Two Simple Mindful Meditation Exercises for Teachers

It’s Monday noon and yes, I didn’t get to a Sun(Fun)day Night post yesterday. It wasn’t much of a fun day for me, but rather an extremely full day into the night. Our midterm exams are next week and I was working all day on review guides and then on revising the two exams themselves.

Yes, I felt stressed and yes, I did practice some of the mindfulness meditation techniques that I’ve blogged about here and here and here.

I post this link from The Guardian as it is geared specifically to teachers. Faculty and staff at my school will recognize these simple, yet effective techniques as we’ve been using them to start faculty meetings. And we used them as recently as this morning when our deacon used the PA system to guide the entire student body through a 10 min exercise related to Advent and the Holy Family.

As the stress level this time of year gets ratcheted up for you – whether you have midterms before Christmas or not – I hope this article and the exercises contained within help make your season merrier and brighter.

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Apps You Should Know: Ten Ambient Sound-Makers and Other Meditation Aids

Readers of this blog will recall that I am a passionate proponent for teaching mindfulness and meditation to students. I’ve blogged about it here a number of times. And I have many more links describing the benefits of it as well as how to teach it. Someday, I plan to post these too.

For now, I’d like to show and tell about a number of iOS apps which can be effectively used to support meditative practices in you or your students. While I provide links to more info about each (as available), you’ll need to go to the App Store to search for and download them yourself.

Even though I use an Android smartphone, I have the apps featured here on my iPad only and not my phone. Therefore, I cannot speak to whether there are corresponding Android apps for any of these.

I’ve selected apps which are easy and effective to use, free of charge, and have either zero or minimal/unobtrusive opportunities for “In-App Purchases” (NOTE: This is accurate as what I’ve seen in the apps and also only at the time of publishing this). I hope you enjoy exploring these apps too:

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Peace – Ambient Sounds   – Free and without In-App Purchases

This is a pretty bare-bones app with only a handful of sounds. As it is free, clear of ads and w/o in-app purchases, it’s a good, basic, “starter app” to produce background sounds for meditation.

 

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WO.Audio (Red icon version) – Free and without In-App Purchases. NOTE: Search iTunes App Store with the “iPhone only” option selected.

For a free app, this one is surprisingly robust. It has both sounds and music along with options for users to create their own combinations which can be saved to the app.

 

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AmbiScience 300 Lite – Free and without In-App Purchases.

The free version of this is pretty slim on options as it functions mostly as an enticement to download their fuller versions. Yet, this app is one of the few I’ve found which also has the option to blend binaural sound waves into the mix of music and ambient sounds.

 

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White Noise Market – Free and without In-App Purchases

I’ve not used this app as much as some of the others, so I cannot speak to the depth of its functionality. That being said, at first glance it clearly has a range of sounds and functions which surpass many of the other free apps on this list. And it has this interesting map of the sources of the sounds offered by the app:

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Naturely, aka Nature Clockstand – Free without In-App Purchases.

Offering a range of sounds, an attractive image representing each sound, and a built-in timer, this app is another one with a high level of usability. I like the natural images which correlate to the audio as sometimes I’ll meditate with my eyes open and gaze at art or an image.

 

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Stop, Breathe and Think – Free with minimal, unobtrusive In-App Purchases

We’re now into a slightly different category of apps. Many of the remaining ones include audio, guided meditations, timers, record keeping of time/date meditating, and other features geared especially for novices to meditative practice. This app has a friendly, light-hearted interface. The user may “check-in” by answering a few questions and then receive a guided meditation tailored to their current need. Or, as this shot shows, the user can bypass the questions and simply select a style and length of meditation:

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Breathe2Relax – Free, no In-App Purchases

This app, while not strictly geared towards mindful meditation is designed with relaxation in mind. Designed with scientific research, this app is better to experience than to describe. So, if the screen shots above interest you, download the free app and try it out. If breathing is important to you, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in it.

