Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Mindfulness training and employee well-being

an article by Nadine Joelle Mellor and Anne-Helen Harding (Work Psychology, Health and Safety Laboratory, Buxton, UK) and Leanne Ingram, Marc Van Huizen and John Arnold (Institute of Work Psychology, The University of Sheffield, UK)


The purpose of this paper is to assess the effects of mindfulness training (MT) on employee well-being. Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, actions and surroundings in the present moment.

The authors used pre-post training measures and a four-week follow-up on a sample of 23 employees from a UK-based organization. The MT group (n=12) received a weekly two-hour training over eight weeks whilst the control group (n=11) received no training. Qualitative interviews (n=36) were conducted with the MT group at three time points to further assess the subjective experiences of training participants.

Compared to the control group, the MT group significantly increased their mindfulness skills including observing and acting with awareness. Scores on well-being, i.e. satisfaction with life, hope and anxiety also improved and were generally maintained at follow-up. Some improvements were seen in the control group too but there was a larger difference in change scores in the MT group on most variables. Qualitative data show additional benefits of MT such as improved concentration at work and better interpersonal relationships. More practice at home led to greater benefits suggesting a dose-response relationship between the amount of practice and substantial benefits.

Research limitations/implications
Inviting participants to have a greater amount of practice between sessions may further increase the benefits of mindfulness. Future research should consider a longer follow-up period to further explore the sustainability of the training benefits.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this study showed that MT is a viable psychological intervention for enhancing employee well-being.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The purpose and value of higher education: an economic perspective

an article by Yu Peng Lin (affiliation unknown) published in International Journal of Economics and Accounting Volume 7 Number 1 (2016)


The purpose of this research is to understand the rationality of applying the concept of return on investment in valuing higher education from the perspective of economics.

Higher education serves its own unique purposes. Instead of attempting to directly define the purpose of higher education, economists more frequently try to tackle the question from the output side by trying to figure out how to value the outcome of college education. Yet, there are some uncertainties in the higher education system, which lead to the observed heterogeneous market price on the graduates. We show that while the market achieves equilibrium, the market wage tends to be equal to the graduate's expected productivity.

The data of the median earnings for adults during the years 2005-2013 confirms that the market institutes value on higher education. Overall, the results of this study shed some light on justifying the use of return on investment in the task of valuing college education.

And yet more "trivial" items

Donald Duck taught me how to play billiards
via Boing Boing by Michael Borys
Before the age of YouTube, you cherished the chance to see a rerun – and you had to take notes.
Are you too young to remember the television series, The Wonderful World Of Disney? It ran once a week and you never knew what you were going to get. It may have been a classic Disney film, a live action tour of the Disney parks or a set of animated shorts.
If you've never seen the show, you're probably also unfamiliar with Donald In Mathmagic Land.
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Against Honeymoons
via 3 Quarks Daily: Charles Comey in The Point
The honeymoon as we know it, the postnuptial trip for two, hasn’t been around all that long. In the nineteenth century there was something called a “bridal tour,” where newlyweds would travel, sometimes accompanied by friends and family, to visit relatives who hadn’t been able to attend the wedding. The bridal tour made sense when a marriage was much more about social ties and the joining of two families than it is now: the pair journeyed not as tourists but as a tour. At the turn of the century couples began to adapt the bridal tour to make it a private pleasure trip instead. In Marriage, a History Stephanie Coontz talks about the transition from bridal tour to honeymoon as part of a larger revolution in the form of family life in general: the increasing interiority and privacy of the family unit, as well as marriage becoming obsessively all about the two individuals and their bond.
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The Man With No Name, my role model for life
via Boing Boing by Michael Borys
Read the story for yourself

