Catering to the Needs of Trauma-Affected Students through Technology

ISTE Coaching Standard 4.5 Professional Learning Facilitator reads, “Coaches plan, provide and evaluate the impact of professional learning for educators and leaders on the use of technology to advance teaching and learning”. Standard 4.5c, expands upon this, and reads: Evaluate PD Impact– Evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements to meet the school-wide vision for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning. My focus of study is on educating child protection professionals and educators on how to develop healthy and safe environments for improved student learning for children who have experienced ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences. As I reflect on this standard, and the guiding questions for this module, I chose to use the AI Tool Research Rabbit to help me identify recent articles to answer the following question: how can technology provide educators with the tools they need to create personalized learning experiences that cater to the unique needs of trauma-affected students and construct a safe and supportive learning environment for all students?

To begin answering this question, I found a 2018 article titled, Guiding Principles for an ACEs-Sensitive Classroom, written by Ricky Robertson. Robertson has worked directly as a teacher and Behavior Intervention Specialist with students from pre-K to 12th with ACEs and trauma, and now focuses his time as an educator coach in developing a relationship-based model to teaching and learning for these students affected by trauma. In his article, Robertson notes that “for a classroom to be emotionally safe, consider things like mindfulness minutes, a classroom cool down spot for emotional regulation, class meetings, and restorative conversations”. He goes on to note that “the concept of physical safety can be expanded to include things like soft lighting, aromatherapy, calming music, or other sensory components that have a calming effect on the nervous system”. Robertson speaks to the element that one of the things that makes people feel safe is having a sense of control over their lives, and for students who have experienced ACEs or trauma that is even more important. He notes that “students who have experienced ACEs or trauma often come from chaotic or disrupted home environments, so the ways that they have learned to acquire a sense of safety often come in direct conflict with our classroom rules and norms”. These students, if feeling unsafe, may look to assess their will over a situation. To address this, Robertson encourages educators to consider ways to share power with students affected by trauma and suggests personalizing learning experiences with “classroom jobs, visual schedules, behavior contracts, and collaborative decision-making” that can reduce student fear, and address their unique needs for a safe and supportive learning environment.

So how can technology help educators personalize learning experiences inside the classroom in these ways? I returned to Research Rabbit to explore any research that may have been done around this subject area and discovered a 2015 article titled, Personalized learning environment: Integration of web technology 2.0 in achieving meaningful learning. Citing research done on the Malaysian education system, Hamdan et al examine how personalized learning with technology has been able to increase student achievement. They explore several web technology tools such as Facebook, WordPress, YouTube, and Prezi, and discuss how these tools have been impactful in creating supportive personalized learning environments. However, it is important to note that there are still very few research studies done that can speak more in-depth about meaningful learning, especially for students who have experienced trauma, but the findings in this research show that the integration of Web technology tools in creating personalized learning environments does appear to increase the quality of the teaching and learning process.

A 2023 article, written by a children’s rights advocate named Nina for Go Guardian, notes 9 ways web technology can be used in the classroom. Within those 9 ways, is the idea of Gamified Learning – creating a digital learning experience that promotes student collaboration, independence, and control through computerized games. An example of technology used in this way would be Pear Practice which is a digital platform designed to empower educators to provide differentiated practice and instruction opportunities for students. Another idea are Digital Field Trips, such as Google Streetview – where students can virtually explore real world environments. This kind of technology can allow students affected by trauma an opportunity to explore real world areas of interest or perhaps locations where they have personal experience, without the fear of being triggered or perhaps re-traumatized as a result. Hamdan’s work spoke to the possible incorporation of social media, but another form of technology that can be integrated into a classroom to help create a safe and positive learning environment and experience for students with ACEs are video/multimedia lessons and presentations such as those offered through Skype, Google Hangouts and Facetime. These platforms allow students who have experienced trauma the ability to build a world and share their ideas, perspectives and stories in creatively powerful way.

References:

Hamdan, A., Din, R., Manaf, S. Z. A., Salleh, N. S. M., Kamsin, I. F., Ab Khalid, R., & Karim, A. A. (2015). Personalized learning environment: Integration of web technology 2.0 in achieving meaningful learning. Journal of Personalized Learning, 1(1), 13-26.

Robertson, R. (2018). Guiding Principles for an ACEs-Sensitive Classroom. Corwin Connect.

W. Nina. (2023). 9 Unique Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom. GoGuardian.

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