Mindfulness, Technology, Education, and Parenting

You might assume I was in my element at a conference dealing with mindfulness and technology – you assumed correctly! It was a blast to sit and use my iPad and iPhone during this mindfulness conference in Mountain View just a stones throw from Google. The Wisdom 2.0 Youth conference is an offshoot of the previously held Wisdom 2.0 conference. The subtitle for the conference was How Do We Raise Children in a Hyper-Connected World? For Parents, Educators, Teachers, and Concerned Citizens. The lineup of speakers included folks from Google, Twitter, and leaders from the mindfulness in education field, all skillfully put together by Soren Gordhamer.

I’ve been to many conferences – mostly technology and/or library related. I have also been to many retreats and led mindfulness activities – mostly Buddhist in nature. This conference was unique for me because it dealt with mindfulness from a purely secular perspective and aligns itself very easily with the applied ethics theme/effort that Thich Nhat Hanh has been exploring the past couple of years. Though I arrived a little uncertain, because of my experience as a practitioner and educator, I was not disappointed with the presentations and panels. I now have a better understanding of what has occurred in bringing mindfulness into schools and what challenges these leaders experienced.

What follows are my notes and thoughts from a handful of the presentations.

PRESENTERS AND PANELS 

The Data: How Kids are Actually Interacting with Technology (Joya Roy, CEO Sequence)

Joya’s task was to provide some data. How is behavior and society changing and then how do you create a brand, etc. is what his company focuses on with clients. How kids are interacting mobile and social environments. This is what’s happening. No judgement. Consumer environment has changed radically in the last century. Average kid spends 7 hrs. 48 minutes interacting with some type of device (Kaiser Famiy Foundation, 2010). If you consider “media multitasking” it’s 10-hrs. 45-min. As the devices increase in number, and as the smart phone is ubiquitous, our access to information increases and this time will increase in the future. Keep in mind that iPhone didn’t even launch until 2007 (and Android in 2009!). 80% of youth own a mobile phone (Pew, 2011). Text messaging is primary form of digital communication. Smart phone sales will surpass PC sales in 2012 – outside the US, thus means billions will have phones rather than a computer. 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13 (5m of this under 11). Touch and voice are the expectation, especially for those very young. Texts and Facebook – not email. Shorter interactions.

The Brain, Mindfulness, and Youth with Dan Siegel (nterviewed by Soren)

Impact of texting wit friends versus talking in person. But we shouldn’t despair too much. Interpersonal Neurobiology is his field. Take all branches of science then we can have a fuller view. We see wisdom derived from integration. Texting seems to be only drawing from one side of the brain, and this may be to the detriment of the youth because the right hemisphere develops before the other – see The Master and his Emissary. The left loves syllogistic reasoning. The left is very literal. Some like to say it’s the “digital” hemisphere. The right is more about the body. Body signals come to the right hemisphere. Of course, the two hemispheres work together. The digital age is shaping the mind. But he’s not despairing; he repeated this multiple times. Integration made visible is kindness. The two hemispheres integrated. Integration is a scientific concept. Know your own nervous system. Knowing when you are in one hemisphere versus the other. To be present is being your whole self for their whole self. Can we know our authentic self in a digital age. Attention shapes the structure of the brain. Integration is the key. Integrative networks are regulatory. The Healthy Mind Platter – guide for mind development – it’s on his web site – sleep time, physical time, focus time, connecting time, down time, play time, time in (looking inward – Mindfulness practice). This needs to be a bottom-up effort. The Schools of Education aren’t gonna do it. No Pre-Frontal Cortex Left Behind – haha.

Mindful Parenting in the Technology Age (Soren, Eric Schiermeyer, Michelle Gale, Pat Christen from Hope LabChade-Meng Tan)

Nice panel of parents who shared their experiences and tips for supporting their families with mindfulness.

Teens and Technology (Gopi Kallayil from Google + four teens)

All seniors in high school. Born in 1993. The year Mosiac and Newton were released.

Cultivating Joy in Kids: the Dragonfly Effect (Jennifer Aaker, Marketing Professor at Stanford)

Her kids sat on the stage while she made her presentation Happiness, joy, and meaning. They have a lab at Stanford. They also work in the area of social media. Her household is (he) loves technology and (she) isn’t too keen on it. She’s a marketing professor. So, they collected data. What is the role of technology in the family. What stories I. Social media stick? Deep meaning. Focus on single goal. Grab attention. Tells a story. Enables others to act. The dragonfly is a symbol of happiness. Small acts can create change. Wrote a book. Rethink happiness. Nice slides.

Re-Imagining Schools: Mindfulness and Education (Susan Kaisar Greenland – Mindfulness Together, Megan Cowan – Mindful Schools, Victor Diaz – REALM Charter School)

Susan adapted Buddhist practices to be age appropriate and secular. Put the practice first. Name it later. Experiential. Apply to a real life situation and regular routine. Integrated. Not “let’s do Mindfulness”

Victor’s charter school is founded on mindful practices. All students are in a wellness class – Mindfulness fitness. In Berkeley. Sounds like they use yoga. Moving from individual practice into their “outer” space and actually integrate is more challenging. Relationship building is key – knowing the kids can help you tap into the kid and connect the practice. You ask kids to jump, but you don’t always tell them where they’re going to land.

Megan is based in Oakland and been operating for about 5-years. Two programs. Go into the schools and teach Mindfulness is one. The first way to describe Mindfulness is your own presence. What do you bring. We must have a thorough understanding (this is Thay’s Applied Ethics effort – learn the practice).

The Opportunity Ahead (Dan Siegel, Susan Kaiser Greenland, Meng Tan, Soren)

Great final panel. Nice balance of practice, science, and innovation. I think Meng said tech can be developed to accelerate mindfulness by factor of 10. Instead of 40-yrs, do in 4-yrs. Then the device self-destructs.

In the end, I’m still sitting with what I heard on Saturday. I’m inspired, curious, and hopeful for what this means for me personally as well as the continued efforts to bring mindfulness into work and schools.