Navigating disruption: Spotlight on social-emotional learning

Just over a year ago, COVID-19 disrupted the educational journeys of 1.6 billion students around the globe and changed how we live, work, socialize, and learn. Today the world continues to navigate the economic, public health, and humanitarian challenges the pandemic caused. Throughout the disruptions, the incredible efforts of K-12 teachers and higher education faculty and staff have rapidly accelerated innovations and advances in hybrid and remote education that seemed years away. Meanwhile, the social-emotional aspect of learning has come into the spotlight.

Educators have long recognized that social-emotional skills are fundamental for academic achievement, creativity, citizenship, and workforce readiness. Research conducted by McKinsey & Company, “The Class of 2030 and life-ready learning,” found that students will be better prepared for future challenges if they have strong social-emotional skills. “Emotion and Cognition in the Age of AI,” a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, likewise highlighted the importance of emotional well-being for student success, and showed that approaches to support it are in high demand but low supply. A majority of teachers (64 percent) wanted to support student well-being through social-emotional learning (SEL), but they felt they lacked resources and time to do so.

Now, after a year of disruption and change, a new survey from YouGov shows that teachers consider social-emotional learning an even higher priority than ever before.

Teachers consider social-emotional learning an even higher priority than ever before
Teachers consider social-emotional learning an even higher priority
than ever before
.

As education is being reimagined for the future, education institutions are bringing several key elements together into a holistic approach, the “5S framework,” that:

  • prioritizes student centricity
  • focuses on critical skills
  • promotes social learning
  • provides a safe and secure environment
  • is scalable and can reach hundreds, thousands, and millions of students

To help students navigate the challenges of remote and hybrid learning, teachers report that they need information about what complexities students face, their emotional state, and what motivates them.

Teachers need information to support their students.

Education technology can help teachers connect with and better understand their students, as well as facilitate students’ development of social-emotional skills.

Communication tools such as Flipgrid and Microsoft Teams are social by design, secure, and provide creative and fun ways for students to express themselves. Features in Teams such as Praise badges give teachers and students more ways to recognize and celebrate one another, Education Insights helps teachers and educators understand and respond to student needs, and Reflect in Teams helps students to identify and label their emotions.

Reflect can build students’ emotional vocabulary and improve their ability to recognize and understand how their emotions may impact their learning. In addition, it can help teachers better identify the needs of individual students.

Starting in April, educators will be able to easily post Reflects and see classroom responses over time through Education Insights. 

In addition to Microsoft Teams, there are other best practices, Microsoft partner solutions, and strategies to support social-emotional learning. You can visit the Microsoft Education social and emotional learning page, where you’ll find the SEL Learning Path as well as ideas for using products like Flipgrid and Minecraft Education Edition in remote, hybrid, or in-person learning environments. Flipgrid fosters creative discussion and helps students express themselves through video in an engaging social environment. Using Minecraft Education Edition, students identify their strengths, learn to negotiate with others, and develop leadership skills. Mindful Knight, a freely available Minecraft Education Edition world, teaches specific mindfulness strategies in an immersive setting.

For more best practices and to celebrate the incredible work of teachers and leaders who are transforming education, join us at Microsoft E2 | Education Exchange. Everyone is invited!

We’re excited to have Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills for the OECD, opening the second day of the event by sharing some of the latest research on social-emotional learning. And after his presentation, you’ll have the opportunity to further your professional development with tracks led by Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts and Microsoft Showcase School leaders. The student engagement and well-being track explores topics including creating virtual field trips with Flipgrid, keeping kids secure online, and how you can support SEL with Microsoft tools. Learn more and register to be a part of it!

And because parents, guardians, and families are a critical part of students’ learning journey, teachers can direct them to the parent, family, and guardian’s guide for a deeper understanding of the importance of SEL.

The future is unpredictable. Social-emotional skills help us better navigate complexity, ambiguity and change, and minimize the negative effects of disruption. The changes of the past year have highlighted the importance of personal connection, accelerated the integration of technology in the classroom, and amplified the role of teachers. It’s encouraging to see the dedication to moving learning forward to a future where all students have the opportunity, support, and tools to be creative, confident, and optimistic learners, realizing their full potential. Thank you for your commitment to learners everywhere and for being part of the Microsoft Education community!

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Prioritize student well-being with Reflect in Microsoft Teams

All students need an inclusive, supportive space to learn and navigate different challenges—both in the classroom setting and outside of it. This is especially valuable in remote or hybrid learning environments, where social cues may be harder to detect. At BettFest 2021, an annual global event held virtually this year, educators discussed the importance of creating open communication with students to better understand their social and emotional health.

That’s the idea behind Reflect, a free app coming this spring to Microsoft Teams, that uses polling to help educators strengthen relationships with students and gain insight into their well-being. Reflect, which will also integrate with Education Insights, enables educators to share questions designed to support social and emotional learning. These can be specific questions like, “How are you feeling about the material we covered today?” or more routine check-ins like, “how did this week feel for you?” Educators can customize poll settings for different topics and privacy preferences.

