Spontaneous Play in the Language Classroom – Creating a Community

The seed of an idea which eventually germinated and became the research project on which this volume is based was sown while I was working as an English language teacher. For a long time, I was employed by an organization which, for the purposes of my research, I will call BizLang. It was based in London and offered English language and communication skills training to business executives. As part of my job, I often oversaw the short intensive courses which the company ran. It was my responsibility to ensure that participants were allocated to suitable groups, to monitor their progress and welfare and to provide pedagogical support to the teaching team when needed. I came to realize that when I heard the sound of laughter emanating from a classroom, I felt reassured that all was going well behind its closed door. This realization got me thinking about the related but not identical phenomena of laughter, humor and play, and their place in the language classroom setting. This heightened awareness planted questions in my head, especially when I was teaching groups myself. Why, for example, did I find that when I took over a group from another teacher, I was often puzzled by things that the group members said which would make them laugh but leave me initially perplexed? Why was it that the presence of humor, play and laughter seemed to be such a useful barometer of a group’s well-being? How did learners, especially those at the lower end of the proficiency spectrum, manage to have fun in a language over which, on the face of it, they had little mastery?

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The Effects of Social communication Dynamics on Opinion Change

Many social interactions are characterized by dynamic interplay, such that individuals exert reciprocal influence over each other’s behaviors and opinions. The present study investigated 3how the dynamics of reciprocal influence affect decisions made in a social context, over and above the information communicated in an interaction. To this end, we developed a simple social decision-making paradigm in which two people are asked to make perceptual judgments while receiving information about each other’s decisions. In a Static condition, information about the partner only conveyed their initial, independent judgment.  However, in a Dynamic condition, each individual saw the evolving opinion of their partner as they learned about and responded to the individual’s own judgment. The results indicated that in both conditions, the majority of confidence adjustments followed a step function characterized by an abrupt change followed by smaller adjustments around equilibrium and that participants’ confidence was used to arbitrate conflict (although deviating from Bayesian norm). Crucially, the interaction had systematic effects on opinion change relative to the Static baseline,  magnifying confidence change when partners agreed and reducing confidence change when they disagreed. These findings indicate that during dynamic interactions—often a characteristic of real-life and online social contexts—information is collectively transformed rather than acted upon by individuals in isolation.  Consequently, the output of social events is not only influenced by what the dyad knows but also by predictable non-linear and self-reinforcing dynamics.

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Posted in Opinion, Social change, Social communication | Tagged , ,

The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids

What makes Denmark the happiest country in the world–and how do Danish parents raise happy, confident, successful kids, year after year? This upbeat and practical book presents six essential principles, which spell out P-A-R-E-N-T:

Play is essential for development and well-being.
Authenticity fosters trust and an “inner compass.”
Reframing helps kids cope with setbacks and look on the bright side.
Empathy allows us to act with kindness toward others.
No ultimatums means no power struggles, lines in the sand, or resentment.
Togetherness is a way to celebrate family time, on special occasions and every day. The Danes call this hygge–and it’s a fun, cozy way to foster closeness. Preparing meals together, playing favorite games, and sharing other family traditions are all hygge. (Cell phones, bickering, and complaining are not!)

With illuminating examples and simple yet powerful advice, The Danish Way of Parenting will help parents from all walks of life raise the happiest, most well-adjusted kids in the world.

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Extra-parliamentarian political power and (social) media visibility

This article proposes a typology of extra-parliamentarian politics and access to parliament. On the basis of this, it discusses implications for reliance on (social) media visibility and its implications for (dis)empowerment. Theoretically, the article draws on media studies, social movement studies, political science and social theory, particularly conceptions of the public sphere, political participation, and visibility. Empirically, it draws on examples of extra-parliamentarian political actors with little or no access to parliament and policymakers and illustrates the ways in which reliance on social media visibility is influenced by an interplay between access to parliament and degree of anti-systemicism.

