Tech & Opportunity: a no-tech solution to classroom disruptions

Feb 28, 2014

Credit ssoosay / Flickr

The PBS series Frontline rang the techno-fear alarm again this week about millennials and their apparent eager willingness to be marketed to, as well as helping corporations sell stuff to other teens.

The program, Generation Like, introduced us to teens and marketers using social media to create an endless feedback loop of product endorsement and self-promotion. By all adult accounts, it was a bleak picture of a generation of kids who, when asked, didn't even know the meaning of "selling out." 

The program was Instafamousness on a massive scale. Are we all following a very dangerous techno Pied Piper? 

The ominous undertones of Generation Like made this report on low-income schools using mindfulness mediation a welcome breather. 

KQED's MindShift blog took us into one California school using meditation to good effect. As much as we talk about technology and unequal opportunities in the classroom, the Mindful Life Project's work with low-income students offers a no-tech solution to problems of classroom disruptions, absenteeism, suspensions, and other problems related to kids acting out in stressful situations. 

"At (one school), 18 kids accounted for 82% of the suspensions. At the beginning of their mindfulness training, those kids were suspended 62 times in the first trimester. After three trimesters of mindfulness practice, that rate had dropped to 20." - Katrina Schwartz, MindShift

The research shows how well children do when they're not trying to learn while hungry. Now, researchers are looking into how, and why, mindfulness mediation seems to work so well for students. Decision-making, learning, multi-tasking and conflict resolution skills all increased for students practicing mindfulness. Teachers saw that students were better able to navigate relationships inside the classroom and on the playground. Some kids even reported practicing mindfulness mediation at home. 

As schools look to integrate more technology into classrooms, taking into account the toll technology takes on students' attention is a worry. Perhaps research into mindfulness is something that students, educators, and parents could benefit from because as the Frontline program showed, no one else – certainly not marketers –are going regulate social media and technology's incursions into children's lives.