Building Emotional Connections With Students Remotely

Nov 24, 2020

Building Emotional Connections With Students Remotely

With remote students an empathic lens is the most important attribute a head of an organization must possess. Once I stopped looking at staff and students as automations, I became an exponentially better school leader.

Data and emotional connections can co-exist, although we don’t always see it that way. When we think of building connections in a school environment, we often focus on understanding the experiences of school leaders, teachers, staff, and, most importantly, students. Similarly, when we think of data in education, we often seek to analyze the data to understand what may be impacting students, our staff, the board or the community.

We can look at these two approaches together, rather than in silos, when used strategically and thoughtfully. We support our partners to do just that, and as a result, the Innovare community is seeing stronger, more authentic, emotional connections being built among all individuals within an education environment.

Removing the Roadblock
Through our own experience working in schools across the country and collaborating with partner organizations, we’ve seen the power and challenges of using surveys to drive change. Oftentimes in school settings, surveys are distributed to students or staff, data is collected, and the process stops. With the advancement of new technology and platforms, the data collection and analysis process has improved slightly. However, as so many schools navigate the transitions to online learning, surveys have become the primary way for leaders to assess what is happening within their schools making “improved slightly” not good enough. The challenge -- to aggregate data across various platforms to understand all the factors that may be contributing to a student’s experience in the classroom and then develop an action plan around that -- is one of the reasons we created Innovare. We aim to remove that roadblock in collaboration with our partners.
Collaborative Centered Change
  • At Innovare, we leverage the Human-Centered Design (HCD) toolkit developed by IDEO that centers those impacted by innovative solutions in the problem-solving process. This approach, rooted in empathy, allows us to better understand the needs of our partners by listening to them and inviting them to co-design solutions that address their particular needs.
  • IDEO’s design process is a 3-phase process: (1) inspiration, (2) ideation, and (3) implementation; although in practice the process is not always linear, it enables us to produce a final outcome that is completely adapted to your specific challenges. One of our partners, Daniel R. Cameron Elementary in Chicago, recently implemented the first phase of IDEO’s Design Thinking approach to better respond to the needs of remote students and their families in this new learning environment.
The Situation: Addressing Social and Emotional Learning Needs during Pandemic
The Situation: Addressing Social and Emotional Learning Needs during Pandemic
Principal Stephen Harden, a member of the Independent School Principal network (ISP) in Chicago Public Schools, knew Daniel R. Cameron Elementary school needed to thoughtfully address how to deliver a supportive learning experience for remote students and their families during the pandemic. Like for so many students, families, teachers, and leaders, the shift to online learning was a new and unprecedented change.
The Solution: Understanding the Needs of Students in This Remote Environment
We collaborated with principal Harden and the team at Daniel R. Cameron Elementary to analyze the situation in two different ways to understand how they could help: (i) understand the technological needs of the remote students and their families, and (ii) understand how families are feeling about this transition - the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) side of things.

Together, we co-created and designed a survey. Our process is to meet with the customer and learn the uniqueness of that community. The survey’s questions provide key human-centered insights drawn from habits such as the amount of hours a student spends on schoolwork after classes, or from a comparison of different perspectives. For example, by asking the student how they are coping and then asking their parents the same question about their kids. We use this information to create the dashboard that will display the results.

“This is a unique dashboard for each school we work with, since their needs, priorities, and data vary greatly. With a human-centered approach, we ensure our app is in fact adopted on a regular basis by all users to drive results, whether they are data-savvy or not.”
Natasha Lopez, Customer Success Manager, Innovare
The outcome: Building Emotional Connections With Students In This Remote Environment
Principal Stephen Harden shared the impact of implementing this process and now having access to easily see the information that is most important to them, through the personalized dashboard in our app, he has been able to put it to good use. The school has been able to emotionally support families by delivering the specific information that parents expressed interest in knowing.
[With remote students] an empathic lens is the most important attribute a head of an organization must possess. Once I stopped looking at staff and students as automations, I became an exponentially better school leader. Your team must believe that your goals are built around collective success and every move you make as their leader is intended to help the team grow. This belief is cultivated through authentic listening, expressing empathy, and addressing their pain points. Surveys are an amazing tool for listening to multiple groups of stakeholders efficiently, while allowing you to use the science of data analysis to drive problem-solving.
Stephen Harden, Principal of Daniel R. Cameron Elementary

Our mission at Innovare is to support leaders, like Stephen, to lead positive change within their communities. From learning to use Human-Centered Design and Design Thinking, to defining transformational goals, to applying these practices with your own students, to feeling empowered to do experiments and learning from them, and other behaviors that constitute up-to-date education management and leadership best practices.

We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impact this collaboration has for the students, families, and teachers from Daniel R. Cameron Elementary as we continue our partnership together.

“At Innovare, we take the design of the data visualizations we develop for our schools very seriously. They have to be user-friendly and insightful so that all stakeholder groups who need to make important decisions for remote students, are empowered to do so."
Nick Freeman, Co-Founder & President, Innovare

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