Social-Emotional Learning Interview

Eva Bach: “Without emotional health, there is no health, wellbeing or academic performance”.

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Eva Bach is a pioneer in introducing emotional education in the learning and family environments in Cataluña as well as other autonomous communities in Spain. Teacher, trainers’ trainer and writer, she specializes in personal development, emotional intelligence, communication, and interpersonal relations.

mSchools talked to Eva about the importance of socio-emotional education.

The importance of social-emotional education

mSchools
Eva, what do you consider to be our starting point in education?
Eva Bach Cobacho
We come from an education model that has prioritized, and still does, reason over emotion, wisdom and knowledge over feelings and sensitivity. We have encouraged accomplishments and milestones or external motivations, leaving personal needs, feelings, and internal wellbeing behind. This is a big and serious mistake since academic titles hanging on walls are not of much use when adversity knocks on your door, or when we have a collective crash such as the Covid-19 Pandemic, or when we suffer personal crises or relationship conflicts. Neuroscience has shown that having a high IQ, a privileged mind or a brilliant academic trajectory will not guarantee “success” in life, understanding by success a life lived with meaning, balance, and personal and social wellbeing. And on the contrary, not having great academic results will not make us unhappy or imply negative life results.
mSchools
So, where are we now?
Eva Bach Cobacho
Even though scientific evidence shows that it is as important to learn to think and reason properly as it is to learn how to develop emotional intelligence, we often continue to teach as if we didn't know that. We lack knowledge and conscience about what emotions represent and how we should address them. Often, there is no emotional maturity to do this. The fear of self-knowledge, along with a lack of sensitivity and self-responsibility about these topics, stops us from taking the necessary chances to develop emotional education. When, despite all these barriers, we manage to do it, we often fail in the “hows” , not having adequate procedures and resources. We miss information, awareness and training, not only in a professional and psycho-pedagogical way, since individual emotional growth is also needed.
mSchools
According to your knowledge and experience, why do we need emotional education?
Eva Bach Cobacho
There is enough evidence to support that emotional education favors physical and mental health, self-knowledge, self-esteem, empathy, and that it also improves personal life and relationships.. It can also help prevent violence and risky behaviors, improving social and personal wellbeing, it continues to create more positive and solid group environments and, pay attention to this, it can also help improve learning and academic outcomes. This happens at every vital and educational stage, and for people of every age.
mSchools
What are the conditions needed to achieve it?
Eva Bach Cobacho
There are some basic requirements for these results to happen and last , for example the continuity in time of different programs and their evaluation, training of teachers and other educational agents in charge of the implementation as well as the involvement and support from every area besides the school, including the family and the community. The whole educational community needs to be involved in this, from management teams to educational administration, and, above all, families. The methodology used is also key to elaborating programs and activities.
mSchools
What happens if we don’t involve emotions in education?
Eva Bach Cobacho
Emotional education is key because without emotional health there will be no health, wellbeing, or academic performance. A person who is emotionally blocked is also emotionally annulled, as the Spanish doctor Mario Alonso says. There is evidence that general performance peaks are obtained with a medium level of emotional activation. Without emotions, there is no motivation, and there are no results. Where there is an excess of emotions, if the person is overflown by emotions, there are no results eithers. The works of the psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have shown that the best result is obtained in what are called “flow states”. These are states in which you make an effort without perceiving it because emotions are in harmony, in a perfect balance, accompanying and strengthening one another.
mSchools
What are the basic socioemotional skills to turn into an emotionally competent teacher?
Eva Bach Cobacho
Having socioemotional skills isn't optional for neither faculty nor families. It is socially and morally necessary , since the first hints of emotional maturity for children are perceived in the adults they grow up with.
Let's have in mind that we are constantly doing emotional education, even if not formally or intentionally. When educating there is always emotional transmission, whether explicit or not, healthy, or unhealthy. This is because there are two types of emotional education: part of the official curriculum, which happens during the established time and within formal programs, and relational, which happens all the time, without needing official programs, through plain human contact and osmosis, . The best emotional education program in the world couldfail if whoever is applying it is emotionally incompetent.
Basic social emotional skills of faculty work around the 3 main axes of emotional competence, these must be applied and adapted to the classrooms:
Intrapersonal dimension: to feel good with oneself, with one's emotions and ways of feeling. Applied to the classrooms it means, among others, to know how to identify, express, contain and transform emotions or emotional states in a proper way, such as to avoid projecting them or transferring them to the students.
Interpersonal dimension: to have proper relation and communication skills, to feel good with others and to make others feel good with us. Applied to the classrooms it means, among others, to communicate and educate using emotions in a sound way , to empathize and to consider the student's esteem, to be emotionally in sync with the group, to maintain our own center, to know how to see and promote talents and skills for both, groups and individuals, and to know how to identify, express, contain and transform emotions and emotional group states. Or at least, to not make them worse with one's own.
Ethical and social or eco-social dimension: to leave a positive mark in our path, to contribute with health and global emotional sustainability through our actions and presence in the world. Applied to the classrooms this means, among others, that what we are as humans sustains , reinforces and guides to the best possible outcome what we do as professionals, such as the ability to spread nice emotions in the educational context and to create positive, motivational, powerful, and fruitful education environments.
mSchools
What are the fundamental skills and concepts for a social emotional education?
Eva Bach Cobacho
These axes include skills such as: self-knowledge, self-consciousness and self-emotional regulation, also self-esteem, empathy, assertiveness, affective relations, resilience, self-motivation, teamwork, proper conflict management, appreciative and enabling outlook, affective and effective communication, gratitude, inner peace, etc. These skills are the basis of a teacher´s wellbeing and they need four main areas to develop correctly: healthy affectivity, emotional growth, complex thinking and pedagogical and vital optimism.
mSchools
To finish, James Funes in the prologue of the book co written with Montse Jimenez “Mothers, Fathers and Influencers” (Ed Grijalbo 2019), asks how we should keep educating in new realities, since wanting it or not, we are educating digital teenagers who live in virtual and present dimensions simultaneously
Eva Bach Cobacho
We must make a constant readaptation effort for the ever changing and complex world we live in. Listen more to our younger population and, not only teach them, but let ourselves be taught by them sometimes as well.
Curriculum focuses on innovation and motivation but there is one essential thing that continues to be left out : Life, with capital letters, what happens inside and among people, what moves us in our daily life and during interactions with others and the world.
To have emotional intelligence and social skills are two of the great skills needed to succeed in a job and in a future that seems to be more and more robotic. We need to think about how to develop these global competences that make us grow as professionals and as people. ourselves, not only how children can develop them. This will surely happen if we redefine the learning environments. . To change this may mean to break certain rigid aspects that are still present in the school environment. If not , the gap between the four walls in the classroom and the reality outside will grow bigger.
To educate digital teenagers that live in the present and virtual dimensions, we discuss the need to educate in hybrid values that arise from transcending and merging dualities that have been dissociated, when not opposed. It is the symbiosis era among concepts, entities, attitudes, and skills that can no longer work on their own. In person or virtually, neural education, reason and emotion, homo sapiens and homo sentients, information-biology-society with technology, schools and companies, people and robots, human intelligence and algorithms, augmented reality and physical reality. According to the French philosopher Edgar Morin, we need to substitute the isolating and separating thought for the thought that discerns and connects.

