Reflections

Mind the Space

Mindfulness is “the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to content and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement” (Langer, 2014, p. 4). It seems simple, right? But did you know that most of us spend nearly 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010)? I was concerned I might fall into this percentile, so I decided to take a look at what I was actually minding on a daily basis. With the help of a few reads and an app, I decided to set out on my own inward journey to see what my own mind was up to these days. It’s been almost three months of this mindful journey, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far.

With the amount of information and media I consume on a regular basis, I thought it was about time I inserted some mental workouts into my mind. Apparently, a wandering mind is not a happy mind, and the following benefits Goleman (2017b) share for being more mindful:

  • stronger focus
  • better concentration
  • staying calmer under stress
  • better memory
  • cultivates an attitude of kindness

I have been thinking about what consumes my mental space and how my work is changing the way I process things. I try space my work into chunks and take time away from a screen or project deadlines to process in an analog way (e.g. run, read a real book, walk my pup, doodle/draw, or play ukulele). I am wondering how much my response or reaction to things is being molded by the devices I use or the work that I do, so it was helpful to learn how mindfulness and a meditation practice might curb this shifting response of my own thoughts, emotions, and reactions. In the HBR Mindfulness book, Goleman (2017a) also shared that mindfulness has the potential to help us:

  • pay attention to accomplishments
  • enhance creativity
  • less evaluative
  • develop charisma
  • improve productivity
  • be fully present
  • appreciate/understand why people behave the way they do
  • make moments in life matter
  • focus on what is important
  • hear the signals in the noise
  • recognize patterns
  • label/accept own thoughts and emotions
  • act on values
  • practice empathy

Sign me up! I think we could all use a bit more of the above list — so let’s give this meditation thing a go and improve how we think about things. Our brains need a bit of a workout or even rest, right? Goleman (2011) describes the ability to build resilience either by talking to yourself or retraining your brain. I decided to opt for the latter, as I typically talk out loud to process ideas. I figured it might be time to look at my inward dialog to examine what I am thinking about as the cogs of my brain turn. For a mindful practice, Goleman (2011) shares these simple instructions:

  1. Find a quiet, private place where you can be undistracted for a few minutes — for instance, close your office door and mute your phone.
  2. Sit comfortably, with your back straight but relaxed.
  3. Focus your awareness on your breath, staying attentive to the sensations of the inhalation and exhalation, and start again on the next breath.
  4. Do not judge your breathing or try to change it in any way.
  5. See anything else that comes to mind as a distraction — thoughts, sounds, whatever — let them go and return your attention to your breath.

We can reprogram our brain to be more rational and less emotional for how we react, make decisions, and deal with life situations. “Mindfulness is being present and aware, moment by moment, regardless of circumstances” (Gonzalez, 2014). The process of leaning into emotions or dealing with difficult times through meditation has an acronym for coping:  R.A.I.N. = Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Non-Identifications. This is how to deal with overwhelming situations, stress, or to connect to the situation better by leaning into these feelings.

That being said, I have never meditated. Sure – I enjoy my Shavasana pose at the end of a yoga class – but I have never really tried this meditation thing. I’m too busy for that! Or I get what I need for my mind from taking a walk, going for a run, or yoga, right? (Is what I thought.)  This is probably why I appreciated reading Dan Harris’ (2017) book and advice for fidgety skeptics who was to meditate. Harris is a journalist who started meditation after having a panic attack live on the air and I heard about this book from an episode of Note To Self (Thanks, @manoushz!). Here are a few simple steps he offers  for anyone who is just starting a meditation practice (Harris, 2017):

  1. Approach the establishing of a meditation habit as an experiment.
  2. Be willing to fail – it might not work every day or always, but that’s okay.
  3. Start small – don’t take on too much too soon. Even 1 minute of meditation each day counts.
  4. Try attaching medication to a preexisting habit, for example, I meditate after I brush my teeth in the morning.
  5. Stay on the lookout for the life benefits, let them pull you forward.

