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Free Online Reflection Tool for Students and Teachers [web resource]

Giving kids a chance to talk with adults about their lives outside of class can be critical for their social-emotional development. But during the pandemic, online classes didn’t often allow the time for that individual attention. Along is a free digital reflection tool that helps teachers prompt students to talk about their personal lives through recorded video, audio or written texts as a way to support them emotionally, not just academically.

Developed by the nonprofit Gradient Learning and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the platform provides teachers with a menu of steering questions, things like “How do you deal with stress or manage time?” or “What are you grateful for?” After recording a brief response themselves, educators then send their message out to students, who can respond however they choose. Over time, the replies become a kind of digital library offering more comprehensive views of how each student is doing outside of school.

A comprehensive body of research suggests that these kinds of interactions can help students feel more psychologically safe, and even improve academic performance.

Priscilla Chan (who is a former pediatrician) also emphasized that the service isn’t meant to restrict empathetic teaching into rigid queries, and argued it could help teachers attend to their students’ psychological needs without sacrificing academic recovery.

To develop Along, Gradient Learning worked with hundreds of teachers across the country in a pilot program that launched in October of last year.

Attention on social-emotional learning, and tech products seeking to support it, has grown significantly, a trend that started even before the pandemic, says Christina Cipriano, Director of Research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

It’s not always an easy task to develop a successful digital tool that aids social-emotional growth. One critical step is centering student needs, Cipriano notes. It’s important to start with the user in building these resources so that they meet the needs of a diverse array of learners. Equitable design is another concern. Access to Wi-Fi and tech literacy are huge determinants for who can benefit from these kinds of resources.

It isn’t yet clear how Along or other digital platforms will factor into longer-term instructional planning once the pandemic is over. But Cirpriano argues that the lessons learned and technologies developed during this period are useful, and aren’t necessarily worth discarding as soon as everyone is back together in the classroom.

Excerpted from “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Launches Free Online Reflection Tool for Students and Teachers” in EdSurge. Read the full article online.

Source: EdSurge | Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Launches Free Online Reflection Tool for Students and Teachers, https://www.edsurge.com/news/2021-06-30-chan-zuckerberg-initiative-launches-free-online-reflection-tool-for-students-and-teachers | © 2011-2021 EdSurge Inc.

How does Along keep student data safe?

Gradient Learning states that they:

  • do not and will never advertise to students, sell student data, or share it with third-party marketers.
  • comply with FERPA and COPPA, as well as the Student Privacy Pledge, which commits us to use student personal information only for educational and school purposes.

Read more about trust and safety on the Along website.


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