Author

Eva Bach Cobacho

Eva Bach is a pioneer in introducing emotional education in the learning and family environments in Cataluña as well as other autonomous communities in Spain. Teacher, trainers’ trainer and writer, she specializes in personal development, emotional intelligence, communication, and interpersonal relations.
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Digital culture
Digital wellbeing
Digital education
Empathy
Digital fracture
Emotional Intelligence
Emotional health
Social-Emotional Learning Article

With whom we learn in the digital world

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  1. New learning opportunities and new digital divides.

We are living in a historical moment where it is easier to learn practically anything: how to make a cooking recipe, how to play a musical instrument, how to speak a foreign language. This is mainly because technology helps us access different kinds of information (in multiple languages and platforms), build knowledge,  and share it with the rest of the world. And we are not learning alone. Social technologies are increasingly present in our society and they offer new possibilities to live learning, communication, and culture.

Every technological advance within our reach offers new opportunities, creating a new culture around it. Applications, software, and their growing accessibility make a long-time dream of many educators’ possible: to facilitate personalized learning and to develop it both at a social and networking level. Also collectives with intellectual or physical disabilities, have now more opportunities to be connected and learn together.

Digital education implies developing competences that enable us, by using  knowledge, to choose how we want to live culture and practice digital citizenship. There are, however, three divides that need to be counteracted, especially in the most vulnerable social groups: access divide (to have access to devices such as a cell phones, tablets, computers); use divide (to have the skills to use applications and manage content); and purpose of use divide (to make a purposeful, sovereign, and ethical use) of the digital world. We usually pay more attention to the first divide because it is the most visible one, but dealing only with it doesn’t ensure our right to a good digital education.

  1. We learn with digital education.

Digital education, as well as its hybrid face-to-face virtual format, is applied largely at schools and high schools to help students’ development in the current society. This is not the society we adults grew up in. Nowadays we have a new communicational, relational, and cognitive ecosystem. But it’s not about choosing between books and screens: now we can educate so as to get the most out of books, screens, and the new culture resulting from that interaction. The educator must know and be familiar with these media, and the best way to achieve that is using them to share experiences, resources, and learning projects.

