Three Strategies for Using Technology to Support Social-Emotional Skill Development

Tamara Fyke

In order to further our conversation about SEL and EdTech, I am building on the three strategies featured in "How Can SEL & EdTech Work Together":

Three strategies for using technology to support social-emotional skill development:

  1. Have the conversations – Use and define a common language for social-emotional learning and make explicit connections to EdTech systems and projects.
  2. Make it human — Have intentional and thorough discussions about the people on the other side of the screen. Talk about the real human beings who create and manage the technology as well as the real human beings who are impacted by technology.
  3. Adopt a makerspace mentality — Empower students to create with digital tools and give them a voice. Move beyond PowerPoint presentations to providing options for fun and interesting individual or group-based projects, such as comics, movie trailers, songs, photo galleries, revenue models, etc.

I posed three questions related to the above strategies to Robin L. Williams, who serves as a Learning and Technology Resources Specialist with Florida Diagnostic & Resources Learning System (FDLRS).

Tamara:  What conversations do we need to have with teachers about the connection between SEL & EdTech?  with parents?  with students?

Robin:  Teachers need to have an understanding that technology is NOT the big bad wolf. It is a part of our world that continues to be infused into every aspect of our lives. In two of the five districts I serve, many of our schools are now 1:1, meaning that all middle and high schoolers are issued a laptop and most textbooks are provided in an electronic format.  Although teachers are aware of the connection between curriculum and technology, many still struggle with the idea that EdTech can be used to increase self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness, which are the SEL competencies defined by CASEL.

We need to talk with our students about how technology is a tool to be used to enhance their ability to relate to others and manage their own executive functioning skills, therefore creating more productivity and positive influence.  They need to know that there is more to technology than likes, comments and shares. Students and parents have to see that the "soft skills", such as teamwork and collaboration, critical thinking, ethical and social responsibility, professionalism, and effective communication can all be enhanced through the effective use of EdTech tools. 

Tamara:  How do we use EdTech to foster greater human connection? 

Robin:  Some of the apps and programs that I like to use to foster human connection are apps that have a platform similar to that of Facebook or Instagram where I can connect with a community of like-minded individuals, share and build upon ideas and engage in challenges together to grow in our learning or personal/professional development. One that I use and refer to often is Insight Timer. It helps me manage a lot of my personal health habits (meditation, yoga, self-reflection) and provides a way for me to connect with and encourage others who are doing the same.  The Calm app, which is now free for educators has been used in many of the schools I support in the same way to help students connect with others by better understanding themselves and what they may need to better regulate themselves.   

Tamara:  What EdTech tools can encourage a maker mentality?  What shifts need to happen at school and at home for this maker mentality to be broadly accepted?

Robin:  Any EdTech tools that focus on providing an online platform for individuals who share common interests around technology or education to collaborate, share and create would encourage a maker mentality.  More and more of these spaces are being developed in a physical sense, but to see the expansion of these in a digital space would amazing. When I think of shifts that need to happen in the school and home, I think of the question regarding what conversations need to be had with teachers and parents and the fact that more educators and families need to understand that there is a common language around the SEL competencies and that we can, in fact, use EdTech tools to teach toward these competencies. 

Personalized learning games, engaging presentation of content and assessment processes, choice and scenario-based learning, along with the incorporation of virtual reality and augmented reality are all ways that EdTech tools have already provided a way to foster and encourage a maker mentality. 

Tamara:  Thank you, Robin, for sharing your insights with us. 

As you can see, educators are embracing technology in a variety of ways in order to prepare our children for success at school, at home, and in their future workplaces.  We must be intentional about helping them connect the dots between their screen experiences and SEL skills.  Our capacity for caring relationships with ourselves and others is what makes us human.


About the Author


 Tamara Fyke is an educator and creative entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator, author, and brand manager for Love In A Big World, which equips K-8 educators with a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum that is both research-based and practical, and also provides the supporting resources necessary to empower students to be socially competent, emotionally healthy problem-solvers who discover and maintain a sense of purpose and make a positive difference in the world.

Tamara is editor of Building People: Social & Emotional Learning for Kids, Schools & Communities, a book that brings 12 wide-ranging perspectives on SEL to educators, parents, and leaders. Follow her on Twitter .



More about Robin L. Williams


 Robin currently works as a Professional Developer with FDLRS and has developed a variety of trainings focused on Applied Behavior Analysis for teachers, parents and staff who support children with disabilities. Robin earned her B.S. in Psychology at UCF and her M.S. in Exceptional Education at FSU. She began her career as a Mental Health Specialist for Leon County Public Schools, where she provided technical assistance and coaching to all preschool educators. Robin taught with Orange County Public Schools as a Pre-K Varying Exceptionalities teacher and continued to work as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). She has 18+ years of experience working with children and adults with severe developmental disabilities.


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