The following articles were authored by Stephanie Medley-Rath

Looking for Research Participants on Telling About Sensory Processing Disorder

Are you a parent or caregiver of a child with diagnosed or suspected sensory processing disorder or “sensory issues”? Do you write about sensory processing disorder on public websites (e.g, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, Mommyish, Babble, Baby Center Blog), your personal blog, or on social media?

If so, I would like to invite you to participate in a research study on talking about sensory processing disorder conducted by Stephanie Medley-Rath, a sociologist at Indiana University Kokomo. You are invited to complete a survey and participate in a private, online focus group on Facebook. This research explores how people make the invisible visible. In particular, I aim to learn how parents, caregivers, and individuals disclose invisible conditions (i.e., sensory processing disorder) in various settings. I intend to have participants describe how they make their child’s invisible condition visible to their child’s teachers, doctors, parents of friends, neighbors, other family, among others. The purpose of this study is to examine the content (i.e., what) and the process (i.e., how) of narratives about sensory processing disorder.

If you would like to participate, please contact Stephanie Medley-Rath at I will then send you an email with more details about your participation, an attachment of the informed consent document for your review, and a link to the survey to begin your participation. Thank you!

OER Syllabus

If you scanned the QR code on my business card because you are looking for my syllabi which were used to test OER, you can see the syllabus with OER and the syllabus with print. If you go the link for all my Intro to Soc courses, you can find the syllabus for online and face to face courses as well using OER and print.

Journals for Undergraduate Research

Because I need a place to save this listing:

Do you still use closed book exams? Why or why not?

A question from The Chronicle:


Do you still use closed book exams? Why or why not?


Yes and no.


I do not believe that closed book exams are necessary for most courses. For most people, it is a far more important skill to know where to find the information they need to answer their question and to have the skills to evaluate the information.


At the same time, I teach a 5/5 load with six different preps in rotation. To devise  a course that does not rely on closed book exams at all seems overwhelming at the moment.


I have different rules depending on the course. In an online course, the exams are timed and multiple choice, yet students can use their books and notes (just not each other). In upper-level face-to-face courses, I prefer giving students essay questions ahead of time and then randomly selecting from those questions, the questions they get on exam day. I really like this exam method. This strategy combines open book with closed book. Students have all the informationt they need to prepare, yet, have to rely on memory at the time of the exam. These are essay exams, however, and I have to account for grading time. My final exams are typically scheduled over the same last two days of exam week without a full 24 hours for me to get final grades submitted for the last scheduled exam. Due to the time crunch, I opted for multiple choice, closed book exams again this semester.


Honestly, exams in most sociology courses make very little sense. I would much rather students spend time writing well-developed research papers that draw on the material we cover in class. Perhaps phasing out exams should be part of my five-year teaching plan?

Broken Links and OER

The problem with OER…


Broken links


And students who don’t tell you a link doesn’t work…


One of the examples I use in Intro to Soc when we talk about gender is the John/Joan case. I had a lovely reading linked from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. I asked my class to tell me about hte John/Joan case. Crickets. I remind them that it was one of the readings. A couple of minutes later a student tells me that the link is broken to that article.


This tells me a couple of things:


  • Most students are doing any of the reading and never encountered the broken link.
  • Those students who did encounter the broken link chose not to report it to me.
  • OER that relies on linking to websites is risky. I’m not going to go back and assign a new reading at this point to account for that particular broken link. The reading will be missed. I’ll have to reevaluate what reading should be used in its place.


Supplementing an OER textbook with articles linked from the web is necessary to maintain coverage, but the risk of broken links has to be taken into account.

Arial? Times New Roman? Which Font to Use to Increase Accessability

Over the summer, I read somewhere that Arial font is the ideal font for online media for readability and accessibility issues. I have since opted to use Arial for everything. My preferred font to this point was Times New Roman. Times New Roman just looks so grown-up! I typically only used Arial when I was an undergraduate and needed one more paragraph to make my page length requirement.

Of course, I can’t find the original article that prompted my switch to Arial, but I wanted to read a bit more on the topic. In typical fashion, now I’m more confused and second-guessing my use of Arial based on articles such as this one.


I came across a post expressing hatred towards Verdana, but the author’s main point is that Verdana takes up more space in print, therefore uses more paper (like my Arial font strategy I used as an undergraduate).


I’m not sure how scientific this study is (I did no digging to find out), but I like the post because it lays out examples of different fonts side-by-side, so that you can see what the difference looks like.


Finally, I found a document about accessibility for both online and print documents that is useful.


Beyond readability issues, I had no idea that some fonts simply are not viewable on both Macs and Windows computers. While most of my students are using Windows, some are using Macs.


Why does this even matter? I’m thinking about my students. My students who have documented disabilites, but also those who don’t. Some students have undocumented disabilities. Some refuse any accomodations, while others simply do not know what accomodations are available to them. Moreover, I want to make sure my classes (both online and in-person) are accessible to all students. It is much easier to be proactive and make them accessible from the start rather than to revise in rush because of one student with a documented disability.



I’m still torn with which font works best for which setting. I’m sticking with Arial for now, but plan to do a bit more research on the topic.  Before I do that, I need to figure out how to change the font on this website…


Government Shutdown Snag Using OER

As I was finalizing my presentation on getting started with open education resources for tomorrow’s ICCFA conference, it dawned on me that under my list of potential resources a teacher could use, I include government sources (yes, I realize this is not strict OER). Uh oh! I am using government sources this semester. I reviewed my syllabus for the rest of the semester and found six readings that are linked to government sites. Fortuntately, only two are at shutdown links and I have printed copies of the readings. So this morning, I had them scanned so I can add them as .pdf files to Canvas.

