Can technology help build resilience strategies for students with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)?

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator reads, “Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes”. ISTE Coaching Standard 3.4 specifically reads: “Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning”. The question I have posed in relation to this Standard is, can technology streamline and integrate resilience building learning strategies to improve student learning and academic success for students with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)?

A 2020 article written by Martha Burns through the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development titled, How Teachers Counteract Adverse Childhood Experiences with Positive Ones, begins to address this question. The article highlights our awareness of the negative effects that adverse childhood experiences have on the health and welfare of a child. Noting research from a 2016 ACE Research Study from the American Academy of Pediatrics titled, Adverse Experiences in Early Childhood and Kindergarten Outcomes, Burns highlights that when students have access to positive relationships with adult educators, the benefits counteract the adversities they experience outside of the classroom. In short, access to safe, stable, and nurturing relationships can provide a safe haven for students of adversity. The positive, secure relationships teachers provide to vulnerable children are essential for their resilience and ability to overcome adversity.

However, what about the challenges that teachers face when trying to foster personal relationships with their students? Challenges including larger class sizes and curriculum demands that directly affect the degree to which educators can foster personal relationships with each of their students. Burns notes that, “educators can protect and promote good outcomes for students facing adversities by increasing their ability to anticipate and circumvent threats”. Within her article, Burns recognizes research from the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM), which captures the most significant resilience factors. The CYRM consists of self-report measures of social-ecological resilience, and are used by researchers and practitioners worldwide. According to Dr. Michael Ungar, founder and Director of the Resilience Research Centre (RCC), resilience for those who have experienced trauma is best understood “in the context of exposure to significant adversity”. He goes on to note that “resilience is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that sustain their well-being, and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided in culturally meaningful ways”.

So how can technology help with streamlining and integrating resilience boosting interventions that directly relate to items on the CYRM? As Burns noted in her article, we know that “digital tools provide ongoing feedback aligned to student strengths or opportunities to practice time-limited exercises that build student stamina to complete tasks”. Understanding how ACEs affect learning, educators can use technology and digital tools to take proactive measures to create positive childhood experiences designed to improve student learning and academic success. Technology and digital tools such as Virtual Reality can significantly support educator’s ability to develop resilience building learning strategies for these students by “strategically targeting the attention and memory skills that are limited by ACEs”.

The Resilience and Prevention Program out of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) provides a pathway to how technology can build resilience learning for youth with adverse childhood experiences. MGH developed and tested a program that introduces techniques that are known to increase resilience by enhancing certain abilities and mental states such as mindfulness, positive mood, compassion, and self-efficacy. Their workshop, called Reconnecting with Ourselves and Others in virtual Meetings (ROOM), uses virtual reality technology, to allow participants to join from their home, or anywhere they are, using a VR headset. For those in need of a VR headset, the program will loan a VR headset for the duration of the workshop. Each participant is represented as a virtual character or “avatar” of their choosing in the virtual meeting room (allowing participants to remain anonymous and “safe”). Each workshop will have up to 10 participants, and two co-leaders. The use of ROOM is integrated with the hospitals Living in Families with our Emotions Program (LIFE) which is a workshop for at-risk middle school students, and the community around these students including educators, parents and/or caregivers. The goal of the workshop is to teach skills that will increase psychological resilience by enhancing stress management, mindfulness, and emotion regulation abilities. The use of VR technology allows students who have adverse childhood experiences to develop these resilience learning strategies and skills, alongside their community of supporters, in an environment that is safe, and stable for them. This innovative use of technology not only brings a community together around a child with ACEs, but demonstrates how technology can streamline and integrate resilience building learning strategies to improve student growth, especially for students with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).


Burns, Martha (2020). How Teachers Counteract Adverse Childhood Experiences with Positive Ones. ASCD.

Dokholyan, K. The Resilience and Prevention Program. Massachusetts General Hospital.

Manuel E. Jimenez, Roy Wade, Yong Lin, Lesley M. Morrow, Nancy E. Reichman; Adverse Experiences in Early Childhood and Kindergarten Outcomes. Pediatrics February 2016; 137 (2): e20151839. 10.1542/peds.2015-1839.

Ungar, M. Child and Youth Resilience Measure & Adult Resilience Measure:

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