Faced with the possibility to access information practically every time and everywhere, we have to develop a critical ability to become active and responsible citizens, and not just information and product consumers. It is necessary to work on the treatment of information and the communicative competence in order to understand and make explicit all ideological, political, and economic interests that are implicit in the messages we send and receive. At the same time we need to know how to manage privacy (know what we are sharing), security (to avoid and deal with risky situations), and how to be critical with information, knowing its cultural and consuming values.

Students need to be able to learn how to think in the current context and to act accordingly. Although the digital medium is very rich, education is necessary to tackle elements such as fake news, cyberbullying, digital identity, hate speech, emotions in social media, sustainability, data sovereignty, and algorithmic bias. We know that this environment will be increasingly more complex with the development of quantum computing, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, metaverses or certain social control mechanisms on platforms that are immersed in the economy of attention and vigilance. 

Many youngsters have been protagonists of digital education by teaching their families how to use communicative tools like video calls. During the COVID pandemic we could witness how digital tools were used to maintain ties and to give emotional support in situations of uncertainty, anxiety, and grief. Many children saw their mothers and fathers work and parents saw their sons and daughters learn in a different way: through active learning, new interfaces, digital portfolios, collaborative methodologies, and virtual environments. Emergency remote education didn’t happen in an ideal scenario, but it seems that from now onwards we will have to coexist with a hybrid system.

  1. We learn within the family environment

Consuming content doesn’t mean knowing and making a competent use of the tools we have. In fact we must help families to intergenerationally educate one another, in a natural and knowledgeable way. The traditions, habits, and values within the family environment, the place where we usually spend more time, are key elements. It is increasingly necessary to have a global vision focused on the process of education and accompaniment, and not so much on a device or specific age. Another important point to consider is the difficulty of balancing schedules, since we can’t foresee everything, and we must learn to deal with daily contingencies. In an increasingly digitized society, it is essential to educate on issues concerning connectivity as well as to learn to get offline when it’s convenient.

Considering a scenario where everything is connected, our main challenge is to achieve families’ digital literacy. That’s not an easy goal to accomplish since the digital environment is in constant change, and because in spite of the good initiatives, there is no consensus on who will lead them or carry them out. Digital literacy of families is very important because of, at least, three reasons: it empowers families when faced with digital media, it enables them to help the young ones build criteria using their knowledge, and it demands both companies and institutions an ethical, informed, and transparent use.

Families are diverse. Some of them understand their responsibility and take the time to get  informed about these issues. They conduct a periodic monitoring of the inquired content or the Internet activities. They look for alternative spaces, activities, and time free from technology, respecting meal times and sleep hours. Others go to the opposite extreme, managing their children’s school homework without realizing that might be overprotective. Some families ask for miracle formulas that may help them with this management. In some cases, fear of possible dangers leads to  parental prohibition. In others, inhibition makes them turn a blind eye.  It’s even more complex to make the conscious choice of creating focused offline and online spaces when concerning dysfunctional families and when there aren’t any agreed criteria of technology use. 

Neither prohibiting nor allowing everything. The right choice, as usual, is to educate. How can we achieve that? Sharing experiences between grown-ups and children to develop criteria. Giving them support to prevent them from being digital orphans who know how to use the tools but don’t understand their implications. Developing a healthy digital diet with reasoned rules that can be agreed and revised regularly. Working on responsible and autonomous access to the Internet, social media, touch tablets, or cell phones from early childhood. If necessary, using tools such as filters or parental control, though the best way to monitor should always be done by people.

  1. We learn with our peers

Humanity is more connected than ever before. Many of our daily activities are digitized: communicating, reading, traveling, playing, learning. More precisely, many young people use the digital environment to search news, develop their creativity, live their emotions, get socially involved, and experiment and build their identity. That’s why it seems natural, and even more so in pandemic times, that they want to use the Internet to socialize with their peers.

They can take advantage of an ever-growing networked society to learn from and with others. They can meet people who will help them integrate the new formative opportunities, such as adults who are also articulating networks of interests where they collaborate to build knowledge. Young people must  learn not only how to be present but also how to set up these virtual spaces so as to generate scenarios of significant learning.

How to know where they are and what they are doing? More than controlling (which is impossible), the best way is talking, being close, and trying to put into practice the elements of the following formula. If we work on these elements, which are actually very little technological, we will probably succeed. However, it is true that there is no guarantee because there are no magic formulas to educate.