 

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Smiling Mind – Free without In-App Purchases

Not only does this app have the best name of the bunch, but it includes a number of other unique features. While the mediation counter and resulting badges are similar to what is found on “Stop, Breathe and Think,” Smiling Mind is the only app I’ve found with meditations specifically geared to different age levels (see the 2nd shot above). Within each older age group is a “course list” of downloadable, guided meditations designed to teach and encourage a meditative practice. It also includes a “social media” function so your friends can observe and encourage your meditation.

And the voices are Aussies, reminiscent of Andy Puddicombe, creator and founder of Headspace.

 

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Mediation Timer Free for iPad – No In-App Purchases, ad supported

This simple, yet elegant app does one thing well. Although it doesn’t offer guided mediations or ambient sounds, it’s an excellent free timer. I use it every day to measure my 10 minutes of mindfulness. The free version is ad supported and has a couple fewer minor features than the inexpensive full version (which I purchased). I like how the user can set the time as well as sounds to mark intervals within the meditation. I use a deep chime sound for each 2:30 and then a specific bell at the end of the full 10 minutes. The app keeps track of my time and provides a number of key data points upon request. And I particularly like the option to easily post my meditation time on Twitter or facebook.

 

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Calm in the Storm (Stress Management) – Free, without In-App Purchases

This app is also different then the others listed here as it is designed specifically for people who suffer from high levels of stress and/or anxiety disorders. As you’ll see in the third shot above, there are guided meditations and relaxations within this app. These are set within the context of anxiety management and development of a plan to address anxiety and stress as they arise. For some, this app may literally function as a life-saver.

Do you have experience with any of these apps?

What additional apps have you used for ambient sounds and/or meditation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindful Meditation is a 21st Century Skill

It’s another Snow Day here in Central Ohio.  The measly 3 to 5 inches we received overnight pales in comparison to the “historic” storm they are about to get in NYC, Boston & Philly.  One reason I like living where I do is that we get Snow Days without paralyzing snow.  And we’ve already had three of them in January!

It’s been a while since Tera, Rachel or I have been able to post.  It goes without saying that a teacher’s life is a full life! My to-do list, which always includes posting here, always seems to get longer and not shorter.  I’ve been collecting links and ideas though.  Hopefully I can post a few today when I’m not catching up on evaluating student work.

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21st Century Skills have been getting much attention the past view years.  Myriad well-funded websites exist and there are no shortage of posters and graphics such as the one above or this one:

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This poster is one of many resources found here.  I like the dozen and a half skills listed, but I think a critical one is omitted here and in most lists of 21st Century Skills – Attention or Mindfulness.

A fact of modern life is the temptation to becoming distracted from the task at hand – be it participating in class, doing homework, or even driving.  The dangers of “distracted driving” were driven home to our school recently when speakers from Impact Teen Driving shared their tragic story of a loved one’s death from an auto accident by a distracted driver.

Focusing attention is a skill that can be taught and developed. An M.D. from the esteemed Mayo Clinic featured in this Atlantic article writes: “We have multiple set exercises throughout the day where you basically bring intentionality to your attention…they involve no newfangled brain-training software, or really anything at all new to neuroscience or philosophy.”  His website, stressfree.org offers useful techniques illustrated by engaging videos to teach the five core principles of “gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness.” He’s created this fact-filled, cute, whiteboard video entitled “A Very Happy Brain” that could be enjoyed even by younger students.

Cultivating gratitude, being in the present moment, and mindful meditation have been shown to have many psychological, academic, and inter-personal benefits.  There are no shortage of succinct articles which both describe the benefits of mindfulness and offer ways to practice meditation.

So how does this relate to educational technology?  There are a growing number of apps which can facilitate meditative practice.  Aside from using technology to teach meditation, I think we also need to educate our students in ways to be attentive to assigned learning tasks rather than succumbing to the massive temptation to distraction living within their iPads or Chromebooks.

This attentiveness is a vital 21st Century Skill on par with any of the other essential skills listed on the posters above.  So, how do we teach it?

In the next post, I’ll share how I am doing it in my classroom. How have you done it in yours?