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Is it time schools allowed cellphones in the classroom?

The Canadian Press and Michelle McQuigge | posted Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2017

Researchers and educators agree that cellphones have become fixtures in Canadian classrooms, but opinion remains divided on how best to address their presence. All agree that the presence of smartphones can be problematic if students are allowed to devote more attention to their screens than their studies. One research paper suggests the majority of schools are still treating cellphones as a scourge and banning the devices outright both in and out of class.

But that study and a growing number of boards say they’ve had more success once deciding to stop fighting the technological tide and find ways to incorporate cellphones into schools.

Canada’s largest school board reversed a four-year ban on cellphones and now lets teachers dictate what works best for their classrooms, while a board in Quebec has gone so far as to distribute tablets to all students in Grade 5 and up while maintaining a permissive smartphone policy.

Researchers say these approaches work best, but add it’s essential to have guidelines in place around the use of technology.

Thierry Karsenti, Canada Research Chair on Technologies in Education and professor at the University of Montreal, said students will find a way to bring phones into the classroom regardless of the rules.

A survey of more than 4,000 high school students found that 79.3 percent of respondents owned a cellphone. Participants indicated that the phones did not figure strongly in their formal education, with 88.4 per cent reporting that the devices were banned either in class or at school altogether.

Karsenti said the majority of schools he’s studied persist in fruitless bans against smartphones, edicts that students will inevitably ignore. Only 12.9 percent of survey respondents said they had never sent texts in class, 55.7 percent said they felt it was acceptable to send or read text during lessons, and 90.7 percent said they had seen classmates doing just that. Another 64.2 percent reported seeing their peers accessing Facebook on their phones while in class.

But Karsenti said schools with more flexible policies got better results, he said, adding the best ones set firm boundaries that helped educate students on when it may or may not be appropriate to use their cells.

Students responded, he said, by taking those lessons to heart.

“They were becoming themselves more responsible in those schools where cells were allowed with specific rules because schools help them become more responsible,” Karsenti said in a telephone interview. “Otherwise who’s going to help them become more responsible?”

One school Karsenti studied allowed students to use their phones as they wished outside of class, but insisted they keep the devices in plain sight and face-down on their desks during class time.

Such an approach strikes the right balance, he said, since it still gives teachers the flexibility to tap into the technology for their lessons while limiting distractions among students.

Some organizations, like the Eastern Townships School Board in Quebec, have made technology an integral part of the classroom experience.

Spokeswoman Sharon Priest said the board began issuing iPads to students in 2013 with the full expectation that they would be used both at home and at school.

Today, all board students from Grade 5 and up have been issued either an iPad or a Chromebook. Priest said the technology that looms so large in most students’ home lives should be incorporated into the educational experience, adding the devices also help empower teachers.

“They allowed us the creativity in the classroom to support … lifelong learning and different competencies,” Priest said of the tablets, which can be used for everything from research to video streaming.

The board has a permissive policy around cellphones, she said, allowing teachers to dictate what works best for their classroom.

The same approach is now in effect at the Toronto District School Board, which banned cellphones for four years before reversing course in 2011.

Spokesman Ryan Bird said the board came to recognize that enforcing an outright ban was next to impossible, while also acknowledging that to curb technology use would be to place limits on educational opportunities as well.

“I think it was more an acknowledgement that there’s an important role for technology to play in the classroom,” he said. “And that’s where we are now. In general, the board encourages the use of technology in the classroom where appropriate.”

Not all instructors are keen to embrace mobile technology in the classroom, however.

At a Halifax middle school, one teacher’s effort to promote healthy living among her students resulted in a school-wide experiment meant to help detach students from their screens and revive the art of conversation. Sean MacDonald, principal at Herring Cove Junior High, said the school’s previously flexible policies were tightened up for a week to bar cellphone use in class, during recess or at lunch.

He said the week-long experiment is meant to gauge impacts on students’ studies and social lives, adding the school is also soliciting feedback from parents on cellphone use at home. MacDonald said early feedback suggests students too can be flexible on cellphone use, adding some who felt they couldn’t live without their devices have noted some upsides to going without.

“Many of our students have reported…that they’re enjoying the opportunity to have more conversations with their friends as opposed to sitting down and everybody staring at their phones,” he said. “And teachers have definitely noticed less distractions in the classrooms.”

MacDonald said the school will analyze feedback from the experiment and use it to adjust its permanent cellphone policies for the next academic year.

New app hopes to help families, kids eat healthier foods: researcher

The Canadian Press | posted Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2017

The makers of a new app are hoping it will help get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.

A team of researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax launched the app called “Froogie” to help families track their daily food intake based on Canada’s Food Guide.

Lead researcher Sara Kirk says her team got the idea for the app while looking into creating supportive environments to prevent chronic disease, like diabetes and heart disease.

