Chan Zuckerberg Initiative launches free online reflection tools for students and teachers


Sometimes even small talk can have a huge impact on students’ physical and mental health. Giving children the opportunity to talk to adults about their lives outside of class is crucial to their social and emotional development. But during a pandemic, online courses often don’t have time for personal attention.

This is the idea behind Along, A free digital reflection tool developed by a non-profit organization Gradient learning And the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and announced yesterday at the ISTE (International Association for Educational Technology) 2021 annual meeting that the association is the parent organization of EdSurge. The platform helps teachers prompt students to talk about their personal lives through recorded video, audio, or written text, as a way to support them emotionally, not just academically.

“When students build a trusting relationship with their tutors in and outside the classroom, they are more likely to succeed academically, participate in social interactions and manage their emotions,” Priscilla Chen told the audience.

The platform provides teachers with a series of guiding questions, such as “How do you deal with stress or manage time?” or “What are you grateful for?” After recording a short response, educators send their information to students. You can choose any response. Over time, these responses have become a kind of digital library that can provide a more comprehensive understanding of each student’s situation outside the school.

Complex the study Show that this kind of interaction can help students be more psychologically safer, and even improve academic performance.Chen mentioned in his speech Nottingham Primary School, Closed for nearly four weeks after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, but invested in mental health and sense of belonging, and later saw test scores rise.

Chen also emphasized that this service does not mean limiting empathy teaching to strict queries, and believes that it can help teachers meet the psychological needs of students without sacrificing academic recovery.

“Leting our students choose between their happiness and academic success is like letting them choose between air and water,” she said at the event. “They all need to thrive.”

In order to develop Along, Gradient Learning cooperated with hundreds of teachers across the country in a pilot project launched in October last year.

Christina Cipriano, research director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, said that attention to social emotional learning and the technology products that seek to support it has increased significantly, and this trend began even before the pandemic.

Developing a successful digital tool to help the development of social emotions is not always an easy task. Cipriano pointed out that the key step is to put the needs of students in the center. It is important to build these resources from the user so that they meet the needs of various learners. Fair design is another issue. The availability of Wi-Fi and technical literacy are important factors that determine who can benefit from these resources.

“There are great possibilities and hopes, but there are also many ways that can go wrong,” Cipriano said.

Having said that, she is considering including Along in her own research and pointed out that the direct connection between students and teachers provided by the platform is a promising benefit.

“We can learn a lot from the personal experiences of students…I think Along provides the opportunity to create these conditions and evaluate them from an evaluation perspective,” she said.

It is not clear how Along or other digital platforms will be included in the long-term teaching plan once the pandemic is over. But Cirpriano believes that the lessons learned and the technology developed during this period are useful, and once everyone returns to the classroom, it is not necessarily worth discarding.

“We don’t need to worry about health and safety issues and use flexible methods and technologies in different ways,” she said. “The thought of making such a thoughtful investment in a period when our students and teachers are very vulnerable, if it is not allowed to continue, it will be a complete injury.”


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