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Monday, May 31, 2010

Speaking to the Humanist Association of Toronto

I’ll be speaking to the Humanist Association of Toronto in mid June.

Saturday, June 12
1:30 – 3:00
OISE, 252 Bloor St W, Room 2-213


The talk will be mostly about The Gender Divide but I may discuss other works in progress depending on time and interest.

The event is open to all so if you live in the GTA or are visiting, feel free to drop by.

If you have any questions about Humanism, leave them in the comments section or email me , and I’ll pose them to the group.

Hope to see you there.

posted by David at 6:00 am  

Monday, May 31, 2010

One eReader per Child

I came across this article and it appears that the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project has succumbed to the recent tablet frenzy. While I applaud the concept I can’t help but wonder if a tablet is the best way to go. Admittedly there are some valid reasons for moving from a laptop to a tablet. A tablet has fewer moving parts and the lack of a physical keyboard allows language issues to be addressed by software as opposed to hardware. However the article got me thinking - what is OLPC trying to accomplish? So I looked up their mission statement.

To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

There seems to be two main elements to the mission statement - collaboration and learning. Admittedly a networked device lends itself to collaboration but when it comes to learning there are other options. What about an eReader? I’m not suggesting that eReaders replace the laptop or tablet but it could be a good way to supplement or enhance the program. Perhaps it could be one eReader per child and one (or more) laptop per village.

The One Laptop Per Child project has its share of skeptics, who have questioned everything from the possibility of manufacturing a laptop for $100 to the point of computers in countries that lack basic infrastructure.

An eReader could help address both the cost and infrastructure issue. I did a little searching and found a group called Worldreader.org. While any eReader could be used, the Kindle, which is the eReader used by Worldreader.org, is the perfect choice for this program due its ability to use existing mobile phone networks to provide new and updated content.

Worldreader.org is developing the systems and the partnerships to get e-readers — and the life-changing, power-creating ideas contained in e-books — into the hands and minds of people in the developing world, where profit-seeking entities are not focused.

It seems to me like Worldreader.org and OLPC have a lot in common. While any program of this nature is to be applauded, it would be a shame if the assistance became too fragmented to benefit those who need it the most. Certainly it appears that some synergies could be obtained if these two groups worked together. Worldreader.org is just getting started and there are a number of challenges that a group like OLPC has likely experienced and could help with. In turn the OLPC project could benefit from the trials and experience that Worldreader.org has already garnered regarding eReader use.

posted by David at 12:01 am  

Monday, May 24, 2010

Teen Mums?

I came across this article about ‘teen mums’ quite a while ago and while I didn’t agree with the premise of it I wasn’t sure about how to approach it. I saved the article for future consideration but didn’t do anything else.

Then I  came across this article about how

“…female workers feel pressure to furiously climb the career ladder before taking time off to start a family.”

The approach of this article was almost the antithesis of the article about teen mums but the heart of both articles deals with the challenge of balancing having a family and having a career.

The article about teen mums postulates the idea of having children before having a career.  Physically it’s the best time for it but there is more to having a child than just getting pregnant. Leaving aside issues like postpartum depression, having a child is extremely demanding no matter how you measure it - physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, or even sociologically. While many teens may be fully capable of ‘running a home’, how many teens can afford a home in the first place?

The article states, presumably tongue in cheek,

“…show me a fortysomething working mother who doesn’t feel exhausted and overwhelmed and I will show you a woman on very effective mood stabilizers.”

To me it seems fairly clear that the added mental and emotional maturity, not to mention the financial resources, afforded by the additional twenty-six plus years would make a world of difference in how the fortysomething working mother deals with issues as opposed to how the teen mom, with limited resources, education, and perspective, deals with the same issues.

On the other side of the coin, the article about the ‘pre-mommy mentality’ advocates the opposite approach. Work harder.

Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Toronto-based Women’s Executive Network, which offers career mentoring programs, says she encounters women on a daily basis who are racing for career advancement while they’re in their late 20s and early 30s.

“The No. 1 question I find in our mentoring programs is ‘How do I do it all? How do I have a great career and be a
mom?’ ”

Her advice: Put in the extra work early on.

Wow. Talking about being caught in the middle.

This is something that has always fascinated me as a science fiction writer and was one of the ideas running in the back of my mind while I was writing The Gender Divide. With an extended life span, it would be possible for both parents to take a hiatus from work and take the time to raise a child. As it stands now, too many people have children then leave the raising of them to strangers. As one of the women in the ‘pre-mummy mentality” article states…

“So I kept working harder … so that one day I could at least pay for someone else to raise them…”

I honestly don’t know the answer is or what the best time to have children is but I’m hopeful that one day society and perhaps even technology will help us find the solution.

posted by David at 8:36 am  

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