In this example, I share how I use the Adobe Connect classroom features to create a mindful learning environment.
Teaching and Learning Goal
My goals with using these strategies are to:
- Promote student’s ability to focus by reducing unnecessary distractions.
- Teach mindful practices which benefit students' mental well-being and which can be used by the students between classes for self-care as well as used by students with their internship clients.
Activity and Results
The benefits of mindfulness have been experienced for thousands of years. More recently, mindfulness practices have made their way into healthcare and mental health care settings (Moss, 2018) as well as into the classroom (Napoli & Bonifas, 2011). Personally, mindfulness has been an integral part of my life for nearly a decade, permeating my clinical practice, education, and teaching. Throughout my Ph.D. program, we began each class meeting with a short mindfulness practice or meditation. When I began teaching at Columbia University’s School of Social Work (CSSW), I knew I wanted to bring this practice with me. However, since I don’t remember mindfulness being discussed back when I was a CSSW student I was a bit nervous about how these practices would be received. Happily, most students have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback sharing their appreciation for these practices (Segal, 2022a). Moreover, I have found Adobe Connect to be a good platform to lead mindfulness practices and overall establish a mindful learning environment.
The first Adobe Connect feature which I believe contributes to a mindful experience during class sessions is potentially a controversial one, limiting how many webcams are turned on during class. While there may be some class activities when it is beneficial to have many or all students sharing their webcams at the same time (Marquart, 2022) there are also many reasons to have them turned off for the bulk of or the full class session (Marquart & Russell, 2020). For example, having student cameras on can be draining and distracting. Limiting webcam use to the current speaker(s) or small groups, creates a less chaotic screen and supports students' ability to focus.
Next, you and any other designated “Hosts” are able to mute participants if needed. Presenting good online meeting etiquette guidelines like requesting that attendees mute themselves when not speaking contributes to creating a calmer and more mindful online atmosphere. But, sometimes a student may forget to do so, resulting in unwanted background noise heard by and disruptive to the class. In that case, Adobe makes it very easy to see where the unwanted background noises are coming from and mute someone if needed. This feature really comes in handy when you don’t want to add to the disruption by giving a verbal prompt for everyone to check that they are muted, like during a mindfulness practice.
Thirdly, Adobe allows you (and I highly encourage you) to set up your classroom experience and preload your media before class. How many web-based meetings have we all attended where the flow is disrupted due to the speaker needing to share their screen? This is often paired with speaker remarks like, “where is that file”, “can you see my slide”, “can you hear the video’s audio” and “hold on, I’m trying to resize everything on my screen”. As attendees, we all want to be compassionate and understanding, as we’ve probably also been a presenter on these types of platforms before and are familiar with the potential barriers. However, by presetting your layouts in the Adobe Connect classroom beforehand there is no looking for that file, no wondering if the slides are showing, and no questioning if the audio is coming through - all of the media files are already uploaded and you’ve verified that everything looks and sounds great.
Throughout this text, several authors share strategies for creating layouts that will best fit the goals you have for each class activity (Levine, 2022; Marshall, 2022; Segal, 2022c). Adobe makes it easy to create layouts that maximize video pod sharing (for multiple webcams or to physically demonstrate something; Nair & Segal, 2022), content sharing pods (for slides, pdfs, videos, and images), and the size of the chat pod, along with being able to add other features to the screen such as a timer or polls. Not only does setting up the room prior to class contribute to creating a mindful learning environment, but these layouts also allow all attendees to see the same content in the same configuration - which can’t be said for some other online learning platforms. Being able to control this aspect of the online environment eliminates the unnecessary barrier of students needing to configure the pods themselves in order to view the content.
Finally, all of these features can be used to create intentional mindful experiences before and during class. For example, when my students log into Adobe prior to class, they are greeted with calming meditative music playing in the layout designated “Lobby” (Image 1). A few minutes after beginning the class session we reach a slide titled “Mindfulness Moment” (Segal, 2022b). When we reach this slide, I change from the “Lecture” layout to the “Mindfulness” layout (Image 2) pairing the slide with a timer. The use of the timer honors the time carved out for this activity and is especially useful when students are leading the activity and need that visual reminder. Following the mindfulness activity, the students are invited to share their feedback in a poll. Polls can be preset into a layout (Image 3) or be moved in from the presenter area to cover a portion of the existing content on the screen (Image 4). When we reach our designated break time, I either move us back to the Lobby layout and restart the meditative music and timer or move to a “Break” layout to play a video that is demonstrating/leading a mindfulness practice or gentle yoga/stretching routine (Image 5). When deciding which layout to use for the break I generally ask the students to share their thoughts in the chat, respond to a poll, or vote by changing their status icon.
