Social-Emotional Learning 

Bers, González-González & Armas-Torres (2019) indicated that the KIBO intervention was successful in fostering communication and collaboration skills in preschool children (at the age of 3-5). The effect of the research activity on promoting content creation and creativity was moderate and low when it came to behaviour choices and community building. The researchers also stated that computational thinking skills could be integrated into the preschool curricula in conjunction with other subjects (learning areas). In this way, children will be more acquainted with what they learn.

Futschek and Moschitz (2010), stated that benefiting from team games requiring collaboration and communication to teach an algorithm improves children’s social skills and this can increase the interaction between children, help them trust each other and become more willing to participate in the learning process.  

Self-awareness: Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and name one’s emotions, including emotional needs, strengths, and limitations. Both by means of unplugged games and software (Scratch, Alice) it is possible to imagine story-telling activities involving social emotions, also by recalling small events with the children.

Self-Management: Self-management is the ability to regulate emotions and behaviours so that goals are achieved. Since perseverance is the basis of self-management, through games and AT activities it is possible to work with children on overcoming the brokenness resulting from the failure. The importance of the fail-forward attitude! This means that students need to know how to learn from their mistakes. Students should apply what they learned to make improvements and eventually succeed. Failure is part of the engineering process! (Hilppö and Stevens, 2020). 

Social Awareness: Social awareness is the ability to understand what others are feeling and put themselves in their shoes. This helps us relate to others and empathize with them. It is related to:

Relationship Skills: it refers to the ability to work well together in teams, handle conflict well, and generally have positive relationships with others. Analyzing these behaviours can be crucial in students gaining mastery over these social skills. STEM education is well-suited for learning about empathy and other emotion-related skills (Castano2012). SEL (Social Emotions Learning) has been defined as “the process of acquiring core competencies of understanding and regulating emotions,  developing positive goals, understanding the perspectives of others, maintaining positive social relationships, making responsible decisions, experiencing empathy for others, and managing challenging interpersonal situations” (Elias et al. 1997). (Halberstadt, Denham, and Dunsmore2001). 

Other important elements in ECE social-emotional learning, which can be considered in this project are (Illinois Early Learning Guidelines, 2015:

  • Emotional regulation – Children demonstrate the emerging ability to identify and manage the expression of emotion in accordance with social and cultural contexts.
  • Behaviour regulation- Children may be able to demonstrate limited self-control over behaviour by responding to cues found in the environment. Children also begin to use more complex strategies to help manage feelings of impulsivity.
  • Attachment relationships- Children form secure attachment relationships with caregivers who are emotionally available, responsive, and consistent in meeting their needs. Children begin to use nonverbal and verbal communication to connect and reconnect with their attachment figure.
  • Emotional expressions – Children continue to experience a wide range of emotions (e.g., affection, frustration, fear, anger, sadness). At this point in development, children will express and act on impulses, but begin to learn skills from their caregiver(s) on how to control their emotional expression.
  • Relationship with adults – Children demonstrate the desire and develop the ability to engage, interact, and build relationships with familiar adults. Children actively seek out familiar adults and begin to show an interest in adult tasks and roles.
  • Self-concept – Children become aware of themselves as distinct from others both physically and emotionally. During this period, children often struggle with the balance of being independent and needing nurturing from their caregiver(s).
  • Relationships with peers – Children demonstrate the desire and develop the ability to engage and interact with other children. As play and communication mature, children begin to seek out interactions with peers.
  • Empathy – Children demonstrate an emerging ability to understand someone else’s feelings and to share in the emotional experiences of others. Children begin to notice different emotions that other children are expressing and may begin to respond to these emotions.
  • Self-Care – Children demonstrate the desire and ability to participate in and practice self-care routines. Children become active participants in addressing their own self-care needs with the support of the caregiver.
  • Social communication – Children demonstrate the ability to engage with and maintain communication with others. Children increase their capacity for complex interactions as they use a greater number of words and actions, in addition to better understanding the rules of conversational turn-taking.
  • Concept development – Children demonstrate the ability to connect pieces of information in understanding objects, ideas, and relationships. Children begin to understand object representation and begin to use verbal and nonverbal communication with object use.

Another important element in Social Emotional Learning is the concept of global citizenship. Global interdependence requires today’s students to become globally competent and socially responsible (Breitkreuz and Songer, 2015). Global citizenship focuses on the extent to which individuals respect the global landscape, demonstrate an awareness of social responsibility in the search for community-based solutions (Schattle2008), and understand people, cultures, events, and systems from a global perspective (Ibrahim2005). Many experts believe that social justice and a global approach to learning and teaching in the STEM areas may contribute to the understanding of social issues and the development of a democratic society (Amadei and Sandekian2010).

All these social skills can benefit from applying AT to games and activities where children are confronted with tasks, goals, failures, and team and cooperative working. Storytelling is designed using drawings or other analogic tools (unplugged programming) and then software brings these skills into play in an important way. Start with an autonomous division of tasks and let the children organise their work according to spontaneous groups. Observe the progress of the work and promote error analysis. (Hoffman et al, 2020).

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