Is it true? Am I programming forgetfulness?

Brainphoto © 2008 dierk schaefer | more info (via: Wylio)
I am listening to Opening to Our Lives with Jon Kabat-Zinn, a podcast about mindfulness tweeted by @micwalker this morning. But I am also writing this post.

Kabat-Zinn asks: Can you hold this moment in awareness?

No, I can’t.

And I wonder if all this multi-tasking is having a profound effect on my memory. This weekend I attended Educon, a fabulous unconference at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Like-minded folks gathered to talk about teaching and learning–and using social media tools to enable this shift we’d like to see.

But that’s not what I want to focus on here. Instead, I want to share two moments of the weekend when I totally forgot a conversation I had had. And it scares me.

One was with my friend @ehelfant, whom I was catching up with at the end of a session.

“Hey,” I asked. “Do you want to walk back to the hotel with us after the next session?”

“Sure,” she responded.

I looked forward to having a few uninterrupted moments to chat with her. And yet, as the next session ended, I wandered downstairs, connecting with two other friends who were waiting, and headed back to the hotel.

“Where are you?” she texted later.

Oh. My. Gosh. I had totally forgotten.

The second incident involved my husband, who called Saturday night to tell I had forgotten the keys to the house. He told me he would leave the house open for me. Yet, as I rode the train on Sunday, I panicked because I realized I had forgotten my keys. I called a local friend who happens to have a key to my house and stopped on my way home.

Later my husband asked: “Didn’t you remember our conversation? I told you I would leave the house open.”

I was stunned. And, frankly, I felt a rush of fear race through my body as this has been happening frequently to me. Alzheimers? Careless thinking? Laziness? Or is it more? Could it be my habits of mind lately–the reading while I’m listening, the talking while I’m texting, the writing while I’m searching–are the cause?

New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope wrote about this last year in “An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness.” She interviewed Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford, who said: “We’re paying a price in terms of our cognitive life because of this virtual lifestyle.”

Dr. Aboujaoude also asks whether the vast storage available in e-mail and on the Internet is preventing many of us from letting go, causing us to retain many old and unnecessary memories at the expense of making new ones. Everything is saved these days, he notes, from the meaningless e-mail sent after a work lunch to the angry online exchange with a spouse.

“If you can’t forget because all this stuff is staring at you, what does that do to your ability to lay down new memories and remember things that you should be remembering?” Dr. Aboujaoude said.

On the podcast now,  Kabat-Zinn is talking about how choice, too, contributes to these cognitive issues.

(See I’m doing it again.) “It’s intoxicating,” he says. You feel powerful because you can make multiple decisions at any given moment–but you lose clarity and focus.

Hmmmm. I am going to take his advice and stop here. I want to attend to what he is saying about finding my center.

I really don’t want to lose my mind.

Where are you looking?

Look into my eyesphoto © 2008 Look Into My Eyes | more info (via: Wylio)
The UPS truck slowed down in front of my house today. I listened for the “Knock, knock.”

My books had arrived. Though I often choose to read on my Kindle App, sometimes I really want THE Book. Like the Complete Artist’s Way, all 700 pages of it, which I will dive into tomorrow.

Another one in the stack today was Practically Radical, by William C. Taylor, co-founder of FAST COMPANY magazine. I picked it up, starting from the back. This chapter jumped out at me:

Where you look shapes what you see

Isn’t that true? We strive to make changes, but if we look where we have always looked, if we listen to voices we have always heard, we can’t see the possibilities.

I have chosen to add a variety of blogs to my RSS feed over the years. They are not all about education. Some I read for the message, some for the fabulous writing, some for the inspiration.

Take a look:

Re-educate Seattle: A blog written by an administrator at a charter school. He wants to change the world.

Harvard Business Review: Speaks for itself

Buried in Wires: Teaching writing in the digital age

Full Circle Associates: Nancy White’s company about connecting and learning, collaborating online. Much more.

15 Axioms: leadership

White Hot Truth: crazy stuff

Life is a Verb: inspiration- she asks: what would I be doing today if I only had 37 days to live?

