Author Archives: joanbarbarasimon

About joanbarbarasimon

Dr (soon to be Dr Dr) Joan Barbara Travers Simon. Teacher, researcher, novelist, editor and more. As an author, I write adult-rated fiction for freethinkers. Explosive (multicultural) literary fiction with alpha protagonists locked in an erotic-psychological Kampf. Raw, funny, philosophical. Read my work (e.g. Verses Nature) and make your own mind up. I can also turn the heat level down. Long Time Walk On Water: 'a captivating multicultural historical novel with its splash of something quite unique, its touch of romance, reggae style, will win your heart forever.' I've been called many names: a wordsmith par excellence. A madwoman and literary terrorist. A magician. A truly fearless writer. I rather like all of these. I've also been called a woman with a dick. I like that one even more. As a scholar, I run an education blog for the general public. My special interest: the multilingual literacy development of young learners at home and school. Very little jargon. Lots of good ideas/data for free. I am also about to launch an online course for PhD students: The Academic Writer's Programme (AWP). A free mini version of this course will be on offer soon. Updates about this are on my website: www.joan-barbara-simon.com I love learning, asking questions, breaking the rules and giving you what you won't get anywhere else.

This could be so good, but…

 

This image could be so good, but…

I’d like it more if it said ‘yourselves’ and had a multicultural picture. My first thought when I saw this was:

Erm, am I invited to the party? I see this white woman on her throne, atop a tower/pyramid of words, a broad smile on her face.

This could be so good, but…

am I being touchy?

I remember the Jill and John books of my childhood. Of my children’s childhood. Hard to find pictures of people who looked like us.

This could be so good, but…

Why do we need a pic in the first place? Without the pic, the message would speak to everyone. Independent of race, gender, and all the labels that force us to wear a wrong image of the beautiful, diverse individuals we are. Without the pic of the woman (blond, well, now isn’t that a surprise!),  this would actually say what I think it really wants to say. The way it is now, it’s undermining the potential of its own statement.

 

This could be so good, but…

In The Name Of… (where freedom and abuse possibly cross)

Ever since I found this photo online (at Unsplash), it’s been on my mind. Is there a lot to like or a lot to hate about this photo? Ok, forgive that cheap and nasty dichotomy. Let me put it another way: how do you feel about this photo?  What are your first thoughts? What happens to these first thoughts when you take a closer look at them?

Is that potato with the red hair in the word ‘normal’ Donald Trump?

Girls just wanna have FUN, but do these youngsters want or even know the FUN that is being sung about in that particular song?

Viva the Vulva? Ok, my parents were shy. When I was the age of the girl holding that banner, I didn’t even know the word vulva or have a name at all for that part of my body that was always washed quickly and covered even more quickly.

 

I’m pretty sure that the words on the banners were not chosen by the girls themselves. What I’m not so sure about is whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

 

The questions I keep asking myself:

Can these girls read what they are holding up? Have the contents been explained to them? Who wrote these banners? What is the full context of this photo? What has been done for these (and other!) girls’ education regarding their sexual and civil rights? If these girls are not fully aware of what they are holding up, can it be argued that they are being abused?

Now, I know the good intentions being expressed here, but gosh, there’s something about this photo that makes me feel uncomfortable. What about you?

They say… I say…

THEY SAY:

50% of PhD students drop out. One reason why is because of the pressure doing a PhD puts on the relationship.

 

I SAY:

Rather than drop out, how’s about dropping your partner? If s/he can’t bear with you and support you during this testing phase, can you seriously reckon with them being there for you for life?

 

Problem? Solved!

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(Psst: for free, actionable and loyal support, the answer’s easy. Check it out.)

Research unlocks clues to language-based learning in children

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According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), one in five individuals are impacted by language-based learning disabilities — one of the most common being dyslexia, which involves difficulty in reading or interpreting words, letters and other symbols. Now, a new study from the University of Missouri that focuses on typically learning children, has found a link between “working memory” and how children learn. Researchers feel this discovery may later help educators uncover new ways to teach children with learning disabilities.

“Working memory, or the retention of a small amount of information that is readily available, is an integral aspect to learning,” said Nelson Cowan, a professor psychological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Our goal was to understand the structure of working memory and how it relates to language use and intelligence in children.”

 

Working memory is the small amount of information an individual holds in his or her mind at one time, Cowan says. For example, if an individual is listening to a story, he or she holds the beginning sentence or paragraph in his or her mind until the story continues to the point where the listener can make sense of it. Cowan believes that people with language disorders such as dyslexia may have a working memory deficit.

