This chapter definitely gets into some practical classroom suggestions related to mindfulness: mindful memory, field of vision, mindful seeing, and taking a pause.
But it starts off with the first thing of the day: attendance, and its value. The authors stress the importance of not only knowing who’s present, but acknowledging their value and their state of mind. It’s important to establish that connection, first thing. I realize that with online attendance, I’m not making that eye-to-eye contact that I normally had in the past (partly because of the way my computer is facing), so I plan on going back to a paper and pen method (along with the online, as well.)
The root of mindfulness is attention, focussing on what’s important. Mindfulness also reduces mind-wandering. Being able to prioritize between relevant and irrelevant information is critical for mindfulness. Learning mindfulness is a useful skill for both teachers and students alike.
Mindful Memory is a technique that stresses process over product. In other words, although the goal of memorizing is important, the process and experience of paying attention while memorizing is equally as important. One activity is the Memory Game. Phase 1: Put a dozen objects on a table and cover them. Then students look for a minute, cover them up, and then recall the items on a piece of paper. Phase 2: Place new objects, but use Take 1 to calm their minds to focus attention prior to seeing the objects. Variation #2: While teaching a regular class, suddenly pull then over to a table and do the Memory Game again. Variation #3: Play music or read a story aloud while the students memorize new objects. This is testing the effects of distraction and multitasking on concentration. Finally, reflect and find out how students felt after each of these three variations of the memory game.
The Field of Vision activity shows where you look affects what you see--a kind of “mental shortsightedness.” What you expect to see affects what you notice. This activity entails going outside, and covering the ground with many little twigs. Pick a short twig about 7cm, and say you will place in amongst the twigs and the students need to find it. They face away and then you pretend to place it on the ground but actually put in behind your ear but with a little bit showing. See how many students actually see the twig in your ear, the “last” place they expect. Finally, ask the students what the point of the activity was.
Mindful Seeing involves simply seeing and looking--and nothing else: no judgements, no opinions, no assumptions. Then apply mindfulness to look for something--”thinking, and deciding or attributing meaning.” The difference is looking at something vs. looking for something. This exercise leads into the notion of first impressions, and how mindful seeing can help you from getting caught up in making quick judgements, which later might be found to be false.
Taking a beat or a Pause aids in mindfulness, even if it’s just one breath in and out. This momentary pause can help you determine four things: 1) the simple facts with no emotion or interpretation; 2) how you feel about it; 3) what you think about it; 4) what might be the best to do. Start with neutral objects, before moving onto objects with more emotion attached. This will give you the best chance to come up with a good plan or idea in any difficult situation or circumstance.
Source: Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness, Deborah Schoeberlein David, 2009
Chapter 2: mindfulness in the morning
Deborah David believes the morning is the perfect time of the day to begin mindfulness. It’s basically saying “Hello” to the day, and acknowledging and appreciating its value. An intention is another important aspect of mindfulness, as it helps orient your day with a clear focus in mind, like a ship’s anchor in the sea. “Intention focuses attention on a particular objective, and mindfulness harnesses awareness to sustain your focus.” An example would be “to aspire to express more patience today when I work with a particular student.” Five key points about intentions: 1) set the intention; 2) notice your experience while recalling your intention; 3) return to your intention; 4) do something to support your intention; 5) acknowledge later your success with your intention. It’s important to be realistic, especially early on, with your intentions. Start small and be specific. The author feels that since the process of working with intentions is perhaps the most important goal, don’t feel bad on the days that your (best) intentions fail miserably. The author talks about a variation of Take 5, where when you notice during your breathing session a thought or feeling comes to mind, simply say “thinking” or “feeling” and then return to notice your breathing. At the end of the chapter, David recommends trying to be mindful of all the little activities you do, from brushing your teeth to eating breakfast. I tried it for a short while, and I did notice things that I normally would have normally missed completely. I tried to fully “experience” my shower, my shaving, my teeth brushing. Trying to fully be aware and attentive of life is a novel experience, but challenging and wearing on the mind, as well. Ultimately, try to pay attention and be present and live in the moment, and having a good start in the morning helps pave the way for the rest of the day.
Chapter 3: on to school
David recommends modeling your own mindfulness to your students, which supports their social and emotional learning (SEL). The five main competencies of SEL are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. If teachers can model SEL competencies while implementing the curriculum, that promotes maximum learning. A great intention is to model SEL competencies to your class. During the day, notice when you are becoming distracted or stressed, angry or anxious, steady or confident. Go through the 5 steps of being aware of your intentions, as well as mindful breathing. David also talks about the importance of being mindful and present when students first step into the classroom; they are aware of a calm, welcoming teacher, or a harried, unprepared one. Also, the transition to work should not be a power struggle but rather a shift of their attention and interest to something else as desirable. Introducing Take 1: Mindful Breathing (for students) is a great way to prepare students to become self-aware and attentive to their breathing, as well as their environment. Finally, David describes mindfulness for students as finding that perfect balance between too much attention and concentration and too little. For example, holding a pencil. If you hold it too loosely, it wobbles and creates scribbles; too tightly, and your hand begins to cramp up. Effective learning activities need to find that balance, as well, and the author cites riddles as an example. There is enough ambiguity involved, but complexity and creativity are needed to solve them. Some similar type of morning or brain work would be a good idea to start off the day. So remember to model SEL to students, including times when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and start the class day with activities that require both mindfulness, as well as creative and critical thinking.