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Critical Thinking Is a Noble Endeavor

Paul (2018a, 2018b) discussed the concept of critical thinking in a series of American Annals of the Deaf editorials examining how critical thinking might serve as a “springboard” to deep knowledge or wisdom and wondering if critical thinking should be viewed as a noble endeavor or hopeless cause. Paul explored three questions in which he considered (a) types of critical thinkers, (b) teaching and evaluating critical thinking, and (c) empathy’s role in critical thinking. Responding to Paul, the author focuses on the same questions by summarizing Paul’s view, then following with his own. He also explores the question What is critical thinking? Mostly, the author’s views resemble Paul’s, but he elaborates on places where he thinks gaps or possible misunderstandings exist. The author concludes that critical thinking is indeed a noble endeavor because it is not just what you think that matters, but how you think.

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Towards a Critical Design Agenda in Support of Collective Learning Ecologies

This position paper seeks to chart a critical design agenda in support of collective learning ecologies, evolving assemblages of digital, spatial, social, cultural, and/or knowledge resources that are aimed to foster forms of collective learning and knowledge creation. Starting from an ecological perspective on learning, the paper challenges individualistic notions of learning and instrumental understandings of educational technology and argues that there is a need for educational formats and technologies capable to support learners engaged in epistemic endeavors that reach beyond established institutional boundaries and address them as responsible citizens. It is argued that there is a need (a) to take stock of new and alternative knowledge practices, (b) to reconsider the existing social, legal and technical protocols, standards, and infrastructures, (c) to cultivate social relations beyond institutional boundaries, as well as (d) to work towards a pedagogy of articulation and risk

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Compassion meditation enhances empathic accuracy and related neural activity

The ability to accurately infer others’ mental states from facial expressions is important for optimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, cognitive-based compassion training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy. Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT and were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). Moreover, changes in dmPFC and IFG activity from baseline to the post-intervention assessment were associated with changes in empathic accuracy. These findings suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it.

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Familiarity promotes the blurring of self and other in the neural representation of threat

Neurobiological investigations of empathy often support an embodied simulation account. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we monitored statistical associations between brain activations indicating self-focused threat to those indicating threats to a familiar friend or an unfamiliar stranger. Results in regions such as the anterior insula, putamen, and supramarginal gyrus indicate that self-focused threat activations are robustly correlated with friend-focused threat activations but not stranger-focused threat activations. These results suggest that one of the defining features of human social bonding may be increased levels of overlap between neural representations of self and other. This article presents a novel and important methodological approach to fMRI empathy studies, which informs how differences in brain activation can be detected in such studies and how covariate approaches can provide novel and important information regarding the brain and empathy.

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Posted in Empathy, Familiarity, Iinterpersonal relationships, Prosocial behavior | Tagged , , ,

Mothers’ personality traits and the climate for creativity they build with their children

Parents’ attitudes, behaviors, and traits are significant predictors of their children’s creative ability. Not much is known, however, about intentional actions taken by parents to develop and support children’s creativity. Based on a literature review and a pilot study (Kwaśniewska & Lebuda, 2017) we have formulated four factors that make up the climate for creativity in a parent-child relationship. To verify the construct empirically, we administered an originally designed questionnaire to mothers in Poland (N = 3073). The analysis of results confirms, as predicted, that the following factors contribute to the climate for creativity in the home environment: encouragement to experience novelty and variety, encouragement of nonconformism, support of perseverance in creative efforts, and encouragement to fantasize. Next, we investigated how mothers’ Big Five personality traits were linked to particular climate dimensions. Our findings show that openness to experience is the key positive predictor of mothers’ activities that shape the climate for creativity in her relationship with the child. The other Big Five traits are associated either positively or negatively with particular dimensions of the climate for creativity.

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Complexity theory

This book is designed to be an overview to the core concepts within complexity theory, presented in an intuitive form that should be accessible to anyone with an interest in the subject. Complexity theory is an exciting new area that is offering us a fresh perspective on many important issues, such as understanding our financial systems, ecosystems, and large social organizations. The aim of this book is to bring the often abstract and sophisticated concepts of this subject down to earth and understandable in an intuitive form. After starting with an overview to complex systems science and its context, we will focus on five of the core concepts within complexity theory.

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