KDSL Global recently had an opportunity to connect with Ammar Khan, Co-Founder & CEO of YouHue. This is a classroom app that uses mood tracking to empower students to understand their emotions so they can better manage and communicate them. Data from YouHue gives teachers insight that can be used to support student learning, identify and address issues, and build more meaningful relationships.
Tell us about YouHue and the connection to social-emotional learning.
YouHue makes social-emotional learning not only easy but fun and rewarding for every classroom. There are five core SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. YouHue is a tool that guides students to practice these core competencies in how they communicate with their teacher and other adults at the school, leading to real-world impact in the classroom right off the bat.
On YouHue, students are guided to select an emotion, then reflect on and write about why they feel that emotion at that moment. Students then send that “mood log” to their teacher. Through this research-based exercise, they practice identifying their emotions (self-awareness), coping with their emotions (self-management), reflecting on situations (responsible decision-making) and communicating their emotions effectively and confidently (relationship skills). Practicing checking in with their own emotions also deepens their understanding of the ways other people experience emotions (social awareness).
Pausing, reflecting, and then articulating how we feel helps us connect with and become more honest with ourselves. Then, we can do that with others. This helps us live the life we want to, relate and collaborate with others in ways that are fulfilling and honest, and even ask for help when we need it. All of this empowers us to feel ownership and autonomy.
When we recognize our ability to manage our own emotions, we recognize our ability to choose our lives and how we want to react and interact with the world around us. It’s then not up to other people to save us by reading our minds and then giving us what we need. Asking for help, for acknowledgment, for love, for affirmation, is how we get what we need. This type of giving and receiving is what makes us feel like connected, supported members of a community which is the basis of much of psychological wellness and thriving.
We chose the student-teacher relationship to base this practice because it offers not only an opportunity for students to strengthen their skills but also for communication between students and teachers to be increased and their relationships strengthened. Increased communication means teachers better understand their students and what they need to thrive. Strengthened student-teacher relationships are proven to increase students’ engagement in academics and their feeling of being part of their school community. This improves both mental wellness and academic performance. All of us have a tough time knowing when, how, and to whom we can open up and express ourselves. For kids, it’s particularly difficult. But, it’s really important that kids communicate… especially with the adults who are trying to help them succeed at school.
What are some ways YouHue is being implemented in classrooms?
YouHue is used in classrooms with students aged five through twenty-two. Each educator receives a YouHue Toolkit to help them introduce YouHue to their students. It is filled with background about the value of mood logging and gives teachers useful emotion terminology, plus tips for introducing YouHue to students so they feel good about using it. Then, most of our classrooms try to log on a daily basis. Usually, students share how they feel as they arrive at school in the morning. Besides that, teachers often invite their students to share at times that are uniquely meaningful in their classroom. For example, they might ask their students how they feel before or after a quiz, when an important event at school, or when current events impact their lives.
Once students start logging on YouHue, educators can access their YouHue Insights Dashboard where they can see a report on trends and key topics about which their students are logging. For example, insight into what made them confused this week or what got them really excited. Teachers also receive real-time email alerts if a student logs about a topic that indicates a mental health or learning issue–for example, if a student uses a word like “bully” in a log. That empowers teachers to help that student right when they need it.
As classrooms use the program, our team is always here to support them by providing more information or guidance about how to use YouHue with students. We’re always just an email or call away.
Schools learn more about their students and are able to keep up with what is impacting their behavior and learning, as well as what makes them who they are as people. Educators see their students’ communication and self-regulation skills flourish as they grow healthy habits of self-expression. And, together they build strong and meaningful relationships that lead to learning and growth.
Each of us experiences every type of emotion at some point. When the people who care about us understand how we feel we can work together to do amazing things. It all starts with, “How are you?”
How does the YouHue team envision the future of education?
We are preparing the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, family members, and teammates to be their best possible selves–to be confident and curious, kind and loving, thoughtful and in touch with their personal values. A YouHue student of the future is one who knows herself well enough to navigate setbacks, be authentic, rely on her community, and ask for help–all skills that lead a person to live a meaningful and fulfilling life in the 21st Century.
All of this is contingent on young people growing up and learning in an environment where they feel securely connected to their community and where their social-emotional skills are fostered. Educators all across the world have been recognizing the importance of fostering growth in young people in more than just academics. There is a loud and strengthening cry for tools that expand the abilities of educators to support their students in this way. Parallel to that outcry is the demand for learning environments that facilitate positive student-teacher relationships.
Attachment theory states that a strong emotional attachment to a primary caregiver is critical to personal development. A child with a healthy sense of attachment to caring adults in her life will feel the confidence to go out and explore the world knowing that when she tries things and fails, she has a support system. She also has a model for a healthy collaboration that will determine how she will interact with others throughout her life. We are providing educators with tools that will enable their relationship with their students to be one of those empowering relationships.
Psychological science has a robust knowledge of how to help young people develop emotional health, but the problem exists in making that knowledge applicable to the real world–in real schools and homes. That is what we are doing with YouHue. By giving educators and parents tools that provide effective emotional education and ways to practice life skills, we bring that knowledge to classrooms and families. YouHue, as you see it today, is just the beginning. It is the core exercise from which we will expand into additional exercises, resources, and education content that enable schools to provide truly rich guidance and support toward emotional wellness and mental thriving.
As a technology, we don’t seek to replace and exclude adults from the child’s emotional development. We seek to empower them with the right resources at the right time that will equip them with skills that universalize the standard of support students receive in their emotional education.
What we have been experimenting with over the past few years is offering social-emotional education resources (lesson plans and exercises) that up-skill the adults who work with children. These adults have often not received formalized emotional education themselves, and so skill levels vary significantly which has a huge impact on their abilities and confidence in supporting the emotional education and wellbeing of their students. By giving them resources that feel easy-to-use, effective, and engaging we up-skill in a way that not only gives our teachers confidence, increases their ability to educate their students, but also even improves their emotional skills over time.
In this, we not only improve the mental wellness of young people but also adults! Making the kind of impact in education that our society needs on a global scale will take all of us. Our vision of the future of education is one in which we work together as a community and a society, empowered by healthy technology, to elevate well being, engage learning, and ready human beings to move toward a brighter future. It all starts by changing our relationship with the world within ourselves. YouHue seeks a future in which education is synonymous with science, reading, and emotional thriving. We are working to empower educators to provide that type of education to their students, so their students are empowered in turn to make healthy and impactful connections with the world around them.
About Ammar Khan
Ammar Khan is an education and health tech entrepreneur who is the co-founder of YouHue, a mood tracking app that helps students communicate more meaningfully with their teachers while developing core social-emotional skills that improve their wellness and outcomes in classrooms.