In-Class Topic Brainstorming: In Action

Each time I assign a research paper, I require that topics be submitted for my approval early in the semester.  Most students submit a topic, but they are often very broad and poorly developed (i.e., I have an idea, but I have no idea what my research question might be). I read about in-class topic brainstorming at The Society Pages over the summer and decided to try it out this fall. I think it worked well. The topics students turned in were much more developed. Students also benefited in that I walked around the room and sat down with some of the groups to help them brainstorm, which they did not get from me under my previous method (i.e., turn it in and I’ll approve it or not). I had a better idea of what kind of topics students were interested in before I sat down to review their topics and could help guide them at an earlier stage. In-class topic brainstorming is definitely staying in rotation as a regular feature of any course with a research paper. 

What Does Universal Design have to do with Starbucks?

Reading about Starbucks’ plan to now offer braille gift cards year round, reminded me of universal design. I clicked around on the links to the Starbucks’ story and came across a checklist for web accessability. While the checklist is useful for a site such as this, I thought it is probably more pressing to make sure my online courses meet the guidelines. As usual, course revisions are a work in progress, but I plan to slowly work my way through the document.

Men & Clothes Age, but Women Stay Forever Young

this post was originally published at Sociology In Focus on September 9, 2013.

In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores how aging is portrayed in a fashion magazine to explore the norms of aging in popular culture. 

I picked up a copy of the August issue of Vogue at the newstand. This particular issue is “The Age Issue.” The cover proclaims: “Fall Looks for Everyone.”

I saw advertisements with Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, and Jennifer Aniston completely wrinkle-free. No surprise here, but disappointing, considering the issue’s theme is aging. I’m younger than all these women, yet I have more wrinkles than them. Of course, I have never found myself accurately reflected in the a fashion magazine.

Very quickly, I realized this issue of Vogue is not about growing old gracefully or even looking good at any age. The magazine was chock-full of advertising promising “younger looking skin in 15 minutes” or “fighting 7 signs of aging.” One advertisement was for some sort of serum that has “complete age control concentrate” on the packaging. Age control in a bottle. What? What does that even mean? The message I got from all of this is that the appearance of age can be controlled.

Shortly before reaching the mid-point of the magazine is an advertisement for cigarettes. Absent from the ad was any indication that smoking cigarettes causes wrinkles. For an editorial message completely bent on “controlling” aging, one would think that accepting advertising for a product that accelerates the appearance of aging would have been refused.

I read on (let’s be real, I skimmed). The writers of Vogue ask the tough questions:

  • “Can you wear grunge when your kids are wearing it” (p. 106)?
  • “Is traditional [plastic] surgery passé” (p. 120)?
  • “Is height loss inevitable as we age” (p. 134)?

That last question deserves a bit more attention. Importantly, one risk factor associated with stunted height, loss of bone density, and osteoporisis is smoking cigarettes. The cigarette company R.J. Reynolds has three full-page ads in this issue. While Vogue does mention the link between cigarettes and osteoporisis, it is hidden under the subheading of “Skip the Soda.” I’m sure this underemphasis on cigarette smoking is just an oversight on the part of Vogue’s editors and has nothing to do with the advertisers or the lack of medical credentials on the part of the writer, Jancee Dunn. Dunn is a former MTV2 VJ/host, without any medical or health background.

The most interesting feature in this “age” issue (note, “age” not “aging”) is the “All-Ages Show” fashion spread. The magazine labeled each spread for the age-appropriateness of the outfit: 20-something, 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, and 60-something.Vogue, however uses the same model for each layout! The only difference is the clothing. The 60-something is nearly covered from head to toe, while the 20-something wears significantly less clothing.

Looking one’s age is about the clothing one wears, not the biological processes of aging. Vogue consistently denies the biological facts of aging. In this world, women do not shrink, gray, or wrinkle as they age. Only the clothing changes.

Vogue reinforces the mainstream American value of youth over age. In fact, while the cover proclaims, “Fall Looks for Everyone,” the reality is that no one over a certain age can be found in this issue. And then, when older people are portrayed, they are made invisible through the substitution of a younger body (e.g., a young model dressed as a 60-something) or are only written about but not photographed (e.g., “Points of Pride,” which is about 50-year-old former hand model, Nancy Hass). Upon further investigation, the young model in the photo spread is barely 21-year-old, Karlie Kloss–just old enough to portray a 20-something.1 Though it might be tempting to brush this off as typical of a fashion magazine, a similar phenomenon exists in Hollywood. Kyle Buchanan at Vulture finds,leading men age, yet their love interests don’t.

Women, then, are not supposed to age beyond the clothing they wear. Men, on the otherhand, are free to gray and wrinkle.

Dig Deeper:

  1. Visit this link. View the slideshow of the “All-Ages Show.” There are ten photos. Specify which photo is illustrating clothing for a 20-something, 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, and a 60-something. I’ll give you a hint: three are 20-something, one is 30-something, three are 40-something, two are 50-something, and one is 60-something. Be prepared to provide a rationale for each categorization.
  2. Vogue uses the same model for each age category. What does this communicate about how age is valued in the United States? Do you agree with the author that youthfulness is valued over aging? Why or why not?
  3. Watch 30 minutes of TV (e.g., a sitcom, the local news, a reality show). Note the age of everyone portrayed in the show and also in the commercials that air during the show. How does the portrayal of age on TV vary compared to that described by the author? In class, work with 2-3 other students and discuss what you watched. How are your findings similar and different from one another? Why?
  4. There is a discipline that studies aging, called gerontology. Visit The Geronotological Society of America website to learn what geronotologists do. Summarize what a gerontologist does in 3-4 sentences.

1Kloss turned 21 on August 3, which means she was at most 20-years-old in the photographs!