She says a number of families had expressed how hard it can be to eat healthy foods with such busy lifestyles.

Kirk says the app is designed to be simple enough so that children of all ages can use it, while making it a fun and engaging experience.

Funding for the project was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Moonlight’s empowering message opens dialogue about ‘black male masculinity’

Ginella Massa | posted Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2017

A major mix-up on the Oscar stage on Sunday night overshadowed what likely would have been the biggest headline today: an important film achieving a monumental win.

For those who identify as black and queer, Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” being awarded Best Picture was about more than just the golden statue.

“It allows us to really have conversations about black male masculinity,” says Kimahli Powell, Executive Director of Rainbow Railway, a group dedicated to getting persecuted LGBT people to safety internationally.

“Moonlight” centres around a young black man in Miami coming to terms with his own sexuality. The film follows him through three defining stages of his life. “This goes out to all the those black and brown boys and girls, and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves,” said Tarell Alvin McCraney during his acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay. “We are trying to show you you and us. So thank you, thank you. This is for you.”

For queer black actors like Toronto-based Sedina Fiati, the message was received. She says the film is a refreshing departure from the usual stories reserved for black people. “We see the same representations and stereotypes of people over and over again, and it makes us believe those things are true,” she says. “We need layers. We need complexities. And a film like “Moonlight” really showed that.”

Fiati says the film also shines a spotlight on a group often left out of storytelling. “We’ve seen a lot of representations I think of queer people in the media, but not as many of black queer people, not as many of say South Asian queer people and I think we need to see them because these people exist.”

For some, just existing can be dangerous. “Unfortunately, too many Caribbean countries have anti-gay legislation that puts people at risk,” says Powell. “That does reflect sometimes a culture in the diaspora here, and in other countries, where gay black youth do not feel safe within their communities to be who they are by fear of violence, by fear of persecution, by fear of stigmatization.”

Powell hopes seeing more stories like “Moonlight” in the mainstream can help people understand the daily challenges faced by black gay youth.

“What’s powerful about “Moonlight” is it provides possibilities,” he says. “If someone can see themselves on screen, if an award can be celebrated by a billion people internationally, then there’s hope. It’s a little harder to stigmatize someone who is visible.”


Kellie Leitch’s video on Canadian values causes social media uproar

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2017

With Oscar flubs already fizzling out of fashion, the Twitterverse turned its fickle focus towards Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch on Monday night.

Two days ago, Leitch released a video where she reiterates her campaign platform promise to screen immigrants for “Canadian values.”

Clocking in at just over 8 minutes, the video features a dizzying array of camera angles, unpredictable zooms and pans that produced a palpable level of mockery online. Here’s some of the reaction.


Teacher who organized anti-bullying rally says she’s being bullied by colleague

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2017

An early childhood educator at a downtown elementary school believes she is being bullied by a colleague.

Emily Wright works at Orde Street Public School near College Street and University Avenue. She claims to have received seven notes in the last year containing threats and taunts.

Wright says the most recent incident happened right after she organized an assembly for Pink Shirt Day, a day meant to promote anti-bullying awareness.

Wright says a typed note reading: “YOUR ASSEMBLY SUCKED JUST AS MUCH AS YOU DO. NO ONE LIKES YOU NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY” was left on her desk.


“I put in a lot of extra hours and tried to make an assembly for the whole school so everyone could benefit on Pink Shirt Day,” Wright said. “And the next morning when I came to school I had a note from somebody else who worked in the school stating that my assembly sucked as much as I did.”

Wright believes the notes are being left by a co-worker and not a student because of the language and content in them.

“I know it’s a colleague because the information that is being put into the notes is information that children of this age would not be reading. For example I was published in Toronto Life magazine and that article was mentioned within one of the notes. I know that the language that’s used…it’s not coming from a member of my school that is a child.”

Wright says she began getting the notes in December 2015 and believes her service dog, which she has for anxiety and diabetes, may be what started them.

“Last year those notes revolved mostly around my service animal and why did I think I had the right to bring a service animal to school.”

Wright says some of the messages also threatened the safety of her dog, Kalie. “They turned into threats and escalated to ‘there’s many ways to poison a dog.’ ”

Wright posted a picture of another note to Facebook that reads: “HAVE YOU NOT GOTTEN THE HINT YET? NO ONE LIKES YOU. WE WANT YOU AND YOUR DOG TO LEAVE.”


The school’s principal, Michael Walkington, described the situation as disappointing.

“It sort of really tugs on my heart,” he said. “We deal with children all the time and we want to model the best environment that we can have so that they can be the most productive in their education at school and to have a situation like that is very discouraging, very disappointing.”

The Toronto District School Board says it has launched an investigation into the messages but hasn’t been able to determine who is responsible for them yet. In the meantime, Wright says she is using the experience to help draw attention to the importance of speaking out against bullying.

