Humans are social creatures. Early and middle teens are an important period of social development. It is during this time that teens start forming defining relationships that their identity is based upon. This period of development is observable through the stark contrast in behaviour of the lower secondary students, compared with the upper secondary ones. Where upper secondary students are more likely to heed the opinion of their peers, rather than their elders, as compared to the reverse, with lower secondary students.

During this circuit breaker, students are restricted from physical interactions with their peers. And it is during these physical interactions where social ability develops the most, where you get to experience the other person’s physical feedback and emotions. Doubtlessly, the COVID-19 situation would have a detrimental effect on the students’ social development. Here is where technology can help.

When social technologies first came about 15 years ago, they allowed for a massive expansion of an individual’s social network. They also received flak for being shallow and superficial. The current crisis has brought forth the importance of exploring new technologies, harnessing the potential good, while avoiding the pitfalls. In this article, we shall find out how new technologies can humanise digital pedagogy and deepen social networks. Building strong and resilient relationships online, and maybe even offline.

 

1. Let them develop their own voice and opinions

While many online tools allow teachers to easily release content and create a “playlist” for students’ learning, these are tools for “learning mass production” with a very one-way learning experience.

This time of home-based learning (HBL) where independence and learning alone (physically) is required, reduces the pressure on students to conform to norms and group-think. Whereas in class, they may be swayed by others for fear of being left out. Allowing opportunities to raise their thoughts in a safe environment gives students time to develop their own opinions. It could be in the form of a video upload, creative writing or debate where they need not fear of being judged.

In this manner, you promote participation, logical thinking and opinion forming. These critical thinking skills will prove useful to increase students’ level of learning and give higher order answers in open-ended essay questions.

 

2. Create opportunities for dialogue and discourse

A major argument against social media is the superficial interactions that take place. Video conferencing tools serve as a good platform, with quality facilitation, to turn it into a much deeper level of social interaction. Focus not only on the decision itself, but also on the thought process behind it.

During a live class, you can use polls on Zoom to gather initial thoughts before asking students to share about how they made that decision. You can also ask students to submit their thoughts before a class before displaying results during a live session. Also, consider breakout rooms for groups to come to a common consensus before sharing their decisions.

This is especially important for youths of this age group who are transitioning away from self-focused beliefs. As youth developers, we need to develop empathy in students and help them realise that other people matter too. The respect required to listen and acknowledge others’ point of view, even if they may disagree with it. And finally to practise “give and take”, to meet somewhere in between. This is a life skill important to develop as adults, and necessary to begin now.

Values are not taught, they are caught

This shared experience in dialogue and discourse, together with the decision making process shape the values of your students. The way you facilitate conversations and respect their opinions serve as a moral example. When you practise such values openly, students pick it up and naturally bring them to class. 

 

3. Build skills for metacognition 

In a time when learning pedagogies are being challenged, everyone is asking what it takes to truly learn: even independent self-learning. What environment, methods and processes can create a productive environment for learning.

Even as students go through this experience, they will definitely compare it against classes in school. Instead of comparing experiences and complaining, switch it to help students realise what factors in each scenario helped them to learn better. Understanding the contexts and factors in their learning help students build awareness of 

  • What they are thinking
  • How they express that thought

Help them learn about how they learn, and their limitations. Following which, find ways to overcome their limitations. Recreate these factors to maximise their learning effectiveness or complement students with each other.

Some of the factors include

Content Type Theoretical & abstract Logical, step-by-step
Exam question type Weighing & taking a stand Factual, step-by-step
Way I learn Tell me what to do
(follow the steps then understand why)
Tell me why I do it
(understand why then follow the steps)
Where I learn Large room
With background noise
Small room
Quiet
Who I learn with With friends to “pressure” me Alone
Focus best with what type of work
and at what time
Innovative, require a level of thought:
Before lunch time
Routine, step-by-step:
Afternoon

Recognising that students have different strengths in learning different subjects and how they learn, these open doors for collaborative learning in the classroom. You would probably have heard students studying together while video conferencing. They already set the foundation for promoting peer-sharing and peer-teaching. These help to build a nurturing and collaborative environment which promotes a team mentality.

These practices may seem difficult, awkward and bumpy to start. Keep at it! For when these seeds are sown, they remain strongly rooted.


References

https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-tips-humanizing-digital-pedagogy
https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4hfiles/VI950902FAgesStages.PDF
https://tips.uark.edu/using-blooms-taxonomy/
https://zoom.us/docs/doc/Tips%20and%20Tricks%20for%20Teachers%20Educating%20on%20Zoom.pdf
https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/metacognition/