Feeling Connected: Using Instructional Technology To Support Emotional Intelligence And Wellness

Feeling Connected: Using Instructional Technology To Support Emotional Intelligence And Wellness
Summary: As technology has continued to evolve and become more relied upon, our ability to emotionally connect with one another has lessened. Instructional Designers and educators ought to consider ways in which the technology they use may be leveraged to prioritize the mental well-being of their students.

Emotional Intelligence And eLearning

Let’s face it, emotions are complicated. Understanding the reasons and implications of why we feel the way we feel involves great understanding of a variety of biological and environmental factors that have direct effects on our feelings. The science of human emotions is so sophisticated that it might be easier for many to just "wait out the storm;" however, understanding our own emotions and those of others has never been more important than it is in the current state where we are more in touch with technology than we are with each other. This is particularly true for professionals, such as teachers, who are entrusted with the responsibility of being able to understand and help children navigate through their feelings and dispositions. This is only part of the reason why the field of emotional intelligence (EI) was conceived. As our use of technology only continues to grow, it is essential that our cognizance of the emotions of our students grow at an even faster rate.

What Is Emotional Intelligence And Why Is It Important?

According to Humphrey et al. (2007), EI "involves the ability to draw upon key personal…social,…and emotional…attributes in order to adapt effectively to a given social context such as the school, workplace, or home" (Humphrey et al., 2007, p. 241). For instructional personnel, it is the capacity to use data, observations, and communications to identify trends in students’ emotions, and the ability to provide tools and strategies for maximizing positive feelings and behaviors. This form of instruction, built on teaching emotional identification and regulation, is part of what is referred to today as social emotional learning (SEL). Understanding and regulating one’s own emotions are two of the five essential components of SEL. "Self-awareness is the ability to consider and understand your own emotions, thoughts, values, and experiences, and how these can influence your actions…The self-management core competency focuses on an individual’s ability to regulate and control their emotions, thoughts and behaviors" (Positive Action Staff, 2020). Though SEL has been used for many years now, its usage and importance has increased sharply in recent years, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Increased Need For EI

When schools across the world closed their doors around the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, many students were faced with the tribulation of attending school in isolation. Distance education, that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated the condition that took a toll on many students’ social and emotional well-being. Though many schools globally have, since then, reopened their doors to in-person instruction, many of them continue to use hybrid models of instruction that depend on the use of eLearning platforms to administer instruction synchronously or asynchronously. With hybrid education as an emerging avenue for instruction, eLearning must be leveraged to allow students the opportunity to strengthen their emotional wellness. The following strategies are designed to help teachers and/or Instructional Designers use technology in such a way that prioritizes EI and students’ emotional wellness.

Five Strategies For Using Technology To Support EI And Emotional Wellness

1. Mood Measurement Tools

As mentioned at the start of this article, emotions are complicated. For students, one day at school (or at home) could mean the fluctuation of hundreds of different emotions, both positive and negative. Accordingly, a variety of web programs have been developed to help students and teachers keep track of changing emotions and behaviors. The use of a mood measuring tool can help students label their feelings, and can help their teachers monitor changes in those feelings. One such tool is the Mood Meter, designed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Marc Brackett, the director of that department, notes that the Mood Meter is "a tool and an app…that lets individual students and teachers keep track of their own emotions over time while also suggesting words they can use to describe their feelings precisely" (Heller, 2018, p. 22). Having access to a tool such as the Mood Meter can help teachers and parents keep track of a child’s feelings and identify possible trends that may pave the way for providing an effective emotional improvement plan.

2. Discussion Boards

Many, if not all, Learning Management Systems (LMS) in use today include an area for posting and responding to discussion threads. Assigning students to respond to prompts posted via discussion boards, and to respond to each other, helps foster collaboration and social interactions, even when face-to-face communication is not possible. According to Christopher Pappas, “Handling social relationships is another critical component of emotional intelligence in eLearning…When learners are able to communicate and cooperate well with each other, they become more effective and produce better results” (Pappas, 2015). In working with discussion posts, students help one another and themselves bring out their best work in a way that blends social communication with what they are learning in the class.

3. Digital Journals And/Or Sketchbooks

Whether on paper or on a screen, students benefit emotionally from being able to express themselves. The usage, then, of different tools and programs that allow for expressive writing and/or illustrating is quintessential for an Instructional Designer developing an eLearning course to take into account. Thankfully, a variety of web services offer different options for self-reflection, such as digital journals and sketchbooks. G Suite for Education, powered by Google, is one popular LMS that includes platforms for both journalling (Google Docs) and sketching (Google Drawings). These platforms can provide educators with the opportunity to glimpse what a student may be feeling, or simply allow them to provide students with an outlet for channeling those feelings.

4. Recorded Responses

Though discussion boards do help foster the development of stronger social skills between students, sometimes text-based responses alone are not sufficient mediums for fully expressing oneself. Educators should, therefore, allow students to submit audio- and/or video-based responses in lieu of traditional typed responses. Such an alternative can help students feel more comfortable and confident when submitting their work for review by either classmates and/or their teacher. One such program that allows for audio/video responding between students and teachers is Flipgrid. Flipgrid allows teachers to create topics for students to respond to in timed audio and/or video recordings. Marissa King writes on the benefits of using audio recordings as a response tool: "Language learners are particularly fond of this approach: it’s a safer place to practice new vocabulary. Most students are already eager to talk about their experiences. With audio recording, they can complete the assignment in a medium with which many of them are already quite practiced and comfortable" (King, 2016).

5. Gamification And Badges

Regardless of whether it is done in the name of education or not, play is something that an overwhelming number of students love to do. Whether to help establish a behavioral system that students can buy into, or to make a time-consuming and mundane lesson seem more intriguing, teachers are becoming increasingly invested in gamification—utilizing game-based approaches to engage students both inside and outside the classroom. In a study on the impact of gamification on students’ emotions, Can Meşe and Özcan Özgür Dursun noted "that the gamification elements of activity completion notification, progress bar, restrictions, awards, competition and badges were influential on their [the participants’] happiness" (Meşe and Dursun, 2018, p. 78). Using a game-based learning system, particularly one that includes badges/achievements, can help foster a healthy sense of competition that can nurture students’ sense of accomplishment.


Emotions might be complicated, but they make us who we are, and in the ever-evolving world that’s becoming more dependent on technology, it must remain clear who we are for the sake of our self-awareness and self-management. As noted by Marc Brackett and Dena Simmons, "Emotions give us information that can be valuable—if we use that information wisely. That’s why it’s important for schools not only to support students’ and educators’ social and emotional health, but also to teach all stakeholders…the skills of emotional intelligence" (Brackett and Simmons, 2015). These five strategies make up only a few of the potential opportunities that an Instructional Designer and/or teacher can utilize to help build EI and nurture the emotional well-being of students, whether in-person or online. And provided with the awareness, especially in the last three years, of how distance education affected the social and emotional state of students from all over the world, it is not only a suggestion for instructional personnel to foster opportunities for emotional support through their educational approaches—it is a professional obligation.