There are countless research studies that correlate meditation with positive impacts on health such as a study from the Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital where they conclude that meditation can result in “cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day”. In another study, also from MGH, but this time from their Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders states that meditation alleviates “anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder”. Meditation has its broad spectrum of benefits within health and research but also can be applied in public, real world scenarios involving the education sector.
One example is the use of Muse within the Denver Public School system. Jackie Bott who is the Assistive Technology Coordinator for the school district is always looking for ways that technology can enable students with a wide variety of disabilities to succeed within the school curriculum.
Denver Public Schools, the largest school district within Colorado, with 210 schools catering to students from early childhood to transition years which include ages 18 to 21, received $1M in funding to support the purchase of assistive technologies within the classroom. Student disabilities can range across a whole spectrum. Some disabilities are emotional or behavioural and some can be physical to the point of being very severe.
Ms. Bott’s mission is to research and purchase technology that can assist all the various needs that a school may encounter. She came across Muse while researching technology that may assist children with social / emotional disabilities including ADHD and mental health concerns within a mindfulness based learning curriculum; something that has been practiced at various schools across Denver but has not been formally adopted in terms of measurability and process.
“Severely emotionally challenged children typically don’t get much attention from technology so when I came across Muse this addressed a particular gap I was looking to fill,” says Ms. Bott, “We have been incorporating a mindfulness practice with certain students but there is no way for us to measure progress. Muse fills this gap.”
Ms. Bott, in conjunction with staff from special education, has begun a pilot program that sees Muse being brought into numerous class environments in an initial sample of schools. Part of this process includes a strict documentation process that identifies the Muse experience in detail so that Denver Schools is better equipped to explain the process to teachers, parents and children especially as it pertains to the capture and analysis of biofeedback and a student’s privacy. Denver Schools is rigorous in its attempt to ensure that a student’s right to privacy is never violated.
The success of the pilot program will be evaluated by reviewing data provided by Muse, anecdotal feedback from students and teachers, as well as improvements in overall learning. “From my own personal experience with Muse,” explains Ms Bott, “I can say that I really love it because I find it very motivating. The gamification and the birds make me want to continuously improve and keep up my meditation practice.” She concludes by saying, “This is especially meaningful when I consider how fun and engaging this will be for our students.”
Pending the success of the initial program she will then plan for a roll out across the entire Denver School system.
Ms. Bott has a very exciting vision for the longer term future. She plans to tap into the Muse platform through additional development. This would be to create thought controlled applications in a variety of everyday scenarios in the school environment that have yet to be addressed through technology.
Ms. Bott enthusiastically prophesied, “Think about children with severe physical disabilities being able to switch on a device by focusing their mind. This could empower students beyond what they always thought they were capable of!”