Special Report
Classroom Technology

Eighth Graders Use Web App to Identify Their Character Strengths

By Alexa J. Henry — October 18, 2016 2 min read

Allison Miller, a 13-year-old at Deer Park Junior/Senior High School logged on to the Happify platform to get what school officials hope will be a revealing picture of her character strengths.

What it showed: a strong capacity for creativity, humor, humility, forgiveness, and gratitude.

Allison was just one of the students at the Cincinnati school using the web platform, which uses a survey and generates five core character strengths from a list of 24 character traits. In a number of cases, students said it confirmed some of their own impressions of themselves.

"[Happify] explains the strengths and you could say, ‘Yes, that’s me,’ ” she said.

Austin Moore, an 8th-grader like Allison, also got insights into his core character strengths through Happify. They included creativity, hope, humility, forgiveness and gratitude. “I knew these were my core strengths before the survey,” he said. “I definitely thought they were for me.”

The 13-year-olds noted that Happify helps them approach their classes with a more positive, hopeful attitude; in particular, it provides positive words students can then use to express themselves. For example, during a game called Uplift, students view positive and negative words written across hot air balloons. The objective of the game is to click only on the positive words, such as “secure,” “joy,” “radiant,” “unity,” “serenity,” and “boost.”

“You get points when you click on the positive words,” explained Austin. “Each time you play a game, the bar fills up with more points.”

The students say they enjoy using Happify and don’t find it difficult to navigate. “I think it’s easy to use and it’s fun because some of the games are stress relievers,” said Allison. “You have to pick out which ones you’re stressing about, and it helps you to get rid of the stress.”

She compared the Happify game Negative Knockout with the popular app Angry Birds.

The students also agreed that the tool helps them tackle more challenging subjects, such as language arts. “When I go into class, I can use things from Happify, all the different words and positivity,” Allison said. “Instead, I might end up liking what we’re doing.”

Austin said that some of the positive words such as “hopefulness” help him approach tougher school assignments with a better outlook. “It helps me get through it, and I want to try to do my best at it,” he said.

Each activity also includes information explaining the science behind the particular activity, Austin pointed out. “It teaches you different things about the website, why this is helping, why it’s in there, and what it does,” he said.

Coverage of the implementation of college- and career-ready standards and the use of personalized learning is supported in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2016 edition of Education Week as Middle School Students Test Out Happify

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