More resources from @danbharris at http://www.10percenthappier.com/ & The Consciousness Explorer’s Club

That being said, I do have to thank Andy Puddicombe for his 10 mindful minutes TED Talk where he shares WHY we should mediate. I had heard this before and replayed it after reading a few of these books on meditation. Additionally, I had tried out (10-days are free) his meditation app, Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/) last year — but never moved forward with this practice. This year, I make the purchase to commit to trying meditation for a longer period of time (at least one year, per the investment).  Also, I decided to designate a space in my house, get a meditation cushion, and anchor my morning practice to something I typically do when I wake up in the morning (anchor action: brush my teeth, start the coffee, and then sit to meditate). Adding this app and anchoring my meditation practice to the regular routine has become part of my morning ritual before I start my day to work, write, or something else.

So… here’s my progress report: I am almost 3 months into this meditation practice and being present in my own (head) space is going alright. I am not going to say it has been easy or that I want to do it all the time, but I am finding that this regular practice to pause in the morning (and at other times throughout the day) is helping me to chill when I’m stressed and be more present with those around me (I think). Like any new training routine, it’s not an overnight thing — it does take time and continual practice. So onward with the mindful journey, I go!

Do you have a meditation practice? What grounds your mindful practice? Tell me about it, and I welcome suggestions as a newbie to the practices. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

References:

Goleman, D. (2011). Resilience for the rest of us. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/04/resilience-for-the-rest-of-us

Goleman, D. (2017a). Mindfulness (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review.

Goleman, D. (2017b, September 28). Here’s What Mindfulness Is (and Isn’t) Good For. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/09/heres-what-mindfulness-is-and-isnt-good-for

Gonzalez, M. (2014, March 31). Mindfulness for People Who Are Too Busy to Meditate. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/03/mindfulness-for-people-who-are-too-busy-to-meditate

Harris, D.  (2017). Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book. New York City, NY: Penguin Random House LLC

Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science330(6006), 932-932.

Langer, E. J. (2014). Mindfulness, 25th-anniversary edition. Boston, MA: DeCapo Press.

 

Collaboration, Conference, Learning, Professional Development, Reflections, Research

Innovation for Learning: Submit Your Ideas for the #OLCInnovate Solution Design Summit

I have been thinking about innovation for a while. What does innovation mean to you? How does “innovation” play into your world of work and learning? The word INNOVATE feels very much like a buzzword when it comes to learning. It may even be as a prime contender found on one of my #edtech bingo cards used for education meetings and conferences. Now the word, innovate, has been placed as a conference title and I agreed to support the planning for this event => Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Innovate. These facts only means I have been reading and reflecting even more about innovation and what this term means. Here are my current ponderings and ideas…

pondering_innovation

Flickr photo c/o Missy Scmidt

A number of organizations are increasingly being influenced or impacted the eagerness to “solve” problems with technology. Last year, George Steele suggested the book, The Innovators, in a conversation about the culture of change in higher education (a HUGE topic I will save for another blog post). This was a well-timed referral and read for me. Isaacson (2014) describes how groups of individuals ingeniously cooperated to innovate in the real world. Say what? Tell me more!

Thinking, designing, and employing innovation for learning is complicated. The story of the collective successes (and failures) of many innovators need to be shared, and continually drafted as there are “far fewer tales of collaborative creativity, which is actually more important in understanding…how today’s technology revolution was fashioned. It can also be more interesting” (Isaacson, 2014, p. 1)

Although The Innovators shares the history of computing, technology, and the Internet, and it really spoke to my inner collaborator and WHY I dabble in the applied inquiry to understand more about online/blended learning technologies and workplace L & D. The collaboration emphasis resonated throughout this text, and I do believe that “no one individual…has truly achieved anything alone.” I concur.

By definition, we always appear to be “innovating” in learning, right? With formal education institutions (K-12 and higher education), professional associations, and learning organizations there seems to be a tension of how to balance innovative ideas or approaches due to structural, pedagogical, and workforce challenges in the real world. We want to think innovatively, but sometimes our organizations or “the system” rarely allows this process to unfold with constrictions of our job portfolios/functions, institutional divides, or designated project timelines. As Martin Weller put aptly put it: “the rhetoric for the need for innovation is rarely backed up by practice that will encourage it.” Let’s change that narrative. Why don’t we try to play with a few innovative ideas and concepts together?

