Short and sweet: technology shrinks the lecture

Dalton A. Kehoe, a professor of communication studies in York’s Faculty of Arts, has for decades won teaching awards and praise for his lectures. So, when he was asked to do his first online course, a couple of years ago, he was excited to head into a studio to capture his 50-minute talks on video, wrote The Chronicle of Higher Education in its June 20 issue.

When the recordings went online, however, they were anything but hits. The main complaint: They were much too long. "I had to sit to down and look at these lectures and realize that, when you’re looking at someone online as a talking head and shoulders in video, you just want to kill yourself after about 20 minutes," he says with a laugh. So, for the first time in his 40 years of teaching, he decided to overhaul his lectures. He broke them up into 20-minute segments, each focusing on a narrow topic.

Diane Zorn, a course director and instructor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and the Schulich School of Business, calls her videos for online courses "mini-lectures”. Zorn says she has applied some lessons learned from teaching online to her classroom teaching. She now delivers minilectures in person, and in between them she divides the students into teams to perform exercises on classroom computers.

Kehoe says his experience online has also changed his performance in person. When he teaches an hour-long class, he now breaks his material up into sections so he can stop every 15 minutes or so for a three-minute break, during which he’ll show a comedy video clip from YouTube or another Web site. Those short breaks pay off, he says. "When they move back to listening to me, they’re concentrating in a way they weren’t before."

His students agree. "It made classes feel shorter," says Adelaida Ortega, a student who graduated from York this month. "By having the lecture divided up into smaller sections, the course content seemed less overwhelming. I didn’t feel like the material was zooming by me." Another of Kehoe’s recent students, Jessica McCrossan, says the class always looked forward to the "laugh break," as students called it. "I found it not only helped break the tension and relax us, it helped to bring us closer to the professor as a person."

Kehoe says the irony is that, in his communication courses, he has long taught that people’s attention tends to drift after about 20 minutes of listening to information on any one topic. But he had never taken the advice to heart.

Bowman calls CBC’s hockey song decision ‘insane’

One answer to the question of why Canadians felt such a deep sense of loss when public broadcaster CBC dropped “Canada’s second national anthem” – the Hockey Night in Canada theme song – is that music is an important, often essential, component of cultural ritual, wrote CanWest News Service June 16 .

"From designs on the wall, to bird sounds, we are trying to make sense of it," says ethnomusicologist Robert Bowman. Not only that, but this ritual has forged an emotional connection between Canadians and their national pastime, and helps shape that ineffable spirit of being Canadian, said the professor in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

"Even if you are not a big hockey fan, it’s become part of the soundtrack of life that’s indelibly connected to something called hockey, which is indelibly connected to being Canadian – it ties directly to someone’s basic identity as a Canadian," says Bowman.

Bowman said he thought it was "insane" when he heard CBC let the song go after failing to reach an agreement with the song’s composer, Dolores Claman, last weekend.

Rituals are so important, says Bowman. "When rituals don’t make sense, people get really upset; they are a way of marking their lives, making sense of their lives, understanding who and what they are," he says.

The bee-lievable facts

Do bees visit flowers higher up than ground level?, asked the Toronto Star June 14, in a story about bee-attracting plants for condo owners. Laurence Packer, a professor of biology and environmental studies at York University and Toronto’s expert on non-honey bees, replies with a definitive, scientific "yes". Packer and his students discovered more than 40 species of bees around the alpine grasses and wildflowers on the green roof of the three-storey Computer Science & Engineering Building on York’s Keele campus.

"More bees are out in the morning than the afternoon," says Packer. "There are exceptions, but most bees go to bed by mid- to late afternoon." The bee schedule means that west-facing balconies will receive very few bee visitors whereas the sunny south-facing and east-facing balconies and terraces will be prime bee real estate.

"Providing extra food for bees will help stave off extinctions," says Packer. "It’s good for everyone: bees foraging for nectar off your balcony might also be pollinating somebody else’s raspberries."

Foundation board members share their fundraising secrets at seminar

Barry Sherman of Apotex Inc. (net worth: $3.61 billion) and his wife, Honey Sherman, a member of the York University Foundation board of directors, are members of what expert fundraiser Carol Seidman of the United Jewish Appeal calls her “group of 12” – a dozen dedicated volunteers who use their contacts to reel in fresh donors and persuade those who have already given to open their wallets again, wrote The Globe and Mail June 14 in a story about a seminar in Toronto for fundraisers.

