Teaching Mindfulness with Technology

Photo: Jane Gomes and Kirsten Gleason Teaching

For the past four years, adjustment counselors Jane Gomes and Kirsten Gleason have greeted ninth graders with a message of mindfulness. As part of the district’s ongoing effort to help students manage anxiety and stress, the two have run a workshop on meditation as a way to teach students better strategies at self-regulation.

Photo: Kirsten Gleason demonstrating a breathing technique.

Kirsten Gleason shows a breathing technique.

“After the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey results came out a few years ago and showed how much the stress levels were so high for our students, we thought the freshman guidance seminar would be a great way to get to all the ninth graders,” Gleason said.

However, this year they have made a major effort to improve their approach, plunging more deeply in their use of technology as part of their process.

“We had to look at our weaknesses and technology was one we both shared,” Gomes said.

“Last year, we had tables and papers and all this stuff we were carrying around. It seemed a poor use of resources,” Gleason added.

Using a mix of multimedia, that includes video and both desktop and mobile applications, Gomes and Gleason offer a host of strategies and resources in hopes of sustaining the practices introduced in the workshop.

“The kids’ world is all about electronics and that’s not my world but it is theirs. So if we want to teach them, we need to meet them where they are,” Gleason said. “There were a lot of other factors with the tech, like collecting data better to show that there is indeed a positive change in stress levels for students.”

First, they revised their whole presentation, using Google Slides to structure their time with students and facilitate conversation through illustrative questions and videos.

“Using the technology helped us manage our time better,” Gleason said.

Using a Google Form, they gathered some immediate formative data about the students’ stress levels before asking them to try meditation.

Jane Gomes Leading

Jane Gomes describes benefits of meditation.

“We knew that our way of collecting data could be simplified and we wanted to show the effectiveness of the experience,” Gomes said.

Once they have gathered a baseline and current reading on the students’ stress level, they begin coaching students through a handful of breathing exercises. The breathing exercises are aimed at helping students find a technique that works for them to override and recover from “fight or flight” responses when feeling stress, anxiety, or fear.

Additionally, the two recommended a handful of applications that can help students get started with a mindfulness experience on their own. They demonstrated some applications that will run on student laptops or smartphones that can serve as support and create a conducive environment for meditation.  They even recommend successful keyword searches for finding helpful videos independently.

Photo: Kirsten Gleason Using Mobile App

Kirsten Gleason shows a mobile meditation app.

Then, the two counselors guide the group of students through an actual five mediation with a selected video from YouTube.

“The kids in past years were the ones asking for more tips and strategies,” Gleason said.

After the brief meditation, they ask students to self-assess their stress levels again in real-time and submit that through the Google Form.

The whole process takes less than an hour and continues to yield positive results.

“It is getting better. There was a time where there were a lot of kids in a panic about grades, school, and more,” Gleason said. “We feel like we are making progress and have data to prove it.”

“I never even imagined we could revamp this lesson this way,” Gomes said. “Plus, we never would have ventured into this new more tech savvy approach without the support we received.

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