Man of Steel: 1942
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
May 1942
“Denver, Colorado. Interior of a shipbuilding plant, showing workman who previously assembled incubator parts and amusement park devices, now working on hulls and decks of escort vessels. He and his co-workers will be invited to Mare Island, 1,300 miles away, to help launch the ships they are building’
4x5 nitrate negative for the Office of War Information
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Is This New Swim Stroke the Fastest Yet?
via 3 Quarks Daily: Regan Penaluna in Nautilus
Humans are land animals, and not natural swimmers. We have to learn how to swim, and it is up to us to find the fastest way to do so. The search may finally be coming to an end. In the last few decades, stroke mechanic experts have discovered that swimming under the surface is faster than swimming on the surface. “It’s hard to fathom that this could happen in track and field,” says Rick Madge, a swim coach and blogger. “Nobody is going to come up with a new way of running that is going to be faster than anything else. Yet we just did that in swimming.” And the fish kick may be the fastest subsurface form yet.
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A tiny instrument with a tremendous history: the piccolo
via OUP Blog by Dani Mermelstein
Although often overlooked, the piccolo is an important part of the woodwind instrument family. This high-pitched petite woodwind packs a huge punch. Historically, the piccolo had no keys, but over the years, it has transformed into an instrument similar in fingering and form to the flute. It still serves as a unique asset to the woodwinds.
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The most amazing building in the world was started in 1883 – still not finished building it
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
One of the most amazing things I've ever seen was Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The basilica looks like a giant drippy asymmetrical sandcastle. Gaudi started working on it in 1883. He was still working on it in 1926 when a tram ran over him and killed him. It was not complete when I visited it 20 years ago. This video shows what Sagrada Familia will look like when it is complete in 2026 (this is wishful thinking on their part). In a way, I hope they keep working on Sagrada Familia for as long as intelligent lifeforms exist on Earth - it's a worthy Long Now project.

Gay Berlin
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ian P. Beacock in The Point
One evening in October 1905, when most Berliners were bundled away at home, Kurt Hiller wandered alone through the Tiergarten. Well, not quite alone. Walking in the southeast corner of the park between Lennéstraße and the Brandenburg Gate, the nineteen-year-old law student found himself boxed in by silhouettes: men searching the shadows for the company of other men, the “warm brothers” (warme Brüder) for which Berlin was so well-known. It was Hiller’s first visit to the city’s most notorious cruising ground, but he quickly found what he was looking for. He sat down on a bench next to a wiry man perhaps ten years his senior, rakish and mysterious in the moonlight. The law student wasted little time with small talk; he asked about the most important things. The man raised his arm and flexed. “I checked for myself,” Hiller recalled. “His bicep was broad, curved, and strong as steel.” Returning to the apartment of his anonymous lover, Hiller noticed with some distaste that the man’s body was quilted with tattoos. This was a man of the outskirts: a sailor or a criminal, a soldier or a circus performer. Taken briefly aback, the law student was rapidly overcome by lust for the man’s taut, sculpted frame. He let the door to the hallway close behind him
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Good stories of bad Bloomsbury behaviour
via Arts & Letters Daily: Anne Chisholm in Spectator
Bunny Garnett and Henrietta Bingham may have been borderline members of the Group, but they made up for it with their scandalous escapades, as Sarah Knights and Emily Bingham reveal
In March 1923 a large birthday party was held in a studio in Bloomsbury. It is often assumed that the eponymous Group was habitually glum or intense; but there were a lot of parties. The artists were Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and the birthday was David Garnett’s 31st. David (known as Bunny) was a handsome, fair-haired fellow of bisexual charm, beloved by Grant, among others. His second novel, Lady into Fox, inspired and illustrated by his wife, Ray, had been a literary sensation the year before.
Continue reading (fascinating stuff)

Severed heads on the Elizabethan stage
via OUP Blog by Michael J. Hirrel
On Tower Hill, 25 February 1601, Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was beheaded with three blows of an axe before some 150 spectators. The headsman held the head up for the spectators to see. He called out, “God save the Queen”. This beheading and others of that time color an important question for Shakespeare scholars. Severed heads populate many Elizabethan period plays. What objects represented those heads on stage? Elizabethan acting companies did, as we know from the records of theatre owner Philip Henslowe, employ realistic stage properties. But all stage performances require audience imagination. So might the heads have been pumpkins or were they in fact realistic representations of the actors themselves.
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Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation

an article by David H Autor (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts) published in Journal of Economic Prospects Volume 29 Number 3 (Summer 2015)


