SOCIAL PRAGMATICS ON VIDEO CALLS: “Distant Socializing,” Distance Learning and Working From Home!

ScreenShot Houseparty

I have always Zoomed and Skyped at work and done the occasional FaceTime, but in the past week I have spent A LOT of time on HouseParty, MessengerKids, GoogleHangouts, and Zoom. I have “HousePartied” with my friends on St. Patrick’s Day, and with my girlfriends from college on my BFF’s birthday. Maryellen and I held a Zoom webinar yesterday for 1098 teachers and specialists, Casey onlineand we have Zoomed with our friend and colleague in New Zealand many times. My 6-year-old daughter even got on “MessengerKids” (a Facebook app) yesterday and now video calls me on a whim, along with video chatting with her friends.

Zoom screenshot

Casey and Maryellen photo

Social Communication is essential to people. Humans are social beings and our “social relationships—both quantity and quality—affect mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk” (Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. [2010]. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior, 51 Suppl]Suppl], S54–S66. Sage Journals). Although there are some technical hurdles, I cannot imagine being in this type of “stay at home” situation without these technical means of staying in contact with others – beyond phone, text, email, and social media. Being on these platforms can be productive professionally and for distance learning. They can be engaging and also fun. However, we still have to pay attention to social norms and social pragmatics.

Professionals in the field of education and mental health know that some children and adults “have significant problems using verbal and nonverbal communication for social purposes, leading to impairments in their ability to effectively communicate, participate socially, maintain social relationships, or otherwise perform academically or occupationally.” The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) deemed this Social (pragmatic) Communication Disorder (SCD). For those students, distance learning and “distant socializing” might be particularly challenging. They will need instruction and modeling around this new mode of learning.

Pragmatics is one of the strands of oral language upon which Story Grammar Marker® is built. It is foundational to narrative development and being able to “tell your story.” Pragmatics is simply, “Who says What to Whom and in What manner.” It is defined as “the range of communicative functions (reason for talking), the frequency of communication, discourse skills (turn taking, topic maintenance and change requests for clarification), the flexibility to modify language for different listeners and social situations and the ability to convey a coherent and informative narrative” (Paul, Norbury, 2000, Language Disorders from Infancy Through Adolescence, p28 ).

When writing the Story Grammar Marker® Manual, and knowing the importance of Pragmatics to narrative development, Maryellen included a Pragmatic's Chart – and it comes in quite handy!

MindWing Pragmatics chart

In relation to being on a video conference or video call, many aspects of this the definition of pragmatics as well as the points on this chart are HIGHLY relevant and helpful:

  • What is the reason/purpose for the call (communication function)?
  • Is there a planned procedure or protocol for topic maintenance, asking for clarification or taking turns to speak?
  • Are you able to “code switch” from HouseParty with friends to Zoom/GoogleClassroom/ GoogleHangout with colleagues, a teacher or SLP?
  • Are you close enough to the camera – or TOOCLOSE?
  • Is there enough or proper lighting?
  • Are you looking at the screen?
  • Are you crumbling papers or running water or talking to family in the background (creating extra noise)?
  • Can your conversational partner hear you? Is there a protocol for technical problems?
  • Are you nodding, smiling, looking confused and otherwise giving non-verbal feedback to the speaker?
  • Are you using an appropriate tone of voice and gestures?

Please keep all of this in mind as our social interaction using these modes increases during our time at home during the COVID19 crisis and beyond. Share it with colleagues, students, family, friends and children. It is a great reference for all of us, as professionals and personally, as we ALL participate more and more in video conferencing, distance learning and "distant socializing."


Sheila Moreau
Sheila Moreau

Author

Sheila M. Moreau, M.Ed. is vice president at MindWing Concepts. Her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology is from St. Anselm College and Master’s of Education degree from Cambridge College. Sheila has twenty years of experience in marketing and sales in the telecommunications, commercial real estate, fundraising and educational publishing industries. Sheila co-authored The Essential SGM® with Maryellen Moreau, drawing upon her experience in her graduate studies. Sheila was on the Early Literacy Advisory Board of Cherish Every Child (Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation),; she sits on the Board of Directors for the International VolleyBall Hall of Fame and serves as Co-Chair of Marketing and Sponsorship for the St. Patrick’s Committee of Holyoke, Inc.



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