulatives. Zearn adapts to student skills and needs; when they struggle with a specific concept, they receive differentiated support that helps them learn from their mistakes.
Zearn has many built-in resources for teachers, such as interactive lessons, intervention support and content-specific assignments. Zearn materials are fully aligned with the Common Core standards in math. With Zearn, every kid is a math kid!
These are some of the well-loved tools in my classroom. They offer students a consistent sense of accomplishment whenever they are utilized. They are quite accessible, highly engaging and students can use them at their own pace.
I am always searching for online resources and digital tools that are appropriate for elementary students. Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2022 Global Education Symposium on Educational Innovations and Reform as a presenter. This event was sponsored by Seattle Pacific University’s School of Education and International Dialogues on Education Journal. My topic was Flipped Learning in the Elementary Classroom. I shared my experience as I taught a reading and writing lesson using the flipped learning method (2.2.c).
CASEL. (2021). What is the CASEL framework? https://casel.org/fundamentals-of-sel/
Passey, D. (2021). Digital technologies—And teacher wellbeing? Education Sciences 11(117). https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11030117
Passey, D., Shonfeld, M., Appleby, L., Judge, M., Saito, T., & Smits, A. (2018). Digital agency: Empowering equity in and through education. Tech Know Learn (23), 425–439. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10758-018-9384-x
Woolf, N. (2021, November 8). Building Social-Emotional Skills With Technology: How to Use SEL to Cultivate Digital Wellness. The Digital Wellness Lab. https://digitalwellnesslab.org/articles/building-social-emotional-skills-with-technology-how-to-use-sel-to-cultivate-digital-wellness/