In this essay, I begin by identifying the reasons that automation has not wiped out a majority of jobs over the decades and centuries. Automation does indeed substitute for labor as it is typically intended to do. However, automation also complements labor, raises output in ways that leads to higher demand for labor, and interacts with adjustments in labor supply. Journalists and even expert commentators tend to overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities between automation and labor that increase productivity, raise earnings, and augment demand for labor. Changes in technology do alter the types of jobs available and what those jobs pay.

In the last few decades, one noticeable change has been a "polarization" of the labor market, in which wage gains went disproportionately to those at the top and at the bottom of the income and skill distribution, not to those in the middle; however, I also argue, this polarization is unlikely to continue very far into future.

The final section of this paper reflects on how recent and future advances in artificial intelligence and robotics should shape our thinking about the likely trajectory of occupational change and employment growth. I argue that the interplay between machine and human comparative advantage allows computers to substitute for workers in performing routine, codifiable tasks while amplifying the comparative advantage of workers in supplying problem-solving skills, adaptability, and creativity.

JEL Codes: E24, J22, J23, J24, J31, O31

Full text (PDF 29pp)

The effects of father’s worklessness on young adults in the UK

an article by Wouter Zwysen (Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex) published in IZA Journal of European Labor Studies Volume 4 Number 2 (2015)


Using the United Kingdom household longitudinal study (UKHLS), this paper shows the effect of experiencing a father being out of work on a range of labour market outcomes as young adults.

Children of non-working fathers work less and are less satisfied while working despite similar wages and contract types.

A sensitivity analysis shows that this effect of father’s worklessness is robust to the inclusion of strong unobserved confounders, indicating non-spuriousness. Support is found for the idea that young adults who grew up experiencing their father’s worklessness develop a different, less negative attitude, towards being out of work.

JEL codes: J620, J640, J30

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Friday, 22 July 2016

The co-dependent relationship of technology and communities

an article by Daniel W. Surry* and Fredrick W. Baker III (Auburn University, AL, USA) published in British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 47 Issue 1 (January 2016)


Technology is one the defining features of humanity. It is ubiquitous in modern society and plays an important role in nearly everything that humans do. New technologies frequently spur our imagination, can evoke powerful emotions and often serve as the topic of heated debate. Many people are in awe of the power and potential of new technologies while others fear its increasing importance in human life.

New technologies can create new employment opportunities, spawn new businesses and even revitalize entire economies. Conversely, they can cause unemployment, destroy long-standing organizations and lead to global economic upheaval. While technology undoubtedly impacts people and societies in profound ways, people and societies also impact the development and use of technologies. The intelligence, dedication and support of numerous people, businesses and social groups are needed to develop even relatively simple technologies. Once developed, new technologies rely on a myriad of economic, social, human and political forces for their continued use and expansion.

The field of learning technologies serves as an important and interesting case in which to explore the complex relationship between technology and society. In this paper, we will provide an overview of some of the most important philosophical and theoretical views of the relationship between technology and social systems, describe key issues related to the topic that are important for Learning Technologists to consider, and provide a series of recommendations for research and practice.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Careers guidance and social mobility in UK higher education: practitioner perspectives

an article by Fiona Christie (University of Salford, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance and Counselling Volume 44 Number 1 (January 2016)


This paper reveals findings from a small-scale research project which explored how university careers advisers experience their role in guiding clients within a labour market where barriers to social mobility prevail. The research discovers that advisers' daily work gives them a depth of insight into social mobility.

The professional turbulence in which advisers operate and the evolution of their role from in-depth work to a focus on breadth is chronicled. University environments vary with regard to the scope advisers have to impact lives, but a strong set of values anchors them.

Recommendations are made with regard to how high quality careers information, advice and guidance can support social mobility for traditionally disadvantaged students into the labour market.