Al Kingsley, CEO, NetSupport
According to the Centre for Mental Health, the state of the nation’s mental health is at a “tipping point”. And, following a recent UK government report which found that one in six children in England suffer from poor mental health and that two-fifths of children experienced a decrease in their mental wellbeing from 2017 to 2021, the organisation is calling for greater investment to urgently prioritise mental wellbeing support for students.
Exacerbated significantly by the impact of the pandemic, a similar picture can be seen amongst school staff with rates of burn-out, depression and anxiety soaring and a growing exodus from the profession.
Ahead of World Kindness Day on 13th November, which encourages us all to prioritise genuine moments of kindness and connection in the face of the current mental health crisis, EdTech presents an opportunity for us to be mindful of the real and substantial benefits for students and teachers as they use it to connect and collaborate.
When introducing any EdTech solution into the classroom, it is key that it is accessible and user friendly; teachers can do without the stress of having to get to grips with complex or hard-to-navigate platforms. By ensuring that new systems are co-produced with teachers, schools can be confident the solution will make teachers’ lives easier whilst supporting students’ learning and engagement.
Easy-to-use EdTech tools such as classroom management platforms and online learning resources can play an important role in reducing multiple areas of operational stress for teachers whilst still prioritising students’ academic and wellbeing needs. These tools can save time and help to reduce teachers’ workloads. For example, automated online assessment tools can make marking work and providing feedback to students a much simpler and faster process than marking tests individually. In the same way, being able to send work out to selected students in a single click (and collect it back in after it is completed), show the teacher’s screen to everyone in the class to help with explanations, or simply monitor students’ screens to gauge progress and engagement with the lesson activity, all help teachers to make incremental time gains to make their lessons more efficient, effective and less stressful.
Using EdTech solutions to build a trusted rapport and reinforce connections not only helps to better engage students in lessons but allow teachers to support their academic and mental wellbeing. This is particularly true for those students who may respond better to the teacher directly on a one-to-one basis via chat or messaging tools, rather than speaking out in front of their peers. And let’s not forget the value of such tools when students are learning remotely; they create a vital connection to the teacher and play a significant role in ensuring learners are supported, even when they are not all together in school.
Support in and outside the classroom
Technology-led assessment and feedback systems help teachers to recognise areas where students may be struggling. With a report from youth mental health charity, stem4, finding that academic stress is the number one cause of mental health distress amongst young people, schools can use these tools to proactively identify and support students before the academic pressure becomes overwhelming and impacts their wellbeing.
In addition, cloud-based solutions can host learning resources that allow students to access them outside of school hours and in a manner that suits them. This helps to support each student’s preferred way to learn – improving their understanding of topics and helping to further reduce academic stress.
For students with wider mental health or wellbeing struggles, some edtech solutions can provide an additional avenue to gain support from trusted teachers. Not only this, but the inclusion of lists of external digital mental health and wellbeing resources empowers them to ask for help when they need it, even outside of school hours. This option offers students more privacy and anonymity and can be a lifeline for those who feel embarrassed or unable to talk to someone they know.
EdTech for good
EdTech processes, platforms and resources, when accessible and easy to use, provide an effective support mechanism that can reduce stress for teachers and students. With the help of technology to make classroom management easier, staff members can better focus on engaging with and supporting students. Digital learning systems also help to reduce students’ academic stress by ensuring they can learn in a way that suits them, for example, enabling them to look at resources as many times as they need to.
With skilful application, intuitive classroom management tools can help to free up teachers’ time and allow them to build stronger relationships with their classes, as well as encourage a more positive learning environment where students and teachers can thrive, academically, professionally and emotionally.