In the study, Cowan and his team used three different memory models to assess the relationship between working memory and learning in 168 typically developing second grade children. The children participated in an array of tests that challenged the visual-spatial, phonetic and auditory aspects of their working memory.

Results showed that an aspect of working memory referred to as the focus of attention was found to have a strong correlation with learning and intelligence. In his previous work, Cowan found that attention is a key component to working memory.

“Attention is vital to understanding phonetic sounds, reading words and solving mathematical problems,” Cowan said. “To help children with language learning disabilities, educators can reduce the amount of information that is given to a child at one time, allowing them to channel their attention onto one task instead of three or four.”

The study, “The Structure of Working Memory in Young Children and its Relation to Intelligence,” was published in the Journal of Memory and Language and was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIDCD #R01 DC010784). Shelley Gray, a professor of speech and hearing science in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University was first author on the study. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency.

The study, “The Structure of Working Memory in Young Children and its Relation to Intelligence,” was published in the Journal of Memory and Language.

when the past is never far behind: how preschoolers’ expectations shape how they interpret speech

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When we listen to people speak, we aren’t just hearing the sounds they’re making, we’re also actively trying to infer what they’re going to say. Someone might misspeak, forget a word, or be drowned out by background noise, and yet we often get their meaning anyway. This is because we use our past experience with language to hear what we expect them to say. Adults tend to manage this kind of “noisy channel” communication fairly easily, but new findings suggest 4- and 5-year-old children show the same adaptive ability.

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Children process language in a way that combines both the auditory signal that they hear and their expectations about what they are likely to hear, given what they know about the speaker,” says psychological scientist Daniel Yurovsky of the University of Chicago. “They are sensitive to how reliable the information sources are, and they can combine them in a way that respects this sensitivity.”

The idea that we integrate two sources of information – incoming perceptual data and expectations based on past experience – when we communicate with each other emerges from developments in machine learning.

“This framework–called the noisy-channel model–grew out of some foundational work in information theory, and now makes a big contribution to things like autocorrect and text-to-speech applications,” explains Yurovsky.

Yurovsky and colleagues Sarah Case and Michael C. Frank of Stanford University wanted to find out whether this noisy-channel model might also describe the way that children process language.

The researchers recruited 43 children (between 4 and 6 years old) and 50 adults to complete the same task. The participants saw pairs of pictures: in each pair, one picture showed a plausible scene and the other showed an implausible scene. At the same time, they heard a distorted recording, in which a speaker introduced as “Katie” described one of the pictures. The participants had to select which picture in each pair Katie was most likely describing.

For some participants, Katie described the plausible scene (e.g. “my cat has three little kittens”); for others, Katie described a similar but implausible scene (e.g. “my cat has three little hammers”).

In the second round of the task, the description implied by the two pictures was phonologically very similar, differing only by a single consonant or vowel sound (e.g., “I had carrots and peas for dinner” versus “I had carrots and bees for dinner”). In this round, Katie always referred to the implausible scene (“bees”).

The results showed that the preschoolers were able to incorporate what they had already learned about Katie in the first round when interpreting her description in the second round. If Katie typically described the plausible scene in the first round, they were more likely to think that she said “carrots and peas.”

But if Katie previously tended to describe the implausible scene, they wouldn’t “correct” her description in favor of the more logical picture – they assumed that she was referring to the implausible picture, however nonsensical it was.

“These findings show that children are not confined to trying to learn from the sounds they hear, but can use their expectations to try clean up some of the ambiguity in perceptual information using their expectations,” Yurovsky says.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers varied the amount of noise in the room when Katie was talking. The noisy channel framework predicts that as speech becomes more difficult to hear–like on a poor cell phone connection–we should rely more on our expectations. And preschool-age children did exactly this: They adapted their responses to Katie’s ambiguous descriptions according to both their previous experience and the noise level in the room.

Overall, the fact that such expectations played such a strong role in the preschoolers’ decision making surprised the researchers:

“It’s pretty common in this kind of work to show that young children have some competence early, but usually if you compare them to adults you find that the effect is much larger in adults,” explains Yurovsky. “Not so here: At least by 5, and at least in this task, children adjust their expectations about what speakers are saying to the same degree as adults do.”

The researchers hope to conduct additional studies to investigate noisy-channel processing in younger children.

“We hope our ongoing research will help us to understand how children become an active part of the acquisition process–not just as perceivers of their input, but as contributors to it,” Yurovsky concludes.

 

(Originally posted PsyPost.)