The mental health of children is a topic of significant discussion at the moment as we look to a future beyond the global pandemic which has dominated our lives over the last two years.
The disruption faced by schools has had an impact not only on the learning of students, but also on their emotional wellbeing.
The importance of mental health is now firmly established and the awareness of concepts such as ‘mindfulness’ and ‘growth mindset’ are part of the everyday conversations of teachers.
The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.1
However, if we step back for a moment we can see that schools are in a good place to address these concerns. One of the positives of the last couple of years is the way that the relationship between school and home has changed; the importance of this relationship in the educational experience of the child cannot be overstated:
“Supporting the home-school relationship cannot be seen as an ‘added extra’ to the core business of schools. It is an essential factor in children’s learning and can inform the work of the school on many levels, including how the curriculum is taught, pastoral care, extra-curricular development and behaviour strategies.” 2
Any counsellor will tell you that one of the keys to a healthy relationship is good communication. As soon as we talk about communication, then the opportunities for technology quickly become manifest. However, it is important to ensure that regular access to information does not become a burden for all involved. Together, Firefly and Microsoft provide teachers with the opportunity to engage parents in the learning conversation without adding to the workload of either group.
Bringing parents into the conversation
Using Firefly on Microsoft Teams, means that teachers can benefit from the immediacy of Teams for classroom teaching alongside a structured resource library in Firefly that is available to parents without adding to the workload of teachers. In this way, parents have access to the same learning materials as their children and have a better understanding of the learning process, so that they are able to support learning at home more effectively. Even more importantly from the child’s perspective, they are able to work collaboratively with their parents from a position of shared understanding, reducing the stress levels of all concerned.
Of course, seeing what the child is learning is only part of the story. Parents also want to know how is my child doing, is my child happy? The Firefly Parent Portal is able to share information concerning the behaviour of the child, or homework that has been set/completed. Firefly’s integration with Teams ensures that parents can also see assignments from Teams in the Parent Portal, along with the status of those assignments. The more informed the parents are, the stronger the relationship between school and home will be, and as such less stress should be experienced by all parties.
Empowering students in their learning
Another way to support students and foster their wellbeing, is to make sure that they feel empowered in their learning. Students need to feel that they are part of the process, rather than it being imposed upon them. The Firefly Curriculum app on Teams gives the students a framework for learning, with all of the learning resources they need brought together in one place. This provides the student with an environment where they can learn at their own pace, revisit materials to consolidate their understanding of topics, and collaborate with their teachers to extend their learning further. Microsoft’s Immersive Reader tool, embedded in Firefly resources makes sure that all students are supported whatever their needs.
Instant access to individual learning requirements
The other side of this equation is making sure that teachers understand the individual learning requirements of their students, and the context they are working in. The Firefly Seating Plan in Teams, provides teachers with information about each student, such as EAL or FSM for example, always at their fingertips making it easier for them to support all of their students appropriately. With classroom management tools such as a random student picker, countdown timer, and group creator, teachers can spend less time managing activities giving them more opportunity to work with individual students.
The transformational impact of technology on teaching and learning is already well documented. However, there are many other factors that can have an effect on educational achievement, and the area of mental well-being is becoming better understood. Working together, Firefly and Microsoft are committed to supporting teachers, students and parents, and providing an educational experience fit for the 21st Century.
“With the help of our trusted education partners, we’re making it easier than ever to accelerate learning, support social and emotional well-being, and prepare all students for the workplace of tomorrow,” said Anthony Blake, senior product marketing manager, Microsoft Teams for Education.
1. Mental Health Foundation, Children and Young People, 2017
2. Grant, L. Developing the home-school relationship using digital technologies, 2010