During the three years my colleagues and I spent researching our book Whole: What Teachers Need to Help Students Thrive, we investigated the unique success stories of schools that were “out-performing their zip code.” Often situated in poor neighborhoods, the one consistent element across these “success outliers” was a culture focused on social and emotional well-being, first for teachers and then for students.
Enter COVID-19 and an explosion of stress, emotional challenge, and a distance in space and time between teacher and student. Much of what we understood about schooling changed in a matter of days, including schools’ ability to connect with teachers and students in an emotional, caring, and personalized manner. Technology had to immediately fill the gap, and that need will continue.
One critical finding in Whole is the idea “Relationships are the oxygen for learning.” We know that students must first be ready to learn before they can consume new information, retain it and synthesize it. Technology has a critically important role to play in supporting the social-emotional well-being of teachers and students.
Achieving Technology Fluency
Researcher John Hattie’s work into Visible Learning found that combined teacher self-confidence and student self-confidence are among the most critical factors for learning. I’ve seen an example of this in Ysleta ISD in El Paso, Texas, which has a student body that is 92% Latinx, many of whom are from economically distressed families. The district has focused on creating teacher fluency in achieving a service approach, including a strong fluency in the use of technology. When students were suddenly working from home, teacher self-confidence and fluency in the use of technology was a critical component of connecting with students. Teachers used learning acceleration tools like the ACHIEVE3000 literacy platform woven into an ecosystem of connection through Microsoft and other tools.
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