4 Ways to Create Virtual Healing Spaces in Education

virtual healing spaces
(Image credit: Pixabay)

As Spring 2022 approaches, we prepare to move forward after more than two years of living through a global pandemic. While great efforts have been made to continue teaching and learning during these turbulent, uncertain times, students, teachers, and families have been woefully taxed. 

Virtual learning environments have proved to be effective in continuing teaching and learning, beyond the confines of a physical classroom space. However, these environments can also be used to create virtual healing spaces. Mental health and wellness is important for students to be able to focus and engage in learning, so having these spaces available is incredibly needed. 

Here are four online environments that can be used as virtual healing spaces: 

1: Affinity Break-Out Room Calming Circles 

Create a variety of affinity break-out room circles in which students and their families can come together over shared interests, issues, and obstacles currently being faced, while supporting one another. These smaller affinity break-out room circles, which can be hosted through a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, can be informal or formalized with questions to consider. You could even collaborate with your school’s counseling staff to serve as a facilitator for these calming circles. The affinity spaces can be based on topics, grade levels, schools within a larger district, demographic groups, or any other ways to bring students and families with shared experiences and challenges together to reflect and debrief. 

2: Community Affirmation Pinterest Boards 

While designed as a social media and image-sharing platform, Pinterest is a wonderful virtual healing space that can be used to build community affirmation. Create classroom community affirmation Pinterest boards where students and their families can post inspiring quotes and images that can serve as peaceful inspiration. Post a link to the Pinterest board within your classroom LMS. You could even share new postings with your class each Monday to start the week off in a positive and uplifting way.  

3: Voice-Recorded Reflection Domains  

Sometimes students and their families want to share their thoughts, but not in a live space. With reflection, it can take time to gather thoughts and prepare to speak aloud. In these cases, making available voice-recorded reflection domains on a platform such as VoiceThread can allow students the space to think about the challenges they are facing, and share with the larger class community. Classmates and teachers can respond to the reflections with advice, words of support, and further affirmation.  

4: Synchronous Caring Sessions 

It is always good practice to bring the entire class community together as one. Consider holding quarter live synchronous caring sessions using a virtual conferencing tool such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or whatever platform is available at your school. Each class community member can finish statements such as “I care about ...”, “Caring about others has made me …”, “Caring to me means…”, “I feel cared for when….”     

Virtual healing spaces have the ability to bring together students, teachers, and their families in times of unrest and serve as environments in which reflection, calm, and community can be nurtured and thrive. Consider offering your students, their families, and yourself the space to heal and renew. 

If you would like to incorporate mindfulness activities, check out our article 5 Mindfulness Apps and Websites for K-12

Dr. Stephanie Smith Budhai is an associate clinical professor in the department of Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum at Drexel University, in Pennsylvania. She holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies and K-12 teaching certifications in Technology Education, Instructional Technology and Business, Computers, Information Technology, Special Education and Elementary Education. She is also the 2021 Emerging Leader for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) and the 2017 ISTE Awardee for Excellence in Teacher Education. Dr. Smith Budhai is a Nearpod, and VoiceThread Certified Educator.  Dr. Smith Budhai has more than a decade of online teaching experience, and has published myriad books, articles, and invited editorials surrounding the use of technology and online learning in education. Her publications include: 

- Leveraging Digital Tools to Assess Student Learning 

- Increasing Engagement in Online Learning: Quick Reference Guide

- Culturally Responsive Teaching Online and In-Person: An Action Planner for Dynamic Equitable Learning Environments 

- Teaching the 4Cs with Technology

- Best Practices in Engaging Online Learners through Active and Experiential Learning Strategies

- Nurturing Young Innovators: Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom, Home and Community