Technical Details and Steps
Step 1: Create layouts that reflect the goals of each class activity
Think through the flow of the class session and decide what content and features are necessary for each segment of the class. For example, what do you want students to see, hear, or have access to
- when they log into class early,
- during lecture,
- during class discussions,
- during breaks,
- during student presentations,
- during small group activities, and
- when students report back to the large group following a small group activity.
Step 2: Identify times when mindfulness practices can be incorporated into the class flow
I always lead the mindfulness practice in the first session of class each semester. After that, students are invited to sign-up to lead practices that they enjoy. As we go through the semester if a class doesn’t have a student volunteer to lead a practice, I lead the mindfulness moment that day. While I am now comfortable selecting and leading these practices, I have also played videos I’ve found on Youtube using the search filter for Creative Commons licenses when I was less comfortable leading these practices. I also continue to use Youtube videos during breaks so that the students can experience another practice if desired, and I can walk away from the computer to take my break. These practices provide a time for students to settle down and transition to class as well as teach mindfulness principles such as mindful awareness, mind-body connection, and non-judgmental observation. Students are able to utilize these principles in class, with clients at their internships, and throughout their day.
Step 3: Reflect on the impact of your choices
Each class of students is different. Choices that may have worked in previous semesters may not work for everyone. I like to invite feedback from students through the use of polls at the end of each session (Image 6) as well as asking for feedback throughout the class. For example, stating “This is the first time I’m doing the activity this way, can you share in chat or by raising your hand what you liked or disliked about it”? Or, I’ve had classes of students who loved small group breakout activities and wanted one every week, while other classes have strongly disliked them and requested the activities be utilized in a large group format. Being flexible and making adjustments throughout the semester in response to student feedback can help create an online learning environment that is comfortable and supports student learning.
What this looked like in Adobe Connect
Image 1: Adobe Connect classroom, in the Lobby layout, showcasing the audio pod which is playing meditation music (Nu Meditation Music, 2015). Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe.
Image 1 Alt-Text: This is a screengrab of an Adobe Connect classroom, in the “Lobby” layout. There are six Adobe pods on the screen. The Video pod, showing chapter author Katherine Segal, is in the top left corner. Below that is the Attendees pod starting directly below the Video pod and continuing to the bottom of the screen. To the right of that column, the top half of the remaining viewing area is a Share pod, showing a slide titled “Welcome to class.” The rest of the slide says “Katherine Segal, Ph.D., LCSW” and “Week 1.” Below the slide is a short Share pod sharing a music file. This music pod spans two-thirds of the slide pod width. Directly below the music pod is the Chat pod, which is the same width as the music pod. In the chat pod, the messages “Welcome to class” and “Please enjoy the music as you settle in. We will get started in a few minutes” can be seen. Finally, a Share pod with the “Stage Lights” is placed in the bottom right corner. The timer reads 15 minutes.
Image 2: Adobe Connect classroom, in the Mindfulness layout, showing the Mindfulness Moment slide, timer, and chat pod. Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe.
Image 2 Alt-Text: This is a screengrab of an Adobe Connect classroom, in the “Mindfulness” layout. The Attendees pod begins in the top left corner and stretches to the bottom of the screen. To the right of that, the Video pod, showing chapter author, Katherine Segal, runs along the top of the screen. Below that in the middle third of the screen, is a Share pod showing a slide titled “Mindfulness Moment”. The text on the slide reads: “In the chat, write 1 word that describes how you are feeling before we head into the mindfulness practice. We will take 2-3 minutes to engage in a mindfulness activity. To sign up to lead a mindfulness activity send me an email. Poll. How are you feeling after the mindfulness activity?” Right of the slide is a Share pod with the Stage Lights, with the timer set to 3 minutes. In the bottom third of the screen is a Chat pod stretching from the Attendees pod to the right edge of the screen.
Image 3: Adobe Connect classroom, in the Mindfulness Poll layout, the timer has been replaced with a poll. Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe.
Image 3 Alt-Text: This is a screengrab of an Adobe Connect classroom, in the “Mindfulness Poll” layout. The layout is the same as in Image 2, except the Stages Lights have been replaced with a short answer poll “How are you feeling after the mindfulness activity?” There is one answer to the poll showing, “relaxed!”.
Image 4: Adobe Connect classroom, in the Mindfulness layout, the poll is covering up the Mindfulness Moment slide. Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe.
Image 4 Alt-Text: This is a screengrab of an Adobe Connect classroom, in the “Mindfulness” layout. The layout is the same as in Image 2, except the Stages Lights timer now displays “Time’s Up” and the poll described in Image 3 is covering up most of the slide Share pod.
