SiLAS Animation Contest Winners

Last month we announced that we would be hosting our first ever social animation contest! This month we are happy to announce the winners!

We had so many outstanding submissions! Below are the Top 5 Winners for overall animations. 

Top 5 Social Animations

Carrie Neil’s Class, Huntington, IN.

Lauren Timmins Class, Parsippany-Troy Hills, NJ

Emily Simmonds Class – Bright Beginnings Secondary, NJ.

Terese Manalansan Class – Center for Lifelong Learning, NJ

Ettie Luban – Bright Beginnings Primary, NJ

Real-life Application

At SiLAS we are always focused on carryover. We want the skills that students practice and learn in the game to transfer over to the real world. One submission had such amazing real-life application, we decided to make that animation a winner too. Here’s what the teacher, Heather Hipple, had to say about this video:

“My students have been talking about conflict resolution for several weeks. The individual who made this video has been struggling. One day a few weeks ago, I took a group of eighth-graders out into the community to perform community service. This individual went with me. There were some boys on that trip that were very mean and rude to my student. But, my student handled it like a champ! This was the first time in a long time that he acted appropriately in a difficult situation. I saw the whole thing. Later that week, we were working on SiLAS scripts for appropriate conflict resolution. He asked if he could reenact that day at the park when he handled the other  appropriately. (He even showed himself choosing to walk away and not engage in a fight in the video). Of course I thought that was an awesome idea! He was so proud of himself that day and gets to experience that pride again and again when he shows his classmates this video. It was awesome!”

Here’s the amazing video:

Heather Hipple Class – Huntington, IN.

Congrats to all those who submitted!

4 Ways SiLAS Improves Social and Emotional Learning Carryover

We created SiLAS with one goal in mind: we wanted to create a program that would allow users to transfer social skills learned in SiLAS into real life. As teachers, we have witnessed the difficulties students have incorporating Social/Emotional skills, which are learned from structured lessons, into their own personal repertoire. Our team members have all used pencil and paper social skill programs at one time or another in our career. When we were in the classroom, we’ve even used our competitors programs, which encouraged our students to sit alone while watching animated stories and answer questions about what the characters should do next. In each scenario, we were disappointed by the lack of interest and carryover that students had exhibited in the programs. To get the carryover we wanted from our students, we knew we would have to try something different. Here are the four ways SiLAS was built from the ground up to improve SEL carryover:

Motivation: Making SiLAS an avatar-based video game that uses Xbox controllers is an important part of our program. When students see the characters and the controllers, they are much more motivated to give our program a try. Using avatars has also been show to make students more likely to try a program like SiLAS. The fun and excitement SiLAS brings to the classroom encourages students to practice, revise, and following with their social animations which all effect carryover.

Multiplayer: As we mentioned, other social skills program are anything but social. They often have students working alone. We wanted to make sure the SiLAS was a multiplayer experience from start to finish. From making social scripts to creating animations, students who use SiLAS are always working together. Teachers have had great success paring their students with themselves, peers, and general education classmates. Since SiLAS can be used with a diverse group, it presents plenty of opportunity for special learners to gain the experience and practice they need to carry over their skills into the real world.

The Role Playing Feedback Loop: SiLAS is effective because of its script writing and role playing feedback loop. Similar to a star athlete watching game film, students can create animations and then view them immediately at which time those students receive feedback on their performance. SiLAS provides teachers and students with the opportunity to create exciting videos in which those students role play various scenarios replicating real life social issues. The videos can be viewed repeatedly which provides the students with feedback on the social movies they have created using the avatars. After role playing on SiLAS students will be prepared when the same situations occur in real time. Our users report using SiLAS to role play unfamiliar social and emotional skills that cause stress such as asking to sit with someone at lunch or asking to be part of the basketball game at recess in the game before the real world event has been reported to be helpful for their students.

Custom Rubrics: We have custom made our rubrics to provide clarity about what is expected from each student who uses SiLAS. Our rubrics are a scoring tool that can be used to assess students skill level on his/her video performance. These scores can be compiled both prior to teaching the lessons and making the videos as well as after the lessons are completed and the students make a video. The rubric can also be used as a measurement of carryover as the same rubric that can be used in SiLAS can be used in the real world to assess the same social skills growth.

As we continue to develop SiLAS it is and always will be with goal of making the lessons students learn in SiLAS applicable to the experiences the students will have in their own lives.

The Powerful Use Of Avatars In Social And Emotional Learning

SiLAS is revolutionizing the manner in which professionals teach social skills to their students! SiLAS is providing a fusion between the fields of edtech and social/emotional learning (SEL).   One of the ways we are redefining SEL with edtech is by using SiLAS to teach facial emotion recognition to children with autism. This is done by using 3d avatars and a formalized, step by step, curriculum.

Social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD) is a new diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). SCD is characterized by a persistent difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication that cannot be explained by low cognitive ability. Symptoms include difficulty in the acquisition and use of spoken and written language as well as problems with inappropriate responses in conversation. The disorder limits effective communication, social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance. Symptoms must be present in early childhood even if they are not recognized until later when speech, language, or communication demands exceed abilities (

Bernadette Mullen

It is critical that educators properly evaluate students with social pragmatic disorders! Standardized testing is a key component of the assessment in terms of planning an appropriate therapeutic program.  Most language assessments focus on concept language and not on social functions or on the interpretation of social language which is needed to assist students with SCD . That’s why, with the help of Bernadette, we built SiLAS to optimize  what we already know about using virtual reality and avatars to teach students with SCD:

  • Virtual reality represents real-life experiences in a safe, controllable manner that allows for repeated practice and exposure (Freyberger, 2017).
  • Virtual reality can be adapted to the current level of the child and develop at different levels, leading to a scaffold learning approach (Cobb, Eastgate, Glover, Kerr, Neale, & Reynard, 2002).
  • The number of cues in the environment can be manipulated (Cobb et al., 2002).
  • There is likelihood of instructor fatigue in traditional programs but not in computerized programs (Freyberger, 2017).
  • Students are motivated to participate and there is a likelihood of generalization .
  • Virtual reality has previously been shown to improve social recognition including affection recognition and TOM in young adults (Kandalaft, M., Didehbani, D., Krawczyk, T., & Chapman, 2013).

SiLAS incorporates the best practices and provides the tools needed to help teach students with SCD how to recognize facial emotions. As Bernadette continues to do work in this promising field, we continue to be committed to keeping SiLAS on the cutting edge by making SiLAS the best it can be!