Down the Lane: Socialising and Socialisation

Most Saturday mornings we have a family visit to Dojo Bakery in Braidwood.

I was particularly aware of it being a family occasion this Saturday.

My early morning read, thanks to my wife Sue’s find, was a story in The Guardian about Parent Gym.

In his post, Robert Booth pointed out that:

Parent Gym is one of 15 organisations that will deliver the lessons for mums and dads as part of a trial which is expected to reach over 50,000 parents. Others include Barnardo’s, Save the Children and the National Childbirth Trust.

He concluded his post with this observation:

A recent study led by the National University of Ireland involving academics from England and Wales examined the impact of parental training on 636 people involving children aged from three to 12. It concluded “group-based parenting programmes improve childhood behaviour problems and the development of positive parenting skills in the short-term, whilst also reducing parental anxiety, stress and depression”. The cost of around £1,700 per family was “modest when compared with the long-term social, educational and legal costs associated with childhood conduct problems”.

This post became a topic of conversation at Dojos.

It was a beautiful morning. Some people were sitting in the sun shooting the breeze:


Bronwyn and Helen were selling vegetables:

supporting shopping experience

and offering a tutorial on QR Codes!

I wondered if Saturday at Dojo’s could be a great example for the Parent Gym. There is socialising … and socialisation.

Young children play, people sit and chat whilst observing this play.

I think there is something magical about this and I often equate Dojo’s Lane with Diagon Alley.

Today there was an even stronger synergy. The Parent Gym founder is Octavius Black … a Harry Potter type name if ever I heard one.

Playing, Building, Flourishing

I listened to Radio National’s Future Tense program this morning.

By good fortune I heard Daniel Donahoo talk about the Robots in School project.

I was fascinated by Daniel’s conversation with Antony Funnell on Future Tense. I followed up some links to the project and read a description that resonated very strongly with me:

The study uses storytelling and illustration to explore, across several dimensions, how children might like to interact with robots in a variety of situations related to school and learning. In addition to capturing wonderfully inventive, vivid narratives and robot concepts, we’re looking for insights into how children think about the intersections of play, creativity, learning, and social interaction – insights that could inform next-generation learning content and technologies, and more generally, how we think about where and how learning could happen.

This took me to the Lego Learning Institute and its exploration of play … and onto Lego Mindstorms.

Ian Schulte has provided some additional information about the Robot project. I liked discovering that:

Across the stories we’ve received, kids are quick to recognize their creative and sophisticated thinking skills, and also are incredibly aware of the limitations of their “kidness” where creative expression is concerned. Those limitations can be stifling. While robots might not help kids be more creative (though that’s quite possibly the case), they can certainly remove a major obstacle to creative exploration and risk-taking by helping kids refine, re-frame and communicate their ideas.

I was even more interested to read that:

While we’ve focused specifically on kids in this study, the findings ring true far more broadly. As a parting note, and very much related to the theme of personal empowerment and self-expression, a recent 60 Minutes episode provided a very moving view of the transformative impact of technology on people with autism, essentially unlocking communications possibilities that weren’t previously possible.

(More news of transformative impact can be found at ICare4Autism in this post)

This week I have been thinking about Makerspaces. It was wonderful to catch a tantalising glimpse of work underway at Latitude Research host to the Robot Project and discover the awe inspiring diversity of media projects there.

Photo Credit

Robots in Action

From Gambol to Gamble and Back Again

I have been thinking about gambling and drinking recently.

Not as personal life choice but …

I have been wondering what I can do to support initiatives that mitigate the effects of both activities.

I believe profoundly in the cultural benefits of play and note that ‘to gambol’ is ‘to jump about in play’.

There has been considerable debate in Australia about the growing presence of betting messages on televised sporting events. This involves a different kind of ‘gamble’.

At a press conference on the 27 May held to report events at the COAG Select Council on Gambling, Stephen Conroy said:

… all of the Ministers have agreed that we should put forward proposals, ultimately possibly legislation, to reduce and control the promotion of in-game betting. There’s a very insidious culture starting to develop that is targeting the vulnerable and the young as they’re attending sporting events, as they’re watching on television sporting events, and all Ministers felt that this was a very necessary step for the Commonwealth to take.

There are a variety of issues that we will seek to have discussions with the industry about, to discuss the scope of this. And all Ministers also agreed the racing industry should be exempt from this process as the betting goes to the whole integrity of what the racing industry does, how it raises it funds, how it provides its money. So racing is exempt and all Ministers were very in agreement on that. So we’re going to give the broadcasting industry twelve months to resolve these issues, to introduce self-regulation. And if they are not able to or are unwilling to, we will be introducing legislation dated from today, the start date will be today, to reduce and control the promotion of live betting odds.

Three days later (30 May) DrinkWiseAustralia announced the establishment of a partnership with the Sport Australia Hall of Fame to develop the Under Your Influence campaign “that picks up on the crucial role parents and other influential adults play as role models”. The campaign has seven sporting ambassadors and more information about John Bertrand, Robert de Castella, Liz Ellis, Mike McKay, Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Andrew Rochford, and Sue Stanley’s participation can be found here.

I think both announcements are very important. Some sports receive significant income from gambling and alcohol sponsorship. Given the importance attached to sport as a character-building activity and its potential to embody moral education, I believe that any attempt to bring the gambol back into play is to be welcomed.

The alternative is to accept that some play has become display and spectacle and to accept a completely different rationale for sporting behaviour. If we do accept the display and spectacle argument and move to a different form of activity then, as Norbert Elias suggested in The Civilizing Process, societies must be vigilant about the thresholds to repugnance that characterise them.


This post was written on International Children’s Day. It is interesting to note that Wikipedia has the following entry for Australia: “Children’s Day is the second Sunday in July, but is not widely known or celebrated”.

Photo Credit

Boys playing basketball outside