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Content That Teaches More Than Letters and Numbers

By: Erin Mastrantonio on April 15th, 2015

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Content That Teaches More Than Letters and Numbers

Social and Emotional Learning  |  Curriculum Strategy & Adoption


At Education Elements, we devote a massive amount of time and resources to helping our partner schools select digital content that will best serve the academic needs of their students. Tweet: At @EdElements we devote a massive amount of time & resources to helping our partner schools select #DigitalContent http://bit.ly/1yceYaO  Whether the goal is to understand fractions, parts of speech, or the events leading up to the Civil War, our team has a knack for knowing right where to look in hand-selecting the best content for any learning goal.

But we also understand that academic achievement is composed of many pillars.  A student who has skipped breakfast, for instance, may have significant trouble paying attention in class.  Another who is experiencing stress with a project partner may fail to turn in an assignment merely due to lack of communication skills rather than a lack of understanding.  In more extreme cases, an otherwise bright student may severely underperform due to social exclusion by his peers.

These barriers to learning are often hidden from our view, but are just as important to address as if we care to foster an environment where students are able to thrive academically.  The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a research organization dedicated to a hard evidence-based approach on the effects of SEL programs in schools, asserts that “benefits include reductions in child aggression, substance abuse, delinquency, and violence; lower levels of depression and anxiety; and increased grades, attendance, and performance in core academic subjects.”1

Thankfully, a new class of digital content is on the rise to address such needs.  Students can now engage with a range of iPad apps that teach everything from the importance of healthy eating (Purple Carrot Books for ages 6-8) to introductory yoga (C-Fit Yoga; 10-minute yoga workouts for the classroom), and even mindfulness meditation (Stop, Breathe, and Think; stress reduction for middle and highschoolers).

In addition to those, a small cadre of awareness & tolerance-based apps are taking on the challenge of addressing more serious issues such as bullying (Middle School Confidential, the brainchild of award-winning educator and author Annie Fox, M.Ed) and empathy training for cultivating positive relationships with special needs classmates.  

Then there are apps  designed to do even more and to raise awareness around how we are all different, and amazing, individuals.  Geek Club Books, a non-profit dedicated to autism awareness education, has a mission to “profoundly change the way the world views autism.”  Founder Jodi Murphy has developed a Common Core aligned Project Based Learning app for the classroom that uses the power of storytelling to evoke empathy for special needs students of all kinds.

Clearly, the ed tech landscape is expanding its scope to include content from new and exciting partners that aim to engage our students in every facet of intelligence and at every level of development.  Understanding and acknowledging that learning does not take place in a vacuum, and that the way students think about themselves and relate to each other affects their ability to learn, is the next frontier in personalization. The growing repertoire of awareness and tolerance-based apps serve as yet another example of how far digital content has come Tweet: The growing repertoire of awareness and tolerance-based apps serve as yet another example of how far #DigitalContent has come #PLearning @EdElements, and how deeply it has the capacity to assist teachers in improving outcomes for their students.

If you would like to share your own story of using digital content for personal development beyond the Common Core, drop us a line in the comments!


1.  Bridgeland, John M., and Timothy P. Shriver. "Social-Emotional Learning Pays Off." Education Week, 26 Feb. 2015.

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