Social and Emotional Learning in the age of virtual play: technology, empathy, and learning

Gabriela Walker, Jeni Venker Weidenbenner
2019 Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning  
Purpose -Empathy is part of what makes us human and humane, and it has become a core component of the Social Awareness competency of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) (CASEL, 2019). SEL fosters the understanding of others' emotions, is the basis of Theory of Mind skills and frames the development of empathy. The purpose of this paper is to trace the links between empathy development and social and emotional learning when using real versus virtual environments. Empathy is a uniquely human
more » ... on facilitated by abstract thinking and language. Virtual play is a teaching tool for acquiring prosocial behaviors. And finally, human-mediated (traditional and virtual) play is most favorable for SEL growth. Recognition of emotions such as empathy and other socio-communication skills have been taught to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Therefore, technology can be a venue for acquiring empathy. Design/methodology/approach -This paper uses a qualitative interpretive methodology to advocate for the use of technology with human mediation to teach Social and Emotional Learning skills, based on the premise that cognitive and social-emotional development occurs synergistically and mediated by speech and interaction with the environment. Findings -Technology is best seen as an instrument of assessing and teaching socio-emotional skills, but not as the only means to an end, because what makes us human can only be taught within an ecology of human interaction in real-life situations. Originality/value -This paper reviews previous research works (both empirical and theoretical) that bring to light the connection between socio-emotional development, specifically empathy development, and virtual environments.
doi:10.1108/jrit-03-2019-0046 fatcat:b6w67zp2yvhqfam5gzlxwvqvae