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Can digital technologies help combat mental health concerns in schools?

Education technology’s core motivation is to help students learn. This can take many different forms, from enabling remote studying to easing the organisational strains of teachers, any area edtech can streamline ultimately has a positive knock-on effect on students. A statistic from the Bett website states that in any classroom across the UK, three students will have a diagnosable mental health condition. It’s revelations like these that are driving innovation across edtech, aiming to assist students with their wellbeing and ultimately improve both their quality of education and life. Many of these technologies were on display at Bett 2023, which the Futuresource team was able to experience first-hand. 

The technologies helping students with their mental health 

There were a few key sessions that shone a spotlight on student wellbeing. The ‘digital innovation to support children’s mental health & wellbeing’ was one, which dually highlighted how technology can increase feelings of anxiety, stress, and other mental health conditions. While it may seem counterintuitive, addressing these concerns with technology can provide students with support in a way that feels familiar. Plus, it enables teachers to harness the benefits of targeted, personalised support through technologies like AI.  

In many ways, the knock-on impacts of Covid-19 on student wellbeing are only just being felt. The effects of the disruption are more easily discernible within the classroom, which means that fortunately, more of these concerns are coming to the fore. This is driving educators and staff to become hyper-vigilant to student concerns – which can be a challenge considering the already strained education system. 

But impressive innovations designed to safeguard students were rife. Smoothwall once again showcased a large stand at the show, with the Smoothwall Pulse on prime display. This latest offering provides a wellbeing function that encourages students to engage in a weekly, sixty-second check-in. Concerns, worries, and issues can be flagged, allowing teachers to identify emerging issues with their students. 

NetSupport also exhibited its NetSupport DNA solution, offering IT and classroom management and online safeguarding.  It also showcased the cloud-based Classroom Instruction, Online Safety and IT Management tool which includes a new safeguarding feature, Activity Monitoring, which can provide insight into a child’s website history when a trigger phrase is used. 

The emerging role of AI was also prominent. AV1 robots were showcased to be instrumental in helping children studying remotely with their physical and mental wellbeing. The inclusive telepresence robots enable students to join classrooms through the AV1 app. Students can explore the classroom and participate in discussions to help improve attendance, allow for a smoother, staggered reintegration, and encourage engagement.  

The intersection of esports and wellbeing 

While esports is commonly regarded as a leisurely pastime, its role in education was a big talking point at Bett. As well as helping students build soft skills like leadership, critical thinking, and teamwork, the show also demonstrated the positive impact esports has on student wellbeing. 

A session attended by Futuresource’s marketing team told a story about an introverted, disengaged learner who found his stride in the esports department. Stories like this demonstrate the multi-faceted approach that schools must take toward student wellbeing. As well as direct, targeted mental health support, schools must engage students through digital tools that pique student interest. Emerging areas like esports can help young people immerse themselves in extracurricular pursuits, all of which can help build an overall sense of wellbeing, community, and engagement. 

Government funding 

But of course, the largely unanswered question of funding remains. Implementing mental health technologies is at best a challenge and at worst impossible when schools receive inadequate funding. With staff shortages and teacher fatigue also abound, providing support to students in need becomes increasingly difficult. While dedicated technologies can succeed in offering support to the wider student body, implementing them remains a distinct barrier.  

Futuresource Consulting’s Bett 2023 post-show report breaks down the mental health technologies on offer at the show, as well as providing coverage on other key themes. Access your copy here. 

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Olivia Lowden

About the author

Olivia Lowden

Olivia Lowden is responsible for the long-form content, press, and partnerships at Futuresource. Prior to her career at Futuresource, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, demonstrative of her lifelong love of words.

Melanie Tagg

About the author

Melanie Tagg

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