The relationship between social-emotional learning (SEL) and 21st century education continues to evolve. One of the ways that educators can make the social and emotional aspects of learning reverberate effectively among their students is through the inclusion of MakerEd tools and technologies. When the heads, hearts, and hands of students are simultaneously engaged in projects – something made possible by MakerEd tools – they’re able to develop key SEL skills that legitimately translate to future readiness and career readiness. So, what are those skills and what are some of the ways in which educators can focus on bringing them to light?
One of the first and most prominent skills students can build through social-emotional learning is self-efficacy. The ability for students to believe in themselves is crucial especially since so much of maker education and their future careers are going to be made up of trial and error as well as informed experimentation. Having confidence in themselves is going to be key and SEL is a great way to teach this particular skill. Additionally, having a good amount of self-efficacy means students are able to figure things out on their own – something that the Maker Movement and maker education intrinsically embody. Maker tools can help kids tinker with different approaches and allow them to see how their creative process impacts the results they attain while building the all-important element of confidence.
Responsible Decision Making
As they work through hands-on projects, students are constantly going to need to decide what to do next. Some of these decisions will come based on their knowledge, some will come based on past results, and some might even come based on their gut feelings. Connecting social-emotional learning and decision making helps students learn the importance of making ethically responsible decisions and steer away from abusing the power of technology, for example. MakerEd helps students see how to make constructive choices that lead to improvements in personal and social behavior. Plus, in the real world, they’ll be required to use analytical thinking a lot and knowing how to break problems down into small pieces can help them separate each of its elements while weighing possible outcomes.
Relationships are a huge part of 21st century education as well as a huge component in the workplace. So, it should come as no surprise that students need to be in control of their emotions. And, in order for them to be in control, they need to be self-aware. When students are able to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, they’re much better positioned to be able to recognize how these traits affect their personal relationships, which can make or break their academic (and, eventually) professional successes. Some argue that self-awareness is the most important real-life skill that’s tied to social-emotional learning as it can be taught to students of all ages. It helps kids see a clearer breakdown of their SEL skills and even allows educators to align activities with students’ abilities.
Self-management, on the surface, seems like a valuable skill for any student or professional to possess. That is certainly true, but it’s with the combination of self-management and social-emotional connections that the impact of developing this skill is truly felt. Essentially, self-management entails managing the day-to-day (or hour-to-hour) emotions we have in order to achieve our goals – often putting negative emotions on the back burner and using the positive ones effectively. Students will face different scenarios in their learning, especially when introduced to something new, like maker education. They may become frustrated when their making methods don’t work and may yet to have fully embraced the maker mindset of leveraging failure productively. This is a perfect opportunity for educators to remind them that self-management involves them controlling their impulsive reactions, managing their stress, maintaining self-discipline, keeping themselves motivated, reassessing to stay focused on their goals, and staying organized.
It’s no secret at all that clear communication is a necessary future skill for students and it should come as no surprise that SEL can help them develop it. MakerEd experiences can also help students foster effective communication skills by providing them with an avenue to express themselves when they can’t always effectively do so. Communication involves verbal, nonverbal, and listening components, which students can illustrate and practice through maker projects (among other ways). Additionally, teachers can highlight communication in SEL by setting aside time for discussions and encouraging students to share their thoughts in productive ways. This will often shed light on what they’re really thinking, including some of the intellectual or social struggles they may be going through, and help students focus on building positive relationships, working in teams, and resolving conflicts.
Though their main goal might be to complete their work as quickly as possible and receive an acceptable grade, students are always challenging themselves to do something – they just might not always realize it. Setting goals is an important and very common part of life and allows us to measure what we do and do not achieve. When it comes to social-emotional learning, allowing students to set their own goals is a great way for teachers to keep them motivated. Students know (more or less) what they are and are not capable of, so educators should reinforce that they should set realistic goals making use of the tools they have, which includes the maker tools that tie into SEL. This also helps them become more self-aware and hopefully more comfortable with asking for help should they ever need it when it comes to meeting a social, emotional, or academic goal.
Organization and Teamwork
You might think that organization is a skill that can be learned in any area of education, which is certainly true. It does have specific SEL connections as well, however, in the sense that unorganized students spend a lot of time searching for materials, wasting time, and catching up. This leads to more stress and often creates negative emotions that could result in poorer performance. As for teamwork, collaborating as much as possible helps students see just some of the many different personalities people can possess. This helps prepare them for working with all different kinds of people and learn how to establish both – you guessed it – social and emotional connections with them.
Since it does have ‘social’ in the name after all, we’ve saved the social awareness element for last. We all know that empathy is a very valuable trait for people to possess as it allows us to see others’ points of view and gain important insights into the decisions they make as well as the reasons for those decisions. In SEL, having social awareness allows students to constantly be thinking about how various outcomes affect others in addition to themselves. Also, when working with others who have diverse backgrounds, being empathetic to their traditions, beliefs, and abilities can help students advance the productivity of the group. With greater awareness comes a greater sense of belonging and, ultimately, greater growth, success, and academic achievements.
It’s come on strong in recent years and we see no indication that the popularity and importance of social-emotional learning will slow down. To learn more about it as well as some of the MakerEd tools teachers and students can use to expand SEL, check out some of our other SEL blogs or click below to get in touch with us. As always, subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with our latest posts, including more SEL content, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all SEL and general EdTech, STEM, and MakerEd news from the world of education.