Why Digital Equity & Social-Emotional Learning are Important in 2021
August 9th, 2021
Although access to technology seems nearly universal in the modern world, using those same tools for learning isn’t necessarily equitable. A student’s socioeconomic status determines their access to technology. The pandemic brought to light that a large percentage of school-age children from lower-income families did not have reliable access to either a laptop or internet connectivity
Therefore, when transitioning to online learning, focus on ensuring digital equity is key to the success of any educational program.
COVID-19 Increased Digital Inequity
The COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of school children to lose months of in-person learning time. This has not only delivered a lasting blow to their academic growth but also worsened the longstanding disparities in educational outcomes between students of different ethnicities.
Another big setback due to this pandemic has been the chronic stress and trauma that many children are experiencing. They worry about basic needs and health, a lack of connectivity to their school communities, and exhaustion from constant anxiety about the future. In fact, a new phenomenon emerged following the education system moving online during the pandemic – digital fatigue. This condition was found to be a result of students overusing digital tools for education, leading to a feeling of saturation and even burnout in the worst-case scenario.
Also, the move to online education has further exposed and exacerbated existing inequities, including those in health and safety, mental health, and learning opportunities. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for social-emotional learning (SEL).
Importance of SEL in These Unprecedented Times
Even before the pandemic, there was an alarming rise in the levels of anxiety and depression among students. While 70% of teens report strong feelings of anxiety and pressure, a lot were found to be suffering from depression. Once the pandemic struck, the schools closed down and more than 50% of students said they needed support for mental health. In such troubled times, social-emotional learning (SEL) can provide some much-needed relief.
SEL is the process by which all young people and adults acquire and apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enable them to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals. It also allows them to feel and show empathy for others, make responsible and caring decisions, and establish and maintain supportive relationships.
When children have difficulty processing their emotions in a healthy manner, it can adversely impact their mental health. Even a small lingering worry regarding a test they haven’t studied for might trigger crippling anxiety. SEL provides empathy and the tools required by students to process these difficult emotions. It not only helps in clearing the mind but also improves overall grades.
How Digital Equity Supports SEL
Digital equity supports social-emotional learning because it allows everyone to get what they need in order to thrive. In fact, there is no true SEL without equity. In digital learning, SEL is most effective when educators properly evaluate the different types of tech resources and the different types of media they want students to use. They can also check in and collaborate with students on what they need at the present moment. Digital equity supports SEL in the school culture as well when all educators get an equal opportunity to communicate, collaborate, and innovate with each other.
SEL has helped improve teaching and learning outcomes by almost the 11th percentile in a research study that involved 213 programs. The primary focus of SEL is to help children:
- Understand and manage emotions
- Maintain positive relationships
- Feel and show empathy
- Set and achieve positive goals
- Make responsible decisions
With the help of the right EdTech tools, all these objectives can be achieved. However, digital equity must be ensured so that children from all socio-economic backgrounds can access the benefits.
Some Instances of SEL in Digital Learning
Although digital learning cannot completely replace the aspect of human interaction in social and emotional learning, some digital tools can prove to be a powerful supplement to the existing SEL instruction method. These leading-edge tools actually have the potential to bring SEL to scale. For instance, the use of game-based learning solutions can promote certain core elements of SEL, such as responsible decision-making, complex communication, and positive peer collaboration. Similarly, wearable devices such as smartwatches can help track physiological indicators of stress in children and provide just-in-time feedback. Some of these devices can even play calming music or offer suggestions for stress-reducing activities.
Another such instance could be collaboration tools to promote peer learning and support. This allows students to interact with peers and teachers regardless of their geographical location on projects, while helping them share and appreciate cultural differences. Educators can create activities to facilitate virtual cultural exchange programs or let students participate in global projects. These activities can help develop a sense of empathy in students, which is a core skill of SEL.
How a Digital Learning Platform Ensures Digital Equity with SEL
An effective digital learning platform can prove to be an important tool in ensuring digital equity. It can help you implement adaptive learning effortlessly while maintaining the key concepts of SEL. There are several benefits of using such as platform:
- Students can access learning materials even in the absence of internet connectivity.
- Educators can obtain comprehensive analytics about their students.
- They can assess the time spent by their students on the respective learning material and evaluate their learning patterns.
- They can also learn about their students’ strong and weak areas.
- This can provide personalized support to struggling students.
- An advanced learning platform also allows them to create adaptive assessments.
Are you ready to bring a more immersive, engaging, and well-rounded learning experience for your school and students? We help you overcome the challenges of digital inequity due to the pandemic and create high-quality courses that maintain the key SEL components. Contact us to know how we can customize our award-winning digital learning platform to your needs.