Can an app teach students social emotional skills?

Can an app teach students social emotional skills?
How effective are videos in building relationships in the classroom? Source: Daria Nepriakhina/Unsplash

One of the biggest obstacles many international students face in Western universities is classroom participation. Or rather, the lack of.

Usually hailing from a different type of education system, where classroom teaching revolves around a teacher dictating one-way to his or her students, their transition to a more inclusive and participatory classroom can be difficult.

Add language difficulties and cultural differences to the mix, and it’s common to see international students shy away or keep silent during lectures.

Many efforts have been made to overcome to this issue, from holding longer orientation sessions to lecturers engaging more with students outside of class, each method seeing varying levels of success. The bottom line? It’s a real challenge.

With this in mind, will the use of education technology, or EdTech, do better or worse than this?

A new partnership between Microsoft and Flipgrid – a platform where students and teachers can share videos with each other – may shed some light on this issue.

The American multinational technology company announced Monday that they have acquired the social learning platform founded in 2015, striving to empower educators and help students find their voices.

Microsoft will make the platform, already used by tens of millions of Pre-K to PhD educators, students, and families in 150 countries, free for schools to use now. Flipgrid videos can be personalised through stickers and drawings as well as have titles and project links added to give context and broaden discussion.

Eran Megiddo, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft said in a statement: “We’re thrilled to see the impact Flipgrid has had in social learning thus far and look forward to helping them continue to thrive as part of the Microsoft family.”

“We’re diligently committed to making sure their platform and products continue to work across the Microsoft, Google and partner ecosystems to benefit students and teachers everywhere,” Megiddo added.

Their aim? Helping teachers and students build social emotional skills beyond traditional curricula.

International students aren’t the only ones in need of this skillset. According to Microsoft’s recent global research study in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, 30 to 40 percent of the fastest-growing occupations will require explicit social-emotional skills from the class of 2030.

Teachers agree that the platform has the potential to boost classroom communication.

Writing for Inside Higher EdLeigh Ann Hall, a professor at the University of Wyoming advised all colleagues teaching an online course for the first time on the importance of building relationships with students and helping them build relationships with each other. One of her suggestions was to use Flipgrid.

“I think it’s critical that you build in time each week that mindfully addresses how you interact with your students and build a community,” Hall wrote.

“Use Flipgrid. Design experiences for your students that allow them to see you and each other.”

To Paul Watkins, a teacher from Neath Port Talbot, Wales, Flipgrid has also “empowered” his students to learn from each other as well as show him their “true level of understanding”.

Whereas in California,  Lucretia Anton from the Arcadia Unified School District said: “Flipgrid helps my students develop their communication skills, increase self-awareness and grow from failure, setting them up to contribute positively to the world.”

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