Bookmarked Would you like ethics with that? The possibilities and risks of (Mc)Mindfulness in schools (EduResearch Matters)

Mindfulness has multiple meanings, and a complex history. Therefore, we cannot take for granted that we always agree about what is involved in discussions of mindfulness in schools. To help us think more clearly about specific uses of mindfulness I have developed a distinction between ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ mindfulness.

Christopher T. McCaw discusses his research into the rise of mindfulness in education. To make sense of the different ways in which it is practiced, McCaw differentiates between thick and thin implementations.

It should be clear that a school classroom embracing a ‘thin’ version of mindfulness might look, sound and feel quite different to one embracing a more ‘thick’ version. The former might be more concerned with maximising student attention, focus and emotional stability in order to support behavioural compliance and enhanced academic performance. The latter might be more concerned with developing students’ personal awareness and responsibility, building a classroom culture of compassion, respect and deep listening, and calling into question competitive individualism as the basis for student motivation.

This touches on some of the concerns raised by Ronald Purser and McMindfulness. For McCaw, the questions that we need to consider is what is the type of mindfulness being taught, who decides this is what it looks like and what are the implications of this. It would be interesting to use the Modern Learning Canvas to frame this.

Replied to Rose-coloured glasses (

Having a glass half full outlook or looking on the bright side is typically my approach to life and I believe I’m quite optimistic. However, I have had my rose-coloured glasses shattered a few times and you may be surprised to learn that I think this is a good thing. Glass shatters is that moment of realisation that changes your perception on something or someone. You’ve developed a new awareness; one that can’t be unseen. I’ve included a clip from How I Met Your Mother to explain further.

I think that the hardest thing to do at times is to own our experiences, because it is how we got to now. This includes the moments of shattered glass. It just feels like that is sometimes easier than others. You might be interested in a recent episode of Future Tense, which dives into our tendency for pessimism.
Quoted Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin E. P. Seligman (via Google Books)

Along with creative developments in gaming, Facebook seems like a natural for measuring flourishing. Facebook has the audience, the capacity, and is building apps (applications) that speak to the development and measurement of well-being worldwide. Can well-being be monitored on a daily basis all over the world? Here’s a beginning: Mark Slee counted the occurrences of the term laid off in Facebook every day and graphed the count against the number of layoffs worldwide. Sure enough, they moved in lockstep. Not thrilling, you might think.

But now consider the five elements of well-being: positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. Each element has a lexicon; an extensive vocabulary. For example, the English language has only about eighty words to describe positive emotion. (You can determine this by going to a thesaurus for a word such as joy and then looking up all the related words, and then counting the synonyms of all those related words, eventually circling back to the core of eighty.) The hypermassive Facebook database could be accessed daily for a count of positive emotion words—words that signal meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment—as a first approximation to well-being in a given nation or as a function of some major event.

It is not only measuring well-being that Facebook and its cousins can do, but increasing well-being as well. “We have a new application:,” Mark continued. “In this app, people record their goals and their progress toward their goals.”

I commented on Facebook’s possibilities for instilling well-being: “As it stands now, Facebook may actually be building four of the elements of well-being: positive emotion, engagement (sharing all those photos of good events), positive relationships (the heart of what ‘friends’ are all about), and now accomplishment. All to the good. The fifth element of well-being, however, needs work, and in the narcissistic environment of Facebook, this work is urgent, and that is belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self—the element of meaning. Facebook could indeed help to build meaning in the lives of the five hundred million users. Think about it, Mark.