  1. We learn with the whole society

When problems arise, it is easier to look for external factors: the use of the Internet, the cell phone or social media; however, a bad use is sometimes a symptom that something is wrong. It’s very common to associate lonely people with the use of technologies when it is exactly the opposite. We also need to know that technologies are not neutral and their own design can influence processes, how we think, and how we feel. That is why we should get educated in this environment and get all the social agents actively involved. 

As educators, we always say that “it takes a village to raise a child” when we want to highlight the importance that every member of a community has, since we are all responsible for educating, and not just those involved specifically in the education field. This includes communication media, private companies, and public institutions. Everybody is responsible for building a new social consensus which reconsiders our relation with technologies and for defining how our digital world will be.

In order to go along this path, together with the sociologist Liliana Arroyo, we developed the New Digital Culture Manifesto https://manifestoculturadigital.wordpress.com/. Our intention is to help build awareness on how the constant technological advances affect us in different areas such as politics, health, or economy. These changes imply a great opportunity to design a new digital culture that can develop a better society. To achieve it, we need to reflect, share, and connect people and entities that may enable us to act from an ethical, reflective, and informed perspective.

About the author

Jordi Jubany i Vila

Teacher and Anthropologist. Trainer and advisor in digital competence, culture and citizenship. Author of “Hyperconnected? Educating us in a digital world”(Lectio, 2018) and“ Social and Personalized Learning ”(Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 2012). He collaborates with institutions, universities and the media in different countries. Co-author of the Manifesto for a New Digital Culture.
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Digital culture
Digital wellbeing
Digital education
Empathy
Digital fracture
Emotional health
Social-Emotional Learning Article

Screen time in the covid age

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Michael Robb, director of Investigation in Common Sense Media explains the scientific reasons behind the new rules of screen time.

 Families and caregivers need to rethink the screen exposure children have, especially since the pandemic.

Quality over quantity

That is the question

What can we do from the schools?

Talk to children about their digital practices, help them alter its nature and question their beliefs about them.

IN This Common Sense Media article, a non profit organization, you will find key points to address this debate.

Access the article here
Digital culture
Digital education
Digital fracture
Social-Emotional Learning Report

Google Tools to improve how you engage with digital technologies

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According to the latest data of Digital Report 2021 made by Hootsuite and We Are Social, over 55% of the world population use social media and spend on average 2 hours 22 minutes on these platforms, mainly using their mobile phones (99%)

The idea of digital wellbeing comes from the certainty that technology should be a tool that simplifies our lives and not an element that produces dependence, anxiety and constant distraction. It is key to explore tools and functions that allow the better understanding of the use of technology, unplug when desired and healthy habits for the entire family.

On this point, Google has launched a series of recomendations so people can create their own sense of digital wellbeing, such as

  • Visualizing digital habits
  • Being able to personalize your notifications
  • Controling the automatic reproduction
  • Scheduling breaks
  • Planning tasks
  • Making family agreements

To complement this last task, Google has also developed the platform Be Internet Awesome that includes online games that teach and help explore the internet in a safe way.

Click here to access the guide
Digital wellbeing
Digital education
Digital fracture
Emotional Intelligence
Emotional health
Social-Emotional Learning Video

5 ways to include a social-emotional perspective in teaching

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Check this BBC video in which award-winning author Laurence Scott talks about how Facebook, Twitter and other social networks can impact our emotions. From his conclusions , we reflect on the importance of social emotional education.

One of the main goals of this type of education in schools is that students learn how to get to know themselves better by identifying where their needs, thoughts and emotions come from. 

In order to achieve this, social interactions and creating a good atmosphere in class are key. We share 5 practical ideas to encourage this:

  • Setting and caring of the shared space: classrooms must be a place where students would want to returnand can create a sense of belonging.Therefore, this space needs proper lighting, it has to be clean and it should allow students to move easily in order to carry out teamwork. –        Designing personal activities that encourage dialogue (among students and teachers) and that allow to address different subjects from an interpersonal point of view.
  • Making conflicts visible: Starting with teacher intervention, the search for solutions may be a chance to build agreements and rules for daily life.
  • Proposing activities that allow students to reflect on different topics regarding their right to decide on their own body, so as to prevent or detect in time situations of harassment or abuse.
  • Encouraging teamwork. Group activities require dialogue, negotiation, collaboration, asking for help, giving in to create consensus and accepting agreements. Making collaborative tasks can strengthen the meaningful learning of active listening, solidarity and empathy.

Find below some links that can be useful in the classroom.

Find out more about Laurence Scott visiting: https://laurencescottwriter.com/

Digital culture
Digital education
Digital fracture
Digital wellbeing
Emotional health
Emotional Intelligence