“I preached at my bullying assembly about not being a bystander, being up-standers and it’s time for me to do the same. I want to practice what I preach and I’m going to be an up-stander and I’m going to start talking about what’s going on.”

GTA under special weather statement not for rain but for water

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2017

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Toronto and the GTA with rain expected to hit the region on Tuesday night.

The national weather agency says the statement is not for the amount of rainfall – which is expected to be between 15 to 25 millimetres – but for the ground not being able to absorb the water.

“Although rainfall amounts are not expected to be overly significant, the ground has a reduced ability to absorb further rainfall due to recent rains and snowmelt,” the statement reads.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority says the recent melting snow, coupled with the rainfall, will create higher-than-normal water levels in rivers and streams. There will also be slippery and unstable banks.

People are being warned to be cautious around all bodies of water and avoid driving through ponds of water.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor says the rain will start after 7 p.m. on Tuesday and continue into Wednesday morning. There is also a chance of thunderstorms.

And yet another potentially record-breaking temperature day is in store for the first day of March on Wednesday. The high of 14 C is set to break the record high of 13.2 C set on March 1, 2000.

The recent wave of mild weather has shattered temperature records across the GTA. Last Thursday, the temperature not only broke the record high for the day, but it was also the warmest February day on record.

Sunrise Records to move into 70 closing HMV locations

David Friend, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Feb 27th, 2017

Sunrise Records is placing a major bet on Canadian music sales with plans to move into 70 retail spaces being vacated by HMV Canada.

The Ontario-based music retail chain has negotiated new leases with mall landlords across the country.

Sunrise’s expansion gives the company a quick foothold in the Canadian music scene just as the industry’s largest retailer closes shop. Stores will begin to open this spring after HMV liquidates and removes its signs.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to get a lot more stores open,” Sunrise Records president Doug Putman told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“We think there needs to be a great outlet across Canada to buy music.”

The 32-year-old executive’s investment comes at a time when many are dismissing physical music sales as more listeners shift to streaming options.

Compact disc sales fell 19 per cent to 12.3 million units last year, according to data compiled by Nielsen Music Canada. Meanwhile, on-demand audio streams experienced dramatic growth, rising 203 per cent to 22 billion streams, helped by services like Apple Music and Spotify.

Putman isn’t convinced the data signals the end of physical media.

“A lot of the younger consumers still love having something tangible,” he argued.

Putman has long believed in buying merchandise you can hold in your hands. He grew up working at the family business, Everest Toys, a manufacturer and distributor based in Ancaster, Ont.

He bought the Sunrise chain from Malcolm Perlman in October 2014 just as streaming was going mainstream. Perlman had spent the previous few years shutting down most of the Sunrise stores in the Toronto area, often blaming higher rent.

When Putman gained control of the company, there were five Sunrise Records stores left. He’s since doubled the number by opening in Ontario cities like Ottawa and North Bay. He said all of those stores are profitable.

His approach is a departure from the financials at HMV Canada.

In court documents filed last month, HMV painted the image of a hemorrhaging business where sales were projected to slide to $190 million in 2016, after gradually weakening over the previous couple of years.
Overall, HMV said it was losing $100,000 a day.

“It’s an absolutely huge number,” Putman said.

“But we’ve been able to find a way, working with landlords and our suppliers very closely, to mitigate that.”

Putman said his company won’t lose $100,000 a day when the mall locations open, and he has set a goal of making all stores profitable in 2018.

Former HMV locations factored into the deal represent roughly $100 million in sales, Putman said.

Sunrise Records will invite 1,340 former HMV employees to apply for 700 positions as it prepares to move into the new locations.

The company was unable to reach new terms for about 30 of the closing HMV stores, Putman said, including the company’s flagship location at Yonge and Dundas streets in Toronto. Some landlords weren’t interested in a “pop culture” chain, he said.

Staying ahead of trends will be one of the biggest challenges Sunrise faces as it defines itself as a hybrid music retailer and cultural merchandiser.

Aside from CDs and DVDs, Sunrise will hedge its bets with board games, themed toys and a wide selection of music, film and TV apparel.

HMV tried that strategy too, but Putman believes he can do it better with a broader selection. He’s also putting a major focus on growing interest in vinyl records, which will be placed at the front of stores.

Vinyl sales grew 29 per cent last year to over 650,000 units, and Nielsen figures show growth this year remains steady.

Sunrise will also tap into other popular slices of nostalgia, like audio cassettes. Sales of tapes jumped 79 per cent to about 7,000 copies last year.

Putman said the company won’t invest much in tapes, which he considers as a “niche market,” but said Sunrise already stocks a number of cassettes and tape players.

Yet not every factor will be within the new owner’s control.