"We just talk to them and explain the facts. Simple as that," Sherman says. "We have a duty to do it. I always say, ‘Look, we benefit now from all the institutions built for us, not by ourselves, but by generations before us.’ "

"People who make gifts at this level do their own research," says York University Foundation President Paul Marcus, who has travelled as far as California and Europe to woo donors. "They may have their own advisers, they may check out other institutions. There’s no question, it’s become much more competitive."

It’s time to find out: Are you a stock or a bond?

At age 41, Moshe Milevsky is arguably the most influential and prolific author of personal-finance books in Canada, if not North America , wrote the National Post June 14. The finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University has just published his sixth book, bearing the intriguing title, Are You a Stock or a Bond?

This time around, Milevsky is focusing on human capital or one’s future earning capacity. In that sense, each of us is like a security that generates future investment income. An entrepreneur who can one day sell her business is more of a stock. A tenured professor such as Milevsky is a bond because he has a steady salary and a secure defined-benefit pension plan in retirement. Most of us are a bit of both, he says, making us the equivalent of balanced mutual funds.

  • There is a surprising amount of financial illiteracy among people you would expect to be smart with money, wrote the National Post June 14. Moshe Milevsky, a professor of finance at the Schulich School of Business at York University, thinks everyone from stockbrokers to financial planners could use a money tune-up. "In fact, I am actually quite disappointed with the financial and numerical literacy of the so-called financial professionals. They, too, need to improve their skills." 
    "In terms of the state of financial literacy, I think this issue is fundamentally intertwined with numerical literacy – both of which are lacking amongst the general public," says Milevsky. "The world is getting more complicated from a financial markets point of view, and the public’s knowledge is not keeping up with the sophistication of the markets and the economic responsibility that is being shifted to individuals," he adds.

Shooting victim was son of York benefactor

Dylan Ellis, an aspiring photographer who was the stepson of Mario Elia, the scion of one of the city’s most prominent real estate dynasties, was one of two people shot and killed in an in an apparently random and unprovoked shooting on Toronto’s Queen Street West June 13, wrote the National Post June 14 .

Elia’s father, Mariano Elia, was an Italian immigrant who built a real estate empire bearing the family name. The Elia clan still owns the company and is involved in many philanthropic causes in Toronto, including endowing a chair [in Italian-Canadian studies] in the patriarch’s name at York University.

Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce honours Osgoode professor

The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce awards at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre will honour Professor Poonam Puri, of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, wrote The Toronto Sun June 14. The law professor has already won Canada’s "Top 40 under 40" award. She’s on the board of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, a member of the Community Advisory Board of the Ontario Association of Food Banks, and serves on the board of a women and children’s centre in Vaughan focused on education and employment.

Director of Montreal musical studied at York

York alumna Audrey Finkelstein (BFA ’99), is co-director of the musical Wise Men of Chelm, wrote The Gazette ( Montreal) June 14. In Jewish folklore, the town of Chelm, in Poland, was inhabited by fools who served as the butt of jokes, not unlike “Newfie” jokes familiar to Canadians, Finkelstein explained. Finkelstein studied Chelm within the context of clown history, when she did her BFA in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, noted The Gazette.

Hooliganism begins in the home

Whether the result of divorce, unwed pregnancy or on-again, off-again cohabitation, the children of fatherless families are more likely to have behavioural, schooling and relationship problems, writes Ann-Marie Ambert, professor emeritus of sociology in York University’s Faculty of Arts. Her 2006 paper on lone parenting for the Vanier Institute of the Family further describes how they may also be abused or neglected or become young offenders. As adults, they are also more likely to repeat the cycle, wrote The Ottawa Citizen June 14 in an article on hooliganism.

The question is whether or not the harms of a fatherless culture can be reversed or at least prevented in the future. Securing the interests of children is the obvious place to start. "The one right children (lack) is to be born under circumstances that will give them equal opportunities in life," Ambert observes. Such rights could include their right to be reared, as nearly as possible, by a father and mother, wrote the Citizen.

Ambert suggests we should distinguish between tolerating one-parent (sic fatherless) families and encouraging their formation in the first place. "A child is not someone’s right but someone’s responsibility," she writes. She also calls for "concerted" efforts by the media, churches, schools and the health care system to make marriage a more committed and stable institution.

Canadian legal experts watch US gun case closely

As Mayor David Miller and provincial leaders urge Ottawa to outlaw handguns, Americans are waiting to see if the United States Supreme Court will shoot down one of that country’s strictest gun control laws, wrote the Toronto Star June 14. Whatever the US Supreme Court decides, legal academics north of the border say the ruling is unlikely to have much of an impact on Canada’s legal landscape because our Constitution is so different.

