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Clothes Make the Woman

I’m old school. I think that people should dress (and dress up) for their job. I believe that making a good first impression is important in life as well as business. But I also firmly believe that whatever standards exist for clothes – formal or casual – should apply equally to men and women. Maybe I’m progressive there, because it seems that many don’t think so.

Watching the US Open this week, the existence of double standards was brought up in the old school world of tennis. Alizé Cornet, realizing she had mistakenly put her t-shirt on backwards, quickly stripped to her bra and put her shirt back on while on court. She got a warning from the umpire for unsportsmanlike conduct. This was reversed by the US Open organization, but the call was particularly noteworthy as it came in a week when the men were stripping down frequently in New York’s horrible heat. It also came after the administrators of the French Open announced they were starting up a tennis dress code, singling out Serena Williams’ catsuit as inappropriate and “going too far.”  While the dress code will apply to all players, the move seems to be a reaction to what a woman wore.

In schools, I’ve seen similar things. In my last school, students protested the dress code, particularly a rule against bare shoulders. The rule particularly affected girls, as boys who wore sleeveless shirts were often ignored. The students were heard, but their proposals for a gender-neutral dress code were rejected for being too permissive. This is fairly typical in schools: dress codes tend to target girls more than boys and tend to be quite restrictive. Shoulders, belly buttons, and upper legs cannot be shown. The worry is that the boys will be distracted.

This year, my daughter is doing online schooling. She’s delighted that her dress code is whatever she wants to wear. If her shirt gets shrunk in the dryer and shows off her belly button, it doesn’t matter. If she wants to wear her tennis shorts and they don’t reach down past her fingertips, nobody is going to be shocked.

It’s a shame that her old classmates will have to face such regulations. The girls will, anyway. The boys seem to be given a pass. Or at least they’re not policed as much.

If it’s OK for a male tennis player to take his shirt off to cool down, it should be OK for a female tennis player to take her shirt off to switch it around. If it’s OK for a boy to wear sleeveless shirts, it should be OK for a girl.


Finding the Technology Balance during Holidays


Many parents (and teachers) fear the “summer slump.” Classes are over, kids are at home, and parents still need to work. It’s easy for children to spend their days glued to the TV or playing games on a tablet or just goofing off on a computer. They worry about children keeping their learning going during the summer, so they assign books to read, find educational apps, have their children do keyboarding practice, do lessons on educational websites, etc.

children-playing-329234_1280This can exacerbate the sedentary life of children during the holidays. Kids might wind up sitting and doing screen-based activities …when they also need to get outside and run around, dig in the dirt or a sandbox, play games with other children, etc.

What’s a parent to do? How can we keep our children learning and creating, while also being active and enjoying themselves?

For me, the key word is balance. It’s OK for kids (or adults!) to slob out in front of the TV for a while. It’s OK for kids (or adults!) to spend hours playing games on a tablet or game machine. It’s OK for kids to do any activity that doesn’t actually hurt them. It really only becomes problematical when that’s all that they do.

So let me add my comments to the numerous articles (here’s a very good one) about how to manage your children’s use of technology during the summer time, and offer two basic rules:

Use limits to keep a balance

Talk with your child(ren) about the need for balance. (It’s part of the ICS Learner Profile!) Don’t judge activities, but emphasize that everything needs to be balanced out. Broccoli is good for you, but if that’s all you eat then you won’t get complete nutrition. Reading books is a good activity, but if your children spend their entire summer doing nothing but read books, they would lack physical exercise, social interactions, etc.

Don’t set arbitrary limits, but let your child(ren) help establish how they will keep a balance. Maybe you can set some times as “videogame time.” Maybe they will vary activities by day (Monday=Minecraft. Tuesday=table tennis. Wednesday=water play…). Maybe they can balance hours (“I’ll spend three hours playing on my iPad and then go outside for three hours.”) Let your child(ren) establish the rules and they’ll be more willing to follow them!

Note that if you are traveling, setting such limits when you’re out of your normal routines can be more difficult. Take a look at this article for some tips on how to keep some balance on technology use while traveling. Again, the main idea is balance.

the-young-713333_640Embrace technology

Technology is not evil. Videogames are not bad for children. Playing on iPads is not a waste of time. Smartphones are not causing people to become stupid. In and of themselves, any technology tool is neither good nor bad. (The history of technology-bashing has a long history. Socrates railed against the horrible new technology of writing, saying it would ruin people’s memories!)

