Mixed Reality Simulations: A Next Generation Digital Tool to Support Social-Emotional Learning

Mixed Reality Simulations: A Next Generation Digital Tool to Support Social-Emotional Learning

Kristin M. Murphy (University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA) and Amy L. Cook (University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1770-3.ch001

Abstract

Implementing a curriculum that supports students' social-emotional development alongside academics is essential. Social-emotional learning (SEL) promotes positive outcomes across social and emotional skills, attitudes towards self and others, positive social behavior, conduct problems, emotional distress, and academic performance. In spite of what research tells us and what we as educators know intuitively through our practice, social and emotional development has long been known to many as a missing link in U.S. public schools. Teachers' concerns include whether they have the time, resources, and access to professional learning necessary to implement high quality SEL instruction, particularly in light of academic content instruction pressures. This chapter discusses the application of mixed reality simulations as a next generation digital tool that offers active learning opportunities in social-emotional learning in conjunction with dialogic reading sessions to foster social-emotional competencies and literacy.
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Introduction

The Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “…the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions (para. 1).” While the term social-emotional learning (SEL) is only about twenty years old, for over one hundred years educators and researchers alike have been interested in the role of schools when it comes to fostering the social and emotional development of children (Osher et al., 2016). Scholars and educators understand SEL in many ways. For the purpose of this chapter we share CASEL’s model because we anchored our design to its competencies. CASEL understands SEL as consisting of five interrelated competencies as seen in table 1. The purpose of this book chapter is to introduce and discuss the utility of engaging in mixed reality simulations (MRS) as a next generation digital tool to foster acquisition of SEL in children as a part of academic content instruction. We present it in the context of dialogic reading instructional sessions, but invite you, the reader, to imagine and envision other ways in which you can embed this innovative active learning technology into instruction for learners of all ages and stages.

Table 1.
SEL competencies
1. Self-awareness: being able to recognize your own emotions and values, to be able to evaluate your own strength and weaknesses, and have a sense of optimism and self-efficacy
2. Self-management: being able to manage your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings across different situations including managing stress, impulses, and goal-setting
3. Social awareness: the ability to take on and understand the perspective of others, understanding diverse cultural and social norms, and being able to identify available supports and resources
4. Relationship skills: Being able to cultivate positive relationships with a diverse array of individuals, possessing clear communication skills including active listening and cooperation, being able to resist peer pressure, navigate conflicts, and being able to advocate or seek support when needed
5. Responsible decision making: Being able to make safe and ethical decisions based on a realistic understanding of potential benefits, consequences, and social norms

(Osher et al., 2016)

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Background

Implementing a curriculum that supports students’ social-emotional development alongside academics is essential. Social-emotional learning (SEL) promotes positive outcomes across social and emotional skills, attitudes towards self and others, positive social behavior, conduct problems, emotional distress, and academic performance (Taylor, Oberle, Durlak, & Weissberg, 2017; Weissberg, 2019). In turn, children and adults are proficient in the tools they need to successfully navigate roles, routines, tasks, and challenges we all face across school, work, and life. In their paper examining SEL studies from the past century, findings indicate benefits include higher rates of graduation and achievement in math and reading, and an increased ability to manage stress (Osher et al.). An ever-growing body of research supports this idea, and indicates that social-emotional competencies can be cultivated through explicit instruction that includes opportunities for modeling and practice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Human-in-the-Loop Paradigm: A human actively controls the voices and movements of the avatars during a simulation.

Mixed-Reality Simulation: A middle-ground between agent-based virtual reality simulations and reality, where users interact with avatars whose responses and movements are controlled by a human to cultivate a more authentic interactive experience.

Suspension of Disbelief: When you know that something is not real (e.g., the avatar students in a mixed reality classroom are not a real class of students) but you temporarily accept it as reality.

Dialogic Reading: Whitehurst et al. first introduced DR as a type of shared, interactive book reading strategy that includes specific questioning and responding techniques to children while reading together. Involved in DR are repeated readings and conversations centered around a book being read in groups or reading dyads.

Scenario: The prompt, or background information, someone is given prior to engaging in a mixed reality simulation that as the jumping off point for the simulation to begin.

Avatar: Computer-animated character controlled by a human.

Social-Emotional Learning: The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

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