In most people’s lives, school is the first environment in which we start feeling pressure. Whether the cause is the expectation to perform well or the struggle to fit in and have one’s first social interactions, school is often a source of stress and fear and can prove detrimental to the students’ mental health and well-being.
Creating a safe, positive place to be that fosters confidence and contentment while nipping the causes of anxiety and low self-esteem in the bud is something that everyone can contribute to: a class where students who struggle socially are not made to feel judged or excluded by their peers, staffed by teachers who realise that low-performing pupils need to be helped, not berated, is much more conducive to a good mental state than a highly competitive class where bullying is rife and students feel that they cannot go to the adults in charge with their problems.
Human behaviour, therefore, remains the greatest factor in student well-being and mental health, and technology alone cannot eliminate all obstacles. However, EdTech can be an excellent support tool for those educators and administrators who care about their students’ quality of life.
One of the core features of today’s technology is immediacy: we are now long used to instant responses and the more we are steeped in the digital world, the less patience we have for waiting. The same applies to students in need of help or feedback: an immediate assessment of your strengths and weaknesses such as only EdTech can provide is less stressful than having to wait days for your teacher to correct and grade your assignment, and the knowledge that help is always one click away when you need it can make you feel more secure.
Providing a platform where students can connect with teachers and with each other outside of school hours to exchange information, study tips and reminders about assignments or upcoming tests can lessen the false impression that students have to go it alone, strengthen the student-teacher bond, and even foster friendships between classmates who would otherwise struggle to interact in person.
Giving students a voice
If managed well, an online student platform can be a place where everyone has a voice in more ways than one. A student who is usually quiet, shy and struggling to speak up can turn out to be a witty, thoughtful person when given the chance to express his or her thoughts in writing, which may eventually build up the confidence to do the same in speaking.
A different medium, however, is not the only thing that makes EdTech resources the ideal way for introverted or anxious students to make themselves heard: while it is true that writing instead of speaking can in itself be a blessing to those who experience nervousness in social situations, another major factor that makes the digital world a perfect place for everyone to speak up is the potential for anonymity.
Online anonymity can go both ways: if not managed properly, it can give people a sense of immunity and prompt them to post inappropriate or hurtful material without fear of consequence, but if used in conjunction with good moderation and filtering of content, it can be an invaluable tool for people who do not usually state their opinion in public to point out their problems and be offered a solution. Making a negative evaluation or a complaint, especially towards an authority figure such as a teacher, can be frightening, but if students are given a place to provide their feedback without associating their opinions to their names, they can do so while remaining safe in the knowledge that what they say will not impact their school lives or their grades unfairly.
This is particularly evident in higher education, where more and more universities are beginning to implement online student satisfaction surveys and teacher evaluations in which students are prompted to answer questions about the courses they are taking and the quality of their lives on campus so that professors and administrators can take active steps to improve the situation based on their feedback and observe the direct correlation between student well-being and academic performance: happier learners make better learners.