U-turn-4-U-learn: EM-OWL platform for social-emotional learning

U-turn-4-U-learn: EM-OWL platform for social-emotional learning

Our challenge, your solutions

U-turn-4-U-learn: Social-emotional learning as a pivot

Leaning heavily on modern constructivism, social learning and active learning theories, this LMS platform and accompanying app bring together content knowledge, artificial intelligence and social-emotional aspects of a learning process. 

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Team: tIMO

Team members

Svetlana Belic Malinic, Andrej Bunjac, Aleksandra Ikonov

Members roles and background

Andrej Bunjac holds a PhD in Physics, teaches Maths, plays percussion and loves intellectual challenges. He finds inspiration to teach in creating positive rapport with his students and colleagues alike. His formula for academic success is: i<3u.

Aleksandra Ikonov, a PhD candidate in Biology, explores spiders, engages in the promotion of science, coordinates Science on Stage Serbia and thrives on creative problem solving. She believes that STEAM education should also get a C - for creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

Svetlana Belic Malinic holds a PhD in Education, leads innovations in education and strongly believes in "3E philosophy of education": Enthusiasm, Emotions and Edification. She uses the fourth E, English, to promote the fifth E, E-learning. She is actively looking for the sixth E.

Contact details

svetlana.belic@institut.edu.rs

Solution description

EM-OWL is an inter-institutional communications platform that combines the best features of many popular social media apps, adds a few of its own, and puts everything in an educational co-curricular context. It is designed to allow instantaneous communication between students and faculty on the margin of an academic programme. Its main purpose is to allow everyone participating in the education process to have a unified platform for quick interactions that also integrates visual conferencing that could be used for lessons. EM-OWL is realized as a web application and a mobile phone application. Some of its features include: Freedom to create and moderate personal spaces and sub-forums within the app; anonymous emotion sharing during conferencing; general chat features organized around hashtags that can direct participants to relevant posts; post rating (called hoots) system that allows users to rate other users posts anonymously in order to filter out undesirable behaviours but doesn’t accumulate over the lifetime of the app with consideration not to ostracise students based on a few bad posts; the possibility of earning real academic credit through peer support and troubleshooting; a responsive messenger that allows users to instantaneously share text, photos and voice messages; personalized analytics for both students and teachers that point to behaviours that led to most successful social outcomes; AI chat filters for removing inappropriate and hateful content; AI based emotion detection system for video conferencing that alerts the teacher of the overall mood in the classroom. EM-OWL will take advantage of social media apps students are already familiar with, and allow both students and teachers to dynamically adapt having social welfare of their peers in mind.

Solution context

With the sudden transition to online learning with the outbreak of COVID-19, many of us had to adapt to the digital environment without much experience and were welcomed with a surprisingly rich landscape of digital apps and tools that were helpful in facilitating learning in this new environment. However, no matter where you teach, one important aspect of education in an institution was lost - socialization. The socialization problem affected several key areas of education: social and emotional development, peer-to-peer interactions, student-to-teacher lesson feedback, participation in community projects and student-led initiatives. EM-OWL seeks to tackle these problems by creating a digital environment already familiar to the modern student. Applications or platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit already permeate the society and their features and language are familiar to the target audience. The quick communication and emotion sharing method that EM-OWL provides doesn’t take extra time and can be facilitated on the fly allowing students to stay in touch with their peers and organize around topics of interest where they can have private spaces moderated according to their emotional needs. To incentivise the frequent use of the app, students who put time and effort to organize student-led initiatives, peer tutoring and support, and conduct themselves respectfully towards others can be rewarded partial scholarships, academic credit or other institution based rewards. The goal of EM-OWL is to preserve a sense of community during periods of online learning while facilitating quick and responsive communication between students and teachers at all levels.

Solution target group

The target group is very wide and includes all actors in the educational sector - school administrators, curriculum coordinators, subject teachers, learning support teachers, psychologists, counsellors, parents and students of all ages. Using our innovative platform for social-emotional learning, all members of the community engage in a stimulating online environment that fosters and develops social-emotional interactions among students and teachers at the school level. By doing so, an empathic communication triangle is formed between students, parents and school, which results in an accurate recording of students' cognitive, psychomotor and affective skills and creation of a stimulating environment for families and schools aimed at maximising the development of students' character and ethics.