Beth Kanter: because I learn a lot from her about nonprofits and social media

sacha chua: I like her transparency

Brene Brown: researcher with an authentic voice who talks about imperfections and strength

These are among the 307 blogs I currently subscribe to. The variety keeps me thinking about how the rest of the world works. We all need to look beyond our comfort zone, don’t you think? And sometimes, we still come back to where we started: read Study for the Essay Questions

Mind Over Matter

That phrase has been around for a while. I believe it, and this research helps cement that.

I’m trying to take care of myself this year–focus on good eating, exercise, and meditation. I’ve had good luck with the first two: I am trying to eliminate sugar and processed foods; I am also starting Boot Camp next week. This isn’t just a new resolution. I do this periodically because it makes me feel better.

But I struggle with the meditation, the mindful visualizations that are so important. The Cleveland Clinic lists these benefits to mindful thinking (which is different from positive thinking):

  • Decrease anxiety
  • Decrease pain
  • Enhance sleep
  • Decrease the use of medication for post-surgical pain
  • Decrease side effects of medical procedures
  • Reduce recovery time and shorten hospital stays
  • Strengthen the immune system and enhance the ability to heal
  • Increase sense of control and well-being

That’s where the meditation comes in. I am going to take five to ten minutes each day to sit, eyes closed, music playing in the background, and breathe. We all need time to regroup, and I am starting today.

Wouldn’t it be great to help students find the time to meditate each day? What benefits could we accrue by taking a few minutes with our kids to stop and breathe?

More Rules? I don’t think so

As more schools grapple with Acceptable Use Policies to fit more devices and situations, I like this approach from Traci Gardner, who remixed Michael Hyatt’s reasons businesses don’t need a social media policy:

Consider these Five Reasons Why Your Company Doesn’t Need a Social Media Policy, from an article by Michael Hyatt, listed with a little rephrasing to fit the classroom:

  • Students can be trusted. As Hyatt explains, “If you expect them to be honest and trustworthy, they will be honest and trustworthy.”
  • Online discussions are just one more way to communicate. I don’t write up lists of manners for every interaction students will have. Imagine how silly I’d look if I passed out the rules of etiquette for office hours, for instance.
  • More rules just make the classroom more patriarchal. How can I encourage student ownership for the work of the class if I sit around passing out rules?
  • Formal rules only discourage students from participating.Rules “make people hesitate.” If students hesitate or decide not to respond, online discussion suffers.
  • I already have policies that govern inappropriate behavior.Not only do I already have the acceptable use policies to fall back on, there are policies already in place for every situation from an honor code violation to disruptive or threatening behavior.

Actually, I would take things further by eliminating the AUP all together. Students behavior is best determined by agreed upon guidelines and dealt with regardless of whether technology is involved or not. Ongoing discussions about online behavior, appropriate commenting, and much more will allow students to learn and grow. Our social media world changes too quickly to come up with an arbitrary list of rules to follow.

Our online world is our world. Why do we differentiate?

Sharing Our Learning

Sometimes we get discouraged, wondering if our efforts to have our students working in self-directed ways can, well,  really work. Three years ago, a small group of us visited Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington. He helped us set up a wordpress blogging system for our school.

It started slowly, but some people have taken it and run. One is Senior Exhibit adviser Katie Blashford, who sent me an email this morning:

If you have time you should see what our FA wiz kids are doing……many using their tech skills all on their own.

1.) see FAblogs with Maddie’s new tutorial videos embedded so cool
2.) Tomorrow is Rachel Fried’s medical forum.  Tom Catron is a guest speaker.  Unfortunately, he could not make a physical appearance so he prerecorded his speech and put it on youtube.  He is then skyping in during the Q and A portion of the evening.
3.) Kahlil just finished his KatalMath website…….this one speaks for itself.
4.) With many of the events coming up (gallary at Eileen’s Feb 13, Tyler’s guitar workshop , Rachel’s forum etc) the primary publicity has been via Facebook, medical blogs, guitar forums, and other social networking tools.

Of course, I give credit to Katie, who has pushed to help the kids make their learning transparent and meaningful. These are experiences they will remember. Powerful learning, Katie. Thanks so much for sharing.