Image 5: Adobe Connect classroom, in the Break layout, the share pod is displaying a still from a chair yoga video (Pooja Yogtara, 2021; Creative Commons License, reuse allowed). Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe.
Image 5 Alt-Text: This is a screengrab of an Adobe Connect classroom, in the “Break” layout. The layout is similar to Image 1. The left-hand column includes the Video pod with the paused image of the chapter author’s webcam above the Attendees pod. A Share pod showing a still from a chair yoga video takes up two-thirds of the viewing area. On the video still are the words “Neck exercises” and “Tension release techniques”. Next to the words, the video’s creator is sitting in a chair and four singing bowls can be seen behind her on the floor. Below the Share pod, the bottom third of the screen has the Chat pod with the message “See you in 5 minutes. Feel free to step away or engage in the short practice” as well as the Stage Lights. The timer reads 5 minutes.
Image 6: Adobe Connect classroom, Closing Polls layout. Adobe product screenshot(s) reprinted with permission from Adobe.
Image 6 Alt-Text: This is a screengrab of an Adobe Connect classroom, in the “Closing Polls” layout. The left-hand column includes the Video pod showing chapter author, Katherine Segal, above the Attendees pod. To the right of this column, the top two-thirds of the screen show three short answer polls next to each other. They read, “What is your key take away from today’s class?”, “What did you like about today’s class?”, and “What would you like to be different in future live classes?”. No answers are showing. Below the polls filling the bottom third of the viewing area is the Chat pod.
Levine, J. (2022). The use of a large chat pod to encourage chat participation about particular questions. In M. Marquart, L.W. Marshall, R. Chung, & K. Garay (Eds.), Designing Engaging and Interactive Synchronous Online Class Sessions: Using Adobe Connect to Maximize its Pedagogical Value. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/-ReiD
Marquart, M. (2022). Bringing all students onto webcam together: Using a large video pod. In M. Marquart, L.W. Marshall, R. Chung, & K. Garay (Eds.), Designing Engaging and Interactive Synchronous Online Class Sessions: Using Adobe Connect to Maximize its Pedagogical Value. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/-wLti
Marquart, M. & Russell, L.R. (2020, September 10). Dear Professors: Don’t let student webcams trick you: Instructors who teach live online classes should thoughtfully consider whether to require students to use their webcams during class. EDUCAUSE Transforming Higher Ed Blog. https://edtechbooks.org/-eCNQ
Marshall, L.W. (2022). Group presentations in Adobe Connect: Using an extra wide video pod and dedicated second chat pod for Q&A. In M. Marquart, L.W. Marshall, R. Chung, & K. Garay (Eds.), Designing Engaging and Interactive Synchronous Online Class Sessions: Using Adobe Connect to Maximize its Pedagogical Value. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/-MDhI
Moss, D. (2018). The role of mindfulness approaches in integrative medicine. Biofeedback, 46(1), 9-14. doi: 10.5298/1081-5937-46.1.03
Nair, M. & Segal, K. (2022). Chair yoga in the online classroom: Minimize stress and increase body-mind energy. In M. Marquart, L.W. Marshall, R. Chung, & K. Garay (Eds.), Designing Engaging and Interactive Synchronous Online Class Sessions: Using Adobe Connect to Maximize its Pedagogical Value. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/-zum
Napoli, M. & Bonifas, R. (2011). From theory toward empathic selfcare: Creating a mindful classroom for social work students. Social Work Education, 30(6), 635-649. doi: 10.1080/02615479.2011.586560
Nu Meditation Music. (2015, January 8). 20 min Awareness Meditation Music Relax Mind Body: Chakra Cleansing and Balancing. [Audio]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/Gqfk5sr9fpw
Pooja Yogtara. (2021, October 6). Neck release for stiff neck /Neck pain exercises - Chair Yoga. [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/Vh8PJ-frsPY
Segal, K. (2022a). Mindfulness in the classroom. Voices of Hybrid & Online Teaching and Learning. Columbia University, Center for Teaching and Learning. https://edtechbooks.org/-ZQvE
Segal, K. A. (2022b). Using Mindfulness Routinely and As Needed in Online Classes. [PowerPoint Slides]. https://edtechbooks.org/-igwU
Segal, K. (2022c). Using PowerPoint portrait-oriented slides to maximize content sharing. In M. Marquart, L.W. Marshall, R. Chung, & K. Garay (Eds.), Designing Engaging and Interactive Synchronous Online Class Sessions: Using Adobe Connect to Maximize its Pedagogical Value. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/-QuVC