Friday, 6 May 2016

#LastRefuge: A Meditative Experiment




Much is being made in academia of the need for SLOW time – not least to combat the neo-liberal, marketised, rational, agile, flexible, measurable, inputs, outputs, tests, SATs, League Tables… that is education today. The whole glorious, messy business of fierce, joyous, struggling learning – the intensity – all is lost in our quality assurance, increased productivity, AWAM context. Higher Education is now all about corporatization and corporate culture. McChesney (1999 cited in Giroux 2002; 425): ‘Neoliberalism is the defining political paradigm of our time – it refers to the politics and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximise their personal profits’.
This ‘shadow’ learning and teaching has become the thing itself – and even thinking about our practice differently becomes ever harder…
And yet – at the same time, our students – our glorious messy struggling students – are typically ‘non-traditional’ with busy busy lives and multiple commitments. They need to feel that what they are struggling for and with has meaning and value – and they need some strategies to help them stay sane – and to help them to focus and to learn that which they want to learn.
To help – we have free writing and peer review time in class… We build in time for really SLOW reading: textmapping, annotating, illustrating, discussing and presenting… Where the reading may take two hours of class time or more if needed … (BUT – because each group can read and present a different article back to the class – lo – a literature review can be sketched in collegially).
But we wondered if we needed to directly address this thing of SLOW time – of repudiating the one touch – one skim read approach of the drive by degree – and help students to engage in more productive, focussed ways.
So – we have developed a one-and-a-half hour activity – that involves watching a half-hour ‘grounding’ meditation – plus one-hour of responses to follow up questions… And we wanted to engage in a collegiate evaluation.
We are inviting anyone who has 1.5 hours to spare to engage in the activity for themselves – and then to give us some feedback – along the lines of whether you thought the activity itself is well-conceived and has value – and perhaps whether you might use something similar yourself… or whether you already have something similar yourself that you would like to share.
Here is the Activity – please join in:
The SLOW activity:
For Higher Learning to take place all participants must:
* Be able to FOCUS – to be aware of and pay attention to that which is important on the course
* Set their own GOALS (and it is useful if your goals match our goals!) – and take ownership of the course itself
* ENGAGE ACTIVELY – with the material – with us – with other students – to promote dialogue and to help make the learning personally meaningful.
Typically this is a SLOW process – that requires us to still our over-active minds – to sto[p worrying about all the distractions in our lives – and to give real, meaningful time to one activity at a time.
When you are really busy juggling study – work – home – this all seems impossible – you want to ‘hit and run’ – you want one touch writing and one dip reading…
Not going to happen.
To help you slow down and focus, we want you to watch this half hour ‘grounding’ meditation designed to help you slow down, become settled and focussed… and positive. Then we want you to set your timer and spend one hour on the follow up activities. Afterwards, pause and reflect again: What was it like to slow down and focus in this way? How might you use what you have learned from all of this to help you become a more successful student?
ACTIVITY: total time 1.5 hours: Engage in half hour meditation via the video and spend one hour on the associated activities.
1: Prepare to watch the half hour video – link below. The point is to give a full half hour to this – without rushing off to do anything else. Without worrying about anything else. The goal is to learn to focus – and to realise that focussed time is more productive that multi-tasking and it is definitely more productive than worrying about everything that you are not doing!
2: After watching the video – please answer the following questions and engage in the following activities. In the interests of learning to enjoy SLOW time – be prepared to spend one whole hour (yes – a whole HOUR!!) – on the following activities…
* Why did we ask you to engage in the meditation and what if anything did you get from participating in it?
* Argue for or against using such meditations in educational settings.
* Find and share an ACTIVITY or a RESOURCE that would have an effect similar to that which we hoped the meditation would have (even if it did not work for you) giving your reasons for sharing.
* Afterwards, pause and reflect again: What was it like to slow down and focus in this way? How might you use what you have learned from all of this to help you become a more successful student?
3: NOW - follow the link and watch the half hour video (if this does not work Copy and Paste the URL/hyperlink below into a browser):

ENDS – Thank you so much for participating!!

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