Source: Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness, Deborah Schoeberlein David, Suki Sheth, 2009
Brief Summary of chapter 1
“Mindfulness is a conscious, purposeful way of tuning in to what’s happening in and around us.“ Paying attention and being aware has many benefits: mental focus, academic performance, emotional balance, capacity for kindness, empathy, and compassion. You can’t often change events and people’s actions around you, but you can change how you experience them: respond, rather than react; being mindful presents to you more choices when you are in a calm, focussed mental state. There’s also mindful teaching--being present and fully connecting with the students and their learning; the contrast is mindlessness--completely going through the motions, not really listening or creating flow. Finally, the best way to teach something is to learn it first with practice, then application--”experiential foundation.” Take 5 is a simple but effective start with Mindful Breathing.
Source: Deborah Schoeberlein David, Suki Sheth, Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness, 2009
Long gone are the days where students sat in rows and learned the same thing at the same time, usually from the authority standing in the front of the classroom. Now, fast-forward in time, and Kallick and Zmuda describe the four key attributes to personalized learning--the clear contrast to learning of the past.
Voice: Students participate in the creation of the learning, because it’s really their learning. Most people do not like to be told what to do, at least not all the time. Instead of being passive passengers heading in one direction, they are often in the driver’s seat, determining their own journey and pathway and destination.
Co-Creation: Students work with the teacher to develop the entire learning plan, from start to finish: what do they want to learn?; how will it be assessed?; how will they learn it?
Social Construction: The notion that “no man is an island” (John Donne) aptly describes student learning in the classroom; it is an social affair and construction of knowledge, according to Vygotsky. Finally, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (Aristotle), as collaboration and cooperation amongst fellow peers can lead to much greater triumphs and accomplishments.
Self-Discovery: Creating self-aware and self-directed learners is the ultimate goal for teachers. If students can figure out their strengths and weaknesses, and determine how to improve and grow, then they will be set for life.
Differences Between Individualization, Differentiation and Personalized Learning
Students are assigned the learning tasks, and they use technology to accomplish those tasks. Khan Academy would be one such example. In blended learning environments, there may be some co-creation and social construction, but learners still have little say in the work they do.
Today’s classroom houses learners varying in skills, readiness and interest. Students can select topics (content), how to learn (process) and create the final form of learning (product). However, the teacher is still leading the design and management of the learning experience.
Kallick and Costa encourage the use of the 16 Habits of Mind, in conjunction with personalized learning, in order to fully understand their learning, and engage in higher level thinking and performing.
16 Habits of Mind:
What I notice about these habits of mind are the similarities to the core competencies of the BC curriculum: communication, critical and creative thinking, positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility, and social responsibility.
Source: Students at the Center, Bena Kallick & Allison Zmuda, 2017
Joel Hellermark, 21, the founder of Swedish edtech startup Sana Labs believes so. And he’s not the only one: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, apparently are intrigued with Hellermark. There are three good reasons why: the education industry is worth $6 trillion worldwide; only 2% of education is digital; and AI learning in education is in its infancy.
Instead of the traditional rules-based AI, Sana Labs is using deep neural networks, a strand of machine learning. Continuously analyzing historical data, it is a more efficient and effective form of AI. Recently it won Duolingo’s Global AI competition in language learning. Now Hellermark believes his company is ready to use its AI-learning platform for all types of learning, not just language, and believes students will finish their studies in half the time, or be 25 to 30 percent more engaged.
Whether or not Sana Labs will be an AI leader in education remains to be seen, but AI in education will definitely continue to grow at an accelerated rate in upcoming years.
Source: Tom Turula, Business Insider Australia
Most movers and shakers, visionaries and thinkers in the technological field--past and present--generally hold an overall positive standing in people’s eyes. Think Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Musk, Brin and Page, Bezos, to name a few. Sure, they have all had moments in their lives where people have given pause or raised an eyebrow or even outright questioned their actions. But for the average person, I am quite certain that most of them would gladly switch places with these renowned individuals in a heartbeat.
Evgeny Morozov is not of those people. In fact, he is quite the opposite--a contrarian, with strong opinions, analytical skills, and solid, well-developed arguments filling up his dense book. As an educator and writer, I feel it is critical to keep an open mind to all sides of an issue, especially one that has so much current and future impact on our global society.