Parents who embrace technology help their children use tech well, share in the excitement and enjoyment, and participate in the various activities. Some parents embrace it wholeheartedly, while others merely allow it and enable it.

What can you do? You can use technology to extend your child(ren)’s learning. There are various good guides to apps and learning tools – CommonSenseMedia is a great site for parents that has a lot of great information, including a summer learning guide. (My advice: go for the tools that allow for creativity, not “drill & kill” skill-building apps that function like electronic worksheets.)

You can creatively use the technology itself. I’ve given my daughter the challenge of building an electronic book about our summer travels. She’ll use our iPad to take photos and videos, write descriptions, etc. and put them together into an e-book she can share with family. (It’ll also give her something to do and focus on while visiting castles & museums and help her get focused on what’s around her.)

And you can participate in the technology. Kids on Facebook? Ask them what they’re posting. Show interest and excitement. If they’ve found a funny video, laugh and enjoy the joke. Being part of their lives is a big part of parenting …it also helps when the inevitable conflicts come up. They’ll know that you’re not just about telling them what not to do, but you also appreciate things they do.

blow-bubbles-668950_640Remember: part of the reason that children need a break from school is so that they can play. Play is important for children’s healthy development – whether they are 3 years old or 13 years old!

Playing outside by kicking a ball or digging in the dirt or playing tag with friends is healthy, fun and a valuable learning experience. So is building structures in Minecraft, making movies on a tablet, or even organizing armies in World of Warcraft.

Enjoy your summer break!

In the Internet We Trust ????

by geralt (Pixabay) – license CC0 (public domain)

A recent event highlighted the importance of checking the credibility of information published on the internet.  An anonymous blog reported Ebola cases in Kenya and Ethiopia, causing concern among many people in Ethiopia, including ICS community members.

A quick check of the site found it not to be a credible source of information. It was the only site reporting the case in Ethiopia, and it has a strong anti-government bias. The Ethiopian government denied that the report was true. That denial was then backed up by various other organizations including the US Center for Disease Control and the US Embassy. The Kenyan incident was reported in other media outlets, but the case was confirmed to not be Ebola.

This event highlights some of the important critical thinking skills that are needed when getting information on the internet:

Be sceptical about anything that sounds strange

Anybody can publish anything online. For example, did you know that the US Government has kept a Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency to protect US citizens from attacks by the undead? It’s true! You can read all about it online. (Spoiler alert: it’s not true – this is a humorous site.)

Similarly, email messages or Facebook posts that tell you that the moon will be ten times larger than normal, or that Bill Gates will send you $1,000 if you forward a message or that if you open a particular email message your computer will explode or… these simply aren’t true. People send out all kinds of wacky information and there are no Internet Police stopping them. This kind of gossip, rumor-mongering, and spreading of false information has always happened. It’s just with the internet, it’s easy to spread it faster and further.

Chances are, if something sounds wrong …it probably is.

Check the credibility of the source

PD Pics (Pixabay) - license CC0
PD Pics (Pixabay) – license CC0

When you read something online, you need to know who is publishing this information. Are they trying to promote a particular viewpoint? There is a website about the American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. which describes all kinds of unpleasant aspects of his personal life. Read through the site, and you’ll wonder why people admire him …until you find out that the website is maintained by a racist white supremacy organization. (I won’t link to the website because I don’t want to increase their traffic, but you can find it easily on the web if you want to read it.)

Check whether a website has a bias. If they are trying to convince you to believe a particular thing, then they won’t give you balanced information. They also may skew the facts or even blatantly misrepresent information in order to further their cause.

Verify the information somewhere else

If one site publishes some information, is it published on another site? If something is only found on one place on the web, then it may not be correct.

Even if you do find the information elsewhere, you need to make sure that it’s not just repeating the first site. A while back, there was a report that the Ethiopian government was banning Skype and other internet calling applications. This report spread out and was reported on several news sites …but they were all simply copying the initial report (which was by an activist group that had an agenda). In the end, the report turned out to be false.

There are a few websites that are devoted to trying to stop the spread of misinformation.  Snopes is probably the best source to use …I always use it to check email messages I receive that make strange claims. Others include Hoax-Slayer and Truth or Fiction. The Straight Dope is also an excellent site that tries to fight ignorance and misinformation.


There is a wealth of information on the web, and it’s great to have access to it all. Use it. Enjoy it. But think critically about the information you find. Just because it’s published on a website, just because Google offers it to you when you search for information, doesn’t mean that is reliable. Use the web. But check your facts.