Advice Column, Boston Online, Education, Online Education

Bringing Social Emotional Aspects to Learning

  • Boston Online High School
  • Category Advice Column, Boston Online, Education, Online Education

Before the pandemic, online teaching was a choice, but never an essential component of teaching and learning. Certainly, online teaching has its advantages. Among these, online teaching provides students and staff with a choice of location. While there is no substitute for face-to-face instruction, online teaching does offer the advantage of a level of flexibility that provides students with access to both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Online learning provides technical solutions such as artificial intelligence, automatic triggers, red flags to highlight required knowledge improvement, and data analytics. All these support the teaching and learning process.

Now that we are starting to return to brick and mortar schools, we have the unique opportunity to rethink how we intentionally engage students online, and monitor academic learning. In my opinion, online teaching, and the innovation of educational technology places new interactive tools at the fingertips of our educators and students that cannot be ignored.

These tools mentioned help educators to engage different types of learners and their different personalities.  Online engagement tools provide students with a safe way to interact, and this is especially true if the student is shy, introverted, or prefers not to be in the spotlight. As a result, there is great potential to evolve our communication skills with the wider school community.

If we embrace these advantages it is my hope that we, as educators, may provide all students, regardless of personality, background, or dominant language, with access to the best education, while developing their individual strengths and potential to engage from a pace of confidence.

While we look to take advantage of these great new opportunities, we should also recognise that traditional online teaching has presented challenges that have led to disadvantages. In some cases, online teaching limits student interactions with teachers and other students. These limitations can negatively impact the ability of students to access and process information, and it hinders student acquisition of social skills, collaborative skills, and critical thinking skills, as well as affecting wellbeing. Thus an online platform must address these issues by, for example, monitoring individuals academics as well as personal interactions, having available tutors for academic and social support, and providing modules for true social and emotional learning. 

The online learning environment also highlights the significance and need for teachers to observe body language that accompanies learning and thinking, and teachers should be able to use those cues to redirect as needed or adjust pedagogical strategies. This is especially true when students are acquiring language or need additional services and accommodations. Teachers must be aware of  these challenges and must engage online and ‘face-to-face’ with their learners regularly, to avoid the challenges being  compounded by the isolation of students from classroom participation. Teachers must engage in in-person social and emotional learning.

A fluid approach to education will serve students best, increase knowledge retention and provide an environment for optimal mental well-being. 

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