Education Evolutions #67

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

This week’s newsletter is the mindfulness issue. It is a topic that certainly has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years and one that has interested me for many more. Consequently, I happen across related articles occasionally. Given the rising awareness, finding pieces across mainstream media is a lot easier of late. If the topic interests you at all, these articles are definitely worth a look. If not, there is still the crossover with tech.

I came across a few related articles recently that were connected in some way and then a reader sent me another piece unaware of how directly connected it already was to some of my other recent readings. It made things fall into place with relative ease. Then it just became a matter of sitting down and pulling it all together.

Apart from that, the holiday weekend threw my normal schedule off a little bit this week. So, apologies for the late arrival. I almost missed this week.

The choice for “If you read only one article…” this week is an easier one. Regardless of any interest in mindful practices, the first piece is the way to go. Have a look at “Siempo’s new app will break your smartphone addiction” even if you do not necessarily struggle with the problem. I am surprised there are not more efforts like this. The degree to which digital devices have the capacity to be customized is an area that has never been fully exploited in my mind, even if the manufacturers create obstacles to users exercising those possibilities. The other two articles have much more meditative focus.

Enjoy the day off.

Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

Siempo’s new app will break your smartphone addiction – TechCrunch –  Sarah Perez (8-minute read)

This story came to me courtesy of one of the readers of this newsletter and sort of inspired the theme for this week. I have often included articles about technology’s addictive properties. Interestingly, the solutions most common are all predicated on avoidance. While there is certainly something to be said for that approach, it may not always be the most practical. Plus, there are obvious benefits to technology too. So throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, may not always be the best option. Unfortunately, no iPhone option yet, so I haven’t been able to try it.

What I like about this app is that it allows you to customize your phone with far greater control than comes native to the device. It is a pretty easy and novel way to seize more control for those that struggle with this kind of thing. The preferences can be adjusted to accommodate a less intrusive experience and dulls many of the addictive-inducing features built into many of the apps and elements of the handset. Endorsed by the Center for Humane Technology, which is an organization new to me and worth checking out in its own right, even the story of how the app came out of a hardware effort is kind of fascinating.

Neuroscience shows how dance music and meditation have similar effects – Quartzy –  Darin McFadyen (12-minute read)

This is a fascinating piece that walks through an array of parallels between listening to music and meditation. If you have ever made a connection on your own, this will seem less surprising but just how closely related they are might be. It is also remarkably sourced with a number of linked studies.

Most interesting is just how many similarities there are between the two experiences. McFadyen walks through a number of more direct connections. Beginning with obvious intersections between music and meditation in a more abstract spiritual context, he covers quite a bit of ground, like music’s ability to pull us immediately into the present and potentially Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” state or the cathartic emotional release music can trigger. Considering how important music can be in a student’s life and the clear spread and benefits of mindfulness practice, this provides some great background knowledge. There may even be some creative ways to use music to directly assist the advancement of mindfulness.

You’ve heard of mindfulness, now meet its dynamic young cousin sophrology – The Guardian –  Amy Fleming (8-minute read)

Prior to reading this article, I had never heard of sophrology but it is recognized relaxation method in Europe. It seems to be a Western fusion of a number of Eastern traditions, reframed in a remixed context. It is making inroads in the UK and I can only imagine that it will be a matter of time before it becomes more visible Stateside.

It is hard to get a complete sense of the method and there are certainly is no shortage of alternatives. It is also harder to investigate since there is very little material freely available. Maybe it’s only me but that seems like a red flag but it might be too early to tell. Still, the comparisons between sophrology’s founder Alfonso Caycedo and meditation advocate Jon Kabat-Zinn are encouraging. I would be curious to meet someone that knows more about the method.

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