It is interesting that he describes himself as a “digital heretic,” a solitary, whispering voice in the desert, trying valiantly to spread his message over the sounds and shouts of this juggernaut that never sleeps.
Morozov’s premise: “Silicon Valley’s quest to fit us all into a digital straightjacket by promoting efficiency, transparency, certitude , and perfection.” He goes on to say that their evil twins--friction, opacity, ambiguity, and imperfection--may not so “evil” and should deserve a place in our society. Humans, after all, are imperfect.
Source: To Save Everything click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov, 2013
Many a man [sic] would rather you heard his story than grant his request.
Boys can be physically aggressive and violent, but mean girls can be aggressive in often subtler ways, and it starts early--at preschool or kindergarten. Social scientists describe this systematic teasing as "relational aggression" or "social cruelty." Relational aggression actually leads to physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, as well as often have more long-lasting effects than physical aggression.
Unfortunately, these behaviours are often hidden in girl culture, so adults are often oblivious of what's happening.
One common aggressive behaviour displayed by mean girls is exclusion, one of the most hurtful actions for most people, and in particular, girls. These actions lead to problems to girls' psyches and self-esteem, as well as affect their learning and achievement.
Girls are often stuck in a social system known as a yo-yo friendship; in other words, best friends one day, then worst enemies, and then best friends again--and on and on it goes.
Source: Little Girls can be Mean, Michelle Anthony & Reyna Lindert, 2010.
Richard Watson works at Imperial College London. His main thesis in the chapter Education and Knowledge is that technology and education don’t play well together. I will highlight some of the research and evidence he uses to support his thesis.
According to a 2015 OECD study of students in 70 countries, the high-achieving schools use less technology, and those who do receive lower results.
He feels the recent focus on STEM only creates employees with a narrow interest that meets the goal-driven, economy-serving nature of education.
Former CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine, said his most successful employees were those who could read and write clearly, and think broadly. Watson worries that devices keep young minds from being reflective and thinking deeply.
A study by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the University of Waterloo says a smarter curriculum would eliminate grades and exams and move towards portfolios of projects.
Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at UCLA, led a study of pre-teens (10-12 years old) who spent five days at a nature camp with no screens compared to a control group who had the usual amount of available technology. She found those at camp were much more adept at understanding others’ emotions and reading nonverbal cues.
Slow education stresses more inquiry-led and reflective learning. It involves more calm, attentive ways of thinking, along with deep reading and listening. Time is an important element, as kids learn at different rates and adults continue to participate in lifelong learning. Slow education is about interest and understanding, not memorization and facts. It is primarily people-centric and relationship-centered.
Sleep is critical for young minds and bodies. With TVs and computers and devices in the bedroom, screen time can barely be monitored, especially for teenagers. A study in Norway found using cell phones before bed doubles the change for teens to have a bad night’s sleep. Many teens sleep only five hours, checking their social media at all hours of the night. Some high schools are experimenting with later start times with improved results.
Ultimately, Watson feels that ideal students need the following qualities and values (not technology-based): resilience, empathy, compassion, honesty, humility, hard work, understanding, synthesizing and communication.
Source: Richard Watson, Digital vs Human, 2016
Bjarke Ingels is the founder of BIG, an architectural firm based originally out of Denmark. Bjarke has interesting philosophies and ideas that could relate to education, as well.
Pragmatic Utopia--it's really the best of both worlds; instead of choosing between a parking lot and an apartment, both can co-exist and thrive, with a kind of symbiotic relationship. It's not an either-or choice; rather an hybrid, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. "The Mountain" has both a garden and a penthouse view for all, and it sits on a cave of parking. And it's built on on block at a time. What do I find amazing? is important for the designer.
Yes is More--the basic philosophy that greater things can be done if "yes" is the answer. How can we get to "yes," as opposed to "no" or worse, "impossible."
Hedonistic Sustainability--linked with the environmental movement; what if sustainability could actually increase your quality of life? Maritime Youth House--it solved a lot of problems in unproblematic ways. What could have been a simple basic structure, it became completely different, with creativity and design.
In architecture, people say it's bad when it doesn't fit in. Yet, he gives the example of the spires in Copenhagen--the differences from the norm--that actually give the city the reputation it has.
Inclusive input becomes the driving force, making everyone happy, has to perform in so many different ways. If you're not realizing a dream, then 7 years is a really long time.
His whole philosophy is barriers exist but they in many ways, the barriers become opportunities to create even more that could have been expected. He's also fascinated in doing things never before conceived and then making it a concrete reality. It's individuality yet blended and encased in an overarching structure and theme that gives it a unity as well. It's dreams becoming a reality in the real world. Humans have the power to impact the world in positive ways.
Source: Netflix; Abstract: The Art of Design
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.