New student tech improves the ‘COVID classroom’

GRAND RAPIDS—The Grand Rapids training company Become Unmistakable LLC has rolled out Student uMap, a new product designed to ease the pains and frustration of today’s “COVID classrooms.”

Company officials say the new application allows students to safely share their enthusiasm and concerns while providing a platform for their teachers to track social and emotional health through the pandemic and beyond.

“When learning in a virtual or socially distanced classroom, human connection becomes diluted,” said Danielle Bouwhuis, a former seventh grade science teacher who is the company’s uMap manager. “And although students can learn mathematics and language arts through online games or video conferencing, they are deprived of personal interactions with teachers and peers that help form healthy, long-lasting habits and behaviors.”

When developing the Student uMap, Become Unmistakable interviewed clients and educators from a variety of grade levels and school districts to identify the most common thoughts and concerns on teaching during the pandemic.

“Between video calls, fewer prep hours and a new block schedule, it has become way more difficult to get to know my 120 students,” said Janneke Cole, a seventh and eighth grade language arts teacher in the Jenison Public Schools. “After the first month, I usually have developed a pretty good rapport with most of them. But this year, it’s been a challenge just to learn everyone’s names.”

Reporting features identify kids who may be struggling and privately collects information about personal worries, helping teachers connect emotionally with their students from a distance.

“We’ve seen that technology like Zoom or Microsoft Teams are great tools for making connection possible, yet not necessarily meaningful,” Bouwhuis said.But to succeed, schools need to make sure they are utilizing technology that focuses on the relational/humanistic approach to learning, versus just the transactional. And that’s exactly why we developed this software — to establish meaningful connections and make sure students and teachers feel engaged and heard.”

For more information on the Student uMap, visit Become Unmistakable’s information page.

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