Conferences always get my mind thinking in divergent ways. So some groundwork to lay for this post. Mindfulness…is the new catch phrase in education; however, I hope people don’t dismiss it as such. I am not one to jump on the education trendy bandwagon. Yet, I see value in this new conversation, if we take pause and embrace it correctly.
Mindfulness…what is it? This is a question I have been seeking to truly understand personally and professionally. Do a google search for it’s meaning and:
1.the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2.a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
So how does this all related to education…funnily enough it seems to relate a lot for I am having separate topical conversations about it with a psychologist and a speech and language pathologist who consult with staff and students at my school, and now a group of educational technologists. I am going to focus on the later for this post.
At the annual Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Academic Tech Retreat Smackdown (mouthful there) @mikemccabe29 shared an app that related to mindfulness. It was a sort of meditation app, and funnily enough was an app suggested earlier in the year by the psychologist consultant to utilize in the classroom in various ways. The sharing of this app and discussion that went along with it, led to a session to be create at this unconference around mindfulness. While I think it was set to help educators find mindfulness in this crazy time of year…it really opened a larger conversation.
I had sent this session topic to my colleague Theresa Collins, for she and I are often talking about this topic for professional and personal understanding. And she replied:
If I look at my own very connected, plugged in life, I do find myself craving activities that help my brain stop and disconnect to regenerate. Yet, it is increasingly hard to do. The ability to connect, to learn, and to explore is at our finger tips 24-7. A quick thought to check in on social media can turn in to hours of reading, communicating, and posting. I know this as a fully developed adult brain, but yet still struggle to ensure I take time for timeouts. What about teenage brains or even those who are younger?
Today’s students are so used to connectivity. They are used to handheld tools that do it all and then some. They are used to watch anything anytime on any device. What does this do to one’s awareness of being mindful? In my personal experience, I am aware of the need to take pause, but that is based on background knowledge of time when there was only one phone and one tv in my house, and there phone was rotary! I am aware of my own over connectedness, my students don’t know they should be taking time out.
So yes, I think Theresa is right. We are so plugged in, that mindfulness is no longer a natural action. And for students, unless they have learned it from some example at home, they are likely not even aware of how to take pause. So as educators, and especially as edtech educators, as we teach all the the skills and tools to help students succeed in today’s educational landscape we also need to teach students to be mindful of taking time to pause. Yes it needs to be just as much part of direct instruction as everything else we do as part of good practice.
There are ever growing resources out there around mindful practices in schools. One such resource I am reading is the book Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel. In the book, Eline states that mindfulness practice with students “…allows them to move out of automatic pilot mode, recognize impulses for what they are, and learn to accept that not all things in life are nice and cool. They learn to bring attention-friendly attention-to everything they do.” (pg. 4-5) When I look at my own students, I see this need. Many struggle to not take one minute of downtime in classroom transition to check something on their device.
So as I set my personal goal to gain more mindfulness, I am working to build this in ever increasing ways to my daily instruction. For my students who struggle with learning, many also being identified with ADHD and/or Executive Dysfunction, it is ever more crucial for them to gain this ability to impact their academic success. As I am teaching them how technology can build their independence with learning tasks and give them access to content with greater ease, I need to teach them to put those devices down and look within to also find independence and access.
So while I see mindfulness as the new educational catch phrase, I think it is there because the world is so fast paced and social that it is important to include. I am not sure it needs to be a curricular process, but rather an instructional practice to be included in any good pedagogy.
Pause for yourself
Pause for your students