Record labels are making seismic shifts in their priorities with a stronger focus on how digital sales drive music charts.

Some of last year’s biggest hits, including Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Drake’s “Views,” were released under a digital-first strategy. Streaming and download services had the album weeks before record stores.

Other albums, like Grammy winner Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book” and Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo,” went without a physical release at all.

Putman hopes those examples remain anomalies, though he said those hurdles are just part of navigating an evolving industry.

“Is the business the same today as it was five years ago? Of course not,” he said.

“And it’s going to be very different in three years. It’s up to us to adapt and change.”

DeRozan lifts Raptors to 112-106 win over Portland

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Feb 27th, 2017

Two games since they rejigged their roster, the Toronto Raptors are marching back up the Eastern Conference standings, despite the absence of all-star guard Kyle Lowry.

DeMar DeRozan scored 33 points, and newcomer Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Raptors beat the Portland Trail Blazers 112-106 for their third straight victory.

“We still don’t know most of the plays. We’re just out there playing for the most part,” said P.J. Tucker, who along with Ibaka was acquired before last Thursday’s trade deadline.

Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points and seven boards for Toronto (35-24), while Cory Joseph, who started at point guard in place of an injured Lowry, finished with 14 points and six assists and Delon Wright chipped in with 11 points.

Damian Lillard led Portland (24-34) with 28 points.

The revamped Raptors, who went into the night in fourth in the Eastern Conference, are trying to make a push back into the top of the Eastern Conference. Their victory coupled with Washington’s loss Sunday put the Raptors even with the Wizards at six games back of Cleveland. Washington, however, has two games in hand.

DeRozan, who’s scored 76 points over the past two games, turned the spotlight on the newcomers in the post-game locker-room.

“Oh man, defensively altering and blocking shots, able to switch out on wings, point guards and able to knock down shots,” DeRozan said of Ibaka. “He takes a lot of pressure off, teams just understanding you’ve got to pick and choose. We have another weapon out there that teams have to worry about.

“It’s veteran guys that know how to play the game, keep it simple, go out there and play hard on the defensive end. And as long as we get stops the coaches give us the freedom to just play.”

The Raptors, who’d beaten the Trail Blazers 95-91 in Portland on Boxing Day, trailed by 12 points in the first half of the back-and-forth affair, and held a narrow 82-80 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Wright scored on back-to-back driving layups to give the Raptors a seven-point lead midway through the fourth, but Portland chipped away at the difference, and when Lillard scored with 1:42 to play, it cut the Raptors’ lead to just three. But DeRozan, who’d scored a career-high 43 points two nights earlier in the team’s 107-97 win over Boston, replied with five straight points to give Toronto a comfortable six-point cushion with 23 seconds to play.

Tucker grinned when asked about the Raptors’ solid closing unit.

“Yeah, it’s unbelievable,” said Tucker, wearing a gold chain as thick as a snake. “I really like it, especially with me and (DeMarre Carroll) switching all the stuff. We’re making them take tough contested twos and then being able to push back at the other end with Serge at (centre) being able to take the rim, it’s a pretty good lineup.”

Lowry sat for the second straight game with a sore right wrist. Tests revealed no significant damage to the wrist, and Lowry is listed as day to day.

“Not having our queen bee in there and our top guy to hand the ball off to offensively, defensively, three-point shooting, we miss that part of it,” Casey said of Lowry’s absence.

The three-time all-star guard was animated and vocal throughout the game, jumping up to join the coaches huddles during timeouts.

Casey jokingly rolled his eyes when asked about Coach Lowry.

“I think it’s great that he’s into it like that,” Casey said. “Most guys go down at end of the bench and sit there, eat popcorn, hide popcorn under their seat and everything. ”We’re gonna put him on the coaching staff payroll. He’s got a lot of good stuff, talking to the new guys, telling them what to do which is great.

“But I’d much rather have him out there on the floor with No. 7 on rather than with the coaching staff… He knows the offence better than probably some of our coaches. His enthusiasm is infectious and it’s one of those things where it rubs off on everybody, the intensity he has in those huddles.”

Toronto and Portland paced each other through a first quarter that saw 11 lead changes. The Trail Blazers took a 28-25 lead into the second.

The Trail Blazers dominated early in the second, taking a 12-point lead when Al-Farouq Aminu drilled a three with 4:52 left in the half. But the Raptors replied with a 15-2 run capped by a floating jumper from Joseph that gave Toronto a 53-52 lead at the halftime break.

A fadeaway jumper by DeRozan put the Raptors up by eight midway through the third quarter, but Portland had cut Toronto’s lead to two points by the start of the fourth.

The Raptors are in New York to face the Knicks on Monday then play Eastern Conference rival Washington in back-to-back games. They host the Wizards on Wednesday then travel to Washington on Friday.

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