Canadian lobby groups may try to exploit the ruling to support their philosophical stance on guns, but others may simply look upon it with voyeuristic interest at what those sometimes perplexing Americans are doing, said Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Allan Hutchinson.

Future Stars crowns York student as new champ

The future is now for aspiring artist and York student Michelle Madeira after wowing judges at the 5th annual Mississauga Future Star Contest at the Mississauga Waterfront Festival, wrote the Mississauga News June 14 . "It’s an overwhelming feeling," said Mississauga’s future star. "I feel really fortunate just being here."

Performing against fourteen other contestants at Port Credit Memorial Park, Madeira, 21, sang Carrie Underwood’s Last Name followed by At Last by Etta James. "I didn’t advance in [Canadian] Idol, but at last Mississauga has given me a chance," said Madiera, who’s now studying theatre and English at York.

Thanks for the tie

"I feel like in some ways gay fathers could be the poster children for the father-involvement movement, because here are men doing everything that it takes to be a parent," says York alumna Rachel Epstein (BA ’93, MA ’97), a student in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, who works on issues of gay, lesbian, queer and bisexual parenting, wrote the Toronto Star June 15 in an article on Father’s Day.

As gay dads become emblematic of a new kind of involved fatherhood, they also throw into question children’s need for parents of both genders. "Simply saying the presence of a father is necessary is false," says Epstein. "People say boys being raised by women need male role models, or girls being raised by a man need female role models. Underlying all of that are very stereotypical ideas about gender."

Durie latest casualty to Argos’ carrier corps

The status of Toronto Argonauts running back Andre Durie is up in the air after he suffered a thumb injury during Thursday’s pre-season game in Montreal , wrote the National Post June 16 .

Durie had been competing to be the Argos’ starting running back this season along with Dominique Dorsey and newcomer Jamal Robertson. Durie said his injury happened in the fourth quarter of the game against the Alouettes.

"It was a play where there was just miscommunication and then two guys came in from the defence and just got a smack on me, a clear shot, and just snapped the bone in my thumb," said Durie, who had five carries for 26 yards and a touchdown in the game.

This will not be the first time Durie, 26, has been slowed by medical problems. Three years ago, he suffered a devastating knee injury while playing for York University. Durie was told he may not walk again, let alone play football, but the Mississauga native recovered and was recently given clearance to play football without a brace.

  • Who will line up in the backfield is an evolving theme, one that will be made a little clearer today when the status of Andre Durie is determined, wrote The Toronto Sun June 16. Durie injured his thumb in last Thursday’s 34-34 deadlock in Montreal on a freak incident when the York University product caught the thumb underneath his shoulder pads.
  • York alumnus Jeff Johnson (BA Hons. ’02) spent his first Father’s Day as a father working a little harder than usual instead of relaxing around the barbecue, wrote the Toronto Star June 16. 
    With fellow non-import running back Andre Durie sidelined with what could be a broken thumb, Johnson was taking more reps than usual at the Toronto Argonaut training camp. But he’s not taking it for granted that this latest setback to the Argo running game might provide an opportunity to crack the starting lineup.
    "Obviously, I don’t want to see anybody go down with an injury…but if I do get to touch the ball more, I’m ready," the 31-year-old York University product said yesterday. "But I don’t really know what this means."
  • The Mississauga News also carried a report on Durie’s injury June 14. 

National champ earns volleyball scholarship

When it comes to competing, Clayton Weyrauch refuses to let a little thing like experience stand in his way, wrote the Flamborough Review June 14. The graduating Grade 12 student’s passion for volleyball and his knack for the sport have not only caught the eye of coach Smith, but also the interest of Wally Dyba, volleyball coach at York University, who offered Weyrauch a $14,000 renewable scholarship to play on the University’s varsity team.

Although Weyrauch had his heart set on attending Dalhousie University in Halifax for his postsecondary studies, "a scholarship sort of changed my mind," he explained. "From an athletic perspective, he’s an excellent athlete," said Dyba. "Success breeds success. Once you’ve experience success, it seems to be infectious. He’s an excellent passer, he’s versatile and he’s a good defensive player. Academically, he’s excellent. He brings the full package."

Osgoode alumnus was passionate about sports

Hamilton has lost its most passionate advocate of amateur sport, wrote the Hamilton Spectator June 16 . John (Jack) Pelech (LLB ’59), 74, a prominent city lawyer and former chair of the Canada Games Council, died Friday night. He had been battling colon cancer for more than a year and was a week away from his 75th birthday.

Born and raised in Steeltown, Pelech began his career as a lawyer in 1959, eventually becoming partners with John C. Munro, who would later become a prominent Liberal MP for Hamilton East.