For OLC Innovate, there are a few new (I won’t say innovative, just yet) program features that are atypical of a traditional conference format. One of the goals the #OLCInnovate steering committee set out: Let’s have less “talking head” presentations (education sessions, lectures or plenary talks), and more conversations, fun social happenings, places to share, and opportunities to solve REAL problems for online/blended/F2F learning. <<Segue>> THAT being said, here’s a new feature of the #OLCInnovate program I hope you will consider:

The OLC Solution Design Summit (SDS)


Video trailer production credit to Kyle Johnson

The general call for program proposals is now closed (with the peer reviews completed, expect to see the full program online next week); however the call for TEAM Proposals is OPEN for the OLC SDS until February 10, 2016 [Deadline Updated to extend the call for proposals on 1/26/16]. Thanks to the 2015 #et4online unconference banter, the OLC SDS Team (Mike Goudzwaard, Patrice Torcivia, Kyle Johnson, Adam Croom, & Michael Atkisson) decided it was about time to offer a program feature that was less about product and more about process. Together we carved out space in the #OLCInnovate schedule to offer a space for design thinkers, tinkers, and leaders to assemble in order to propose and solve challenges we encounter in learning (in K-12, higher education, and industry-L & D), such as:

As we know innovation takes time and it is a team process. For this CFP we have a broader timeline for this program and we and different expectations for this call for submissions. We are not looking for an end solution. Our team is more interested in WHO is at your interdisciplinary team table and the potential problems you want to work on together. Solutions might appear, but regardless this will be shared opening before, during, and after the #OLCInnovate 2016 conference ends:

Before the Conference

  1. Prospective SDS participants submit a challenge proposal by February 10, 2016: Abstract about the problem, team, and potential solution.
  2. Acceptance notifications will be sent out to teams by February 16th. [Confirm acceptance of your team by 1/22]
  3. Those SDS teams with accepted challenges will submit a solution pitch video for public review on the OLC Innovate 2016 website, by March 11, 2016 (due March 4th).
  4. Experts and OLC Innovate attendees will be invited to view and comment online to provide feedback on the video pitches March 21 – April 1.
  5. SDS teams will meet via an online web conference for 30 minutes to debrief and plan before the with the SDS facilitators in early April, before the #OLCInnovate Conference.

During the Conference

  1. SDS teams participate in a two-part pre-conference workshop session the morning of April 20, 2016. This will involve sharing the challenge and potential solution.
  2. Building on the feedback from the pitch reviews before, the design-thinking workshop on day 1, and comments from the workshop (via educators, edtech experts, researchers, exhibitors, and other SDS teams), you will further develop your challenge statement and solution design “pitch” to present during a concurrent session.
  3. SDS teams will present their solution in a 15-minute (10-minute presentation & 5 minute Q & A) time slot during an OLC Innovate session for all conference attendees.

Post-Conference Winning Team Benefits

  1. The winning SDS team members will each receive a one-year OLC Professional Membership (limited to a maximum of 5 team members). Current OLC members would receive a 1-year extension to their existing OLC Professional Membership.
  2. The winning SDS team members will receive complimentary future OLC 2016 or 2017 conference registration (limited to a maximum of 5 team members, not applicable to OLC Innovate 2016).
  3. The OLC Team will engage the winning team in a conversation of how best to showcase their solution through OLC.  Examples may include a webinar, membership dashboard interaction, OLC social media promotion, etc.

Now that you know the details, I encourage and instigate ALL of you to REVIEW the Solution Design Summit CFP and SUBMIT your team application NOW! Please feel free to share with your colleagues, and instigate innovation among your peers as well. Do you have questions about the OLC SDS? Email our team: sds@onlinelearning-c.org or follow up with either Mike or me. Thanks!

References

Isaacson, W. (2014). The innovators: How a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.