moozoom: harnessing technology to improve student mental health

Anxiety, behavioral and depressive disorders: Mental health problems are very real among elementary students. While not a panacea, socio-emotional learning, which significantly empowers children to recognize and manage their emotions, helps them deal with these issues.

Recently, the Superior Council of Education recommended to the government “to make the development of children’s social and affective skills explicit and mandatory and to consider the acquisition of these skills as a soft skill that is developed in all areas of school activity, including the school nursery”.

This partly explains the success of the moozoom online platform, which allows the development of these skills to be integrated into the classroom. Just two years after its launch, moozoom is offered in 897 Quebec schools, reaching 186,000 students.

News : What is moozoom?

Jean-Philippe Turgeon: It is a platform designed to equip young people with social and emotional skills. They are interactive videos, a bit like “a book in which you are the hero”, on topics such as rejection or self-confidence. These videos allow teachers and students to discuss how they would feel in one situation or another and how they would react.

Every effort has been made to make it interesting for students, but also easy to use for teachers, who do not need training or material creation.

Where did the idea of ​​launching this platform come from?

My daughter, who suffers from a major mental health problem, tried to take her own life in 2018. It was a trigger for me, I began to wonder how we could do better supervision of our young people, help them question their emotions.

I do not come from education, but was a lawyer for almost 20 years in a law firm in Montreal, but I realized the needs of teachers in relation to this topic and I made it my mission to help them.

Is there a scientific approach behind the creation of the videos?

We have a scientific committee and we are based on research from CASEL, a recognized American organization, which has developed a framework for teaching social emotional learning in children.

For each new topic, our specialists write a canvas, in order to ensure that all the learning of the CASEL framework is found in the videos, such as recognizing one’s own emotions and self-regulating them. The authors then write a story based on this canvas.

The concept of educational videos is not new, what else does technology bring?

First of all, there is a lot of content that accompanies the videos, such as class discussion topics, quizzes, and role-plays. The platform also allows the teacher to follow the progress of the students.

We are also about to launch a tool to assess the acquisition of skills by young people. This will allow teachers to measure the impact of moozoom on their students.

Is it necessary to have tablets or computers in class to use it?

No not at all. All activities can be printed and given to the children. As a general rule, videos are also not viewed on personal devices, but in groups, on an interactive whiteboard, for example.

You launched moozoom when the pandemic was starting. What has COVID changed for you?

In fact, we introduced moozoom in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. He made our launch a bit more complex as it was hard for schools and teachers to take the time to figure out a new tool like that. But we managed to break through despite all this mess.

It must be said that the pandemic has exposed the mental health problems that affect young people, even if they existed long before COVID.

Why did you go to schools instead of parents?

We hesitated for a long time. On the one hand, the choice to make it for classrooms was an obvious one, as this is where young people spend their time learning. But on the other hand, we were afraid that it would be difficult to get in (Editor’s note: access to the platform costs about $5.50 per student per year, or less if an agreement is reached with a school service center) Many teachers finally told us and many school administrators that it was something that would be required, so that’s what we did.

And it was the right decision. We are having a lot of success in Quebec and we are also starting to enter the US market. We have just concluded an agreement with the State of Ohio and are working sure similar deals in Texas, New York state and California.

The interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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