Solution impact

The development of social-emotional competencies in the virtual environment is the main disadvantage of all existing LMS platforms, but also the main advantage of our platform, which creates a strong educational impact by providing a monitoring tool for teaching and learning which is affirmative at its core. A significant functionality of our platform is obtaining accurate analytics, which is the main teaching resource, providing quality information to teachers and school staff on the specific needs of students, seen on an individual and collective level, including not only the cognitive but also the social and emotional dimension. Hence, the platform forms the main base of valuable feedback and provides concrete solutions for improving the educational process, the social and emotional climate at the class level, and the school as a whole. In addition to the above, one of the main advantages of our platform is that it provides a complete database on the status and progress of students in one place from several perspectives, and thus significantly facilitates monitoring of all students in school, but also teachers, their work and relationships with students. The platform, therefore, provides vertical and horizontal connections of all educational agents, thus creating a stimulating educational environment. This is also a great tool for precise, quick and easy getting-to-know both the teaching staff and students' interests, skills and abilities as well as their concerns, worries and pressing issues.

Solution tweet text

#EMOWL brings revolution to #education! Designed to support social-emotional learning in a stimulating environment, it fosters wellbeing by bringing teachers, students and parents to a #virtualspace with affirmative narratives. # SEL #positivepsychology #innovation #EQ

Solution innovativeness

Leaning heavily on modern constructivism, social learning and active learning theories, this LMS platform and accompanying app bring together content knowledge, artificial intelligence and social-emotional aspects of a learning process. Designed to support knowledge acquisition in a non-threatening and non-evaluative environment, EM-OWL scaffolds academic growth mindset by cherishing students and teachers’ social-emotional competences, allowing them to voice their concerns and receive immediate feedback through an AI-powered system. Unlike other platforms, where there might be favouritism and like-strikes, this environment fosters positive psychology by engaging students in a peer-led tutoring and mutual learning, which facilitates affirmative narratives and reciprocal motivation. Students and teachers are able to convey their feelings about teaching and learning using an emotion barometer rather than likes, grades or points, which is then processed by the AI-integrated algorithm. Highly personalised regarding profile analytics but entirely dedicated to the community wellbeing, EM-OWL pivots a traditional LMS platform into a tool which measures curriculum delivery satisfaction rather than the curriculum satisfaction itself and drives teaching and learning adaptations in order to meet the educational needs of a particular community.

Solution transferability

Although the EM-OWL is designed to respond to the needs of a school-level community, its co-curricular, AI-powered feature  can be adapted to any academic institution, educational structure or school age, making it utterly flexible and transferable. By engaging socially and emotionally in the evaluation of teaching and learning processes, both students and teachers are able to grow and adapt while reinventing their pedagogies in a non-threatening and non-evaluative environment. Thriving in a community of wellbeing, mental health and positive psychology, EM-OWL provides a platform for school improvements by making them places where students and teachers grow happy. “Teachers who love teaching teach students to love learning” might be a motto of this educational tool, which guides academic success by feeding it with social-emotional satisfaction. It also emphasises the importance of peer-support and reciprocal motivation in a constructivist classroom, where social interaction and active learning are precious collaborative tools.

Solution sustainability

As social and emotional interaction depends entirely on the intrinsic motivation of its actors, the sustainability of the EM-OWL as a collaborative co-curricular AI-powered platform can only be achieved if the students and teachers embrace their new roles with conscious collective responsibility. Using emotions to learn is not new to teaching, but it is new to ONLINE teaching, which is a reason enough to encourage teachers and students alike to positively empower each other by becoming agents of change. With such a power, which emerges from affirmative appreciation and reciprocal support, may the online teaching and learning become a sustainable social phenomenon which scaffolds academic success through wellbeing.

Solution team work

Collaboration between teammates in tIMO was extremely successful from the get-go. All of us were on the same page with the ways how work should be organized, what problems to tackle and our brainstorming session was impactful and highly productive. The workload was shared equally between us and everyone brought a piece of their expertise into the mix with skills that highly complement each other. Svetlana brought her knowledge and experience with innovations in iPedagogy and SEL, Aleksandra brought her expertise as teacher training coordinator with extensive knowledge about teacher needs, while Andrej brought his EdTech expertise and creativity in problem solving. A team that works as efficiently as this one has amazing prospects for future collaborations and will likely keep working on similar projects.

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Partners & supporters

DigiEduHack is an EIT initiative under the European Commission's Digital Education Action Plan, led by EIT Climate-KIC and coordinated by Aalto University. This year the main stage event is hosted by the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union

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