The polls, which can be added to a class team, allow educators to open a dialogue with students, invite them to share their feelings, and offer the support students need to be creative and confident learners. With Reflect, the school community can foster connection, empathy, and community-building communication by reaching out and inviting students and colleagues to express themselves regularly.

Learn more about Reflect and other Teams features that were highlighted at BettFest 2021. If your school does not already have Microsoft Teams, don’t miss out—sign up for free today.

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20 ways classrooms came together in 2020 with Microsoft Education

This year, we saw millions of classrooms come together in unexpected ways. While it might not have been easy from behind a mask or computer screen, everyone in the Microsoft Education community—from principals and teachers to students and parents—have shown flexibility and resilience this year. The community has worked together to create engaging and inclusive learning environments, support one another, and even have fun. As we reflect on the year, we’re sharing 20 highlights from Microsoft Education in 2020, and the technology that helped us get through it together.

Bringing the online classroom to life for students

  1. It’s important for students to see their teacher and classmates at the same time during remote learning. That’s why Teams expanded to a 7×7 Gallery View, allowing up to 49 students to be visible on video at one time.
  2. Another way to mimic the classroom setting is through Together Mode. An alternative to Gallery View, this feature has brought students out of their individual tiles and transported them into a shared setting—whether that’s a virtual auditorium, conference room, or coffee shop.
  3. A smaller setting can also help foster student participation. Breakout Rooms have helped students work within smaller groups for a discussion or assignment, just like they would in an in-person classroom.
  4. The new Spotlight feature has allowed teachers to control the main video feed that students see during class. This can help students focus on the presenter, rather than on the many faces on the screen.
  5. It has also been critical to provide students with the right devices during remote and hybrid learning. Windows 10 devices have been crucial in giving reliable, secure technology to learn from anywhere.

Staying organized and productive while teaching and learning from home

  1. Education Insights in Microsoft Teams uses at-a-glance data views to catch teachers up on their students’ activity, from turning in assignments to engaging in class conversations. The Insights dashboard can save teachers time in planning, giving feedback to students, and providing help.
  2. Microsoft Lists have made it easy for both teachers and students to stay organized, assign responsibilities, manage their schedules, and more. These virtual to-do lists provide a simple and smart way to make sure everyone meets their deadlines.
  3. Teachers can use the Rubrics tool in Assignments to create customizable, reusable rubrics. These help students understand the criteria they’ll be graded against and enable teachers to better evaluate their students’ work.
  4. Assignment Notifications have allowed teachers to notify students about upcoming assignments, giving teachers more flexibility in how they choose to communicate with students and assign them projects.

Supporting students and developing their social-emotional learning

  1. Technology can play a key part in developing social-emotional learning (SEL) from home. SEL-specific Praise Badges and Stickers have helped teachers recognize student social skills, grow emotional vocabulary, and give valuable recognition to the daily wins in their students’ learning.
  2. It can be difficult to gauge well-being during remote learning, but with tools like Reflect Messaging in Teams, educators can create a quick check-in to get insights on their students and offer support as needed.
  3. To spread positivity and encouragement, teachers can share Kindness Cards with students. Each virtual card has ideas, reminders, or inspiration that teachers can use to model kind behavior.
  4. Many milestone moments for students, like graduation ceremonies and sports finals, were cancelled this spring. Graduation Kits gave students a chance to virtually celebrate their accomplishments at the end of the school year, and Orientation Kits helped students with the return to school through online welcome and information sessions.

Preparing students for the future while still having (virtual) fun

  1. Many summer camps were canceled due to social distancing recommendations, so Microsoft created Passport to Digital Fun, a free virtual summer camp with weeks of interactive workshops. We also created winter camps to keep students engaged and learning during the winter break.
  2. Students from around the world imagined solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues through a virtual coding competition with Minecraft: Education Edition.  
  3. To keep students engaged during online learning in other ways, we hosted multiple events such as Global Learning Week, Hack the Classroom, Hour of Code, Imagine Cup Junior, and Global Read Aloud, each attended by thousands of students and educators from around the world. Teachers have also been empowered to create their own virtual events through Flipgrid, which offers advanced features such as augmented reality and video blogs.
  4. We participated in incredible partnerships to help make online learning fun for students. Learn more about our exciting collaborations with NASA, Wonder Woman 1984, the Smithsonian museums, and Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Building community among educators

  1. We’ve been inspired by educators’ drive to learn and grow amid this year’s challenges, including through Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) programs. This community of educators has continued to thrive as teachers shared their experiences and resources.
  2. Throughout the year, we participated in a variety of in-person and virtual events for teachers, including BETT, EDUCAUSE, Education Transformation Summit, and ISTE20 Live. Each of these events helped educators find community, support, and resources during an unpredictable year.
  3. Global connections were perhaps more important in this year than any. Microsoft continued to build connections with educator communities, seeking to empower teachers with training resources through the Microsoft Educator Center and events like the Global Training Partners Summit, where Microsoft-trained educators help others around the world meet their unique challenges.

We will carry each of these highlights with us as we look to 2021, and hope you will too. We are optimistic about what the next year will bring for the Microsoft Education community—and know that we will continue to learn and grow together.

The post 20 ways classrooms came together in 2020 with Microsoft Education first appeared on Microsoft EDU.

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