FUNecole: Social-Emotional Learning Meets Computer Science and Digital Literacy
An elementary education digital curriculum by a European-based company combines social-emotional learning with computer science, and it may be coming to U.S. schools.
FUNecole is an online learning platform and curriculum by Digipro Education Limited, based in Cyprus. The company describes its platform as a "digital learning solution" for teaching computer science, digital literacy, social-emotional learning and 21st century skills for students in first through sixth grade.
(In French, "ecole" means school, so the program literally means "fun school").
The curriculum is currently used by a number of schools in Cyprus, Greece, Estonia and Romania, but so far in the U.S. only a handful of teachers know about it.
Chryso Christodoulou, founder of FUNecole, presented her product at the 2018 International Society for Technology in Education Conference in Chicago last June. According to an ISTE affiliate leader, only one elementary school teacher in Mississippi is using FUNecole so far.
The online learning platform is coming into the American K-12 market as demand for products and resources related to both social-emotional learning and computer science are increasing.
According to a recent EdWeek Market Brief survey, 86 percent of district leaders say they have already invested in social-emotional learning products, or plan to do so in the coming year. Education Week has also reported that states are increasingly adopting computer science policies: 22 states now have academic standards outlining the computer-science skills and concepts that students are expected to learn, according to a Code.org Advocacy Coalition and Computer Science Teacher Association report.
Rita Oates, who is a member of ISTE's professional learning network, said she has seen a lot of SEL programming that's "cute," but "doesn't have the right pedagogical design."
But FUNecole is "pedagogically sound," and "clearly based on working with real teachers and real kids and integrating their criticisms and comments," said Oates, a former computer education and tech supervisor at Miami-Dade County public schools. She now runs an independent education consulting firm.
FUNecole features videos with animated characters who discuss events that might happen to kids in real life, like breaking a lamp or fighting with a best friend. There are lesson plans and online activities teachers can choose from and can customize. The digital lessons provide immediate feedback and analytics on student performance from activities and formative assessments.
For each grade level, the FUNecole curriculum is broken down into two parts: social-emotional learning and 21st century smart thinking skills, and computer science and digital literacy skills. The skills the students learn are age-appropriate, and as they move on to the next grade level, they build on the skills they've already learned.
"The one thing that would give me pause is that in our education system, there's a lot of focus on test scores, so it might be hard for a creative product to get visibility," Oates said. "If the product doesn't match the times, it's not going to succeed."
The online learning platform is in alignment with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning's framework for the core social-emotional learning competencies, as well as with the Computer Science Teachers Association's computer science standards.
FUNecole recently received an ISTE seal of alignment for proficiency, which means the platform applies ISTE standards for students by providing activities that integrate key applications, programs and problem-solving through engaging learning activities.
"FUNecole provides teachers with a seamless way to direct students to apply their knowledge of critical software programs and web applications in unique activities focused on developing social and emotional skills," according to the ISTE review.
In Europe, the program is aligned with the United Kingdom National Primary Computing Curriculum and endorsed by Cambridge International Examinations for Cambridge Information and Communications Technology Starters, a nonprofit program that introduces 5- to 14-year-olds to technology applications they need to acquire computer literacy.
"You can tell that they spent a large amount of time in developing this product," Oates said.