Why the iPod generation tunes out in school

The younger generations are living their lives with iPods blaring in their ears and a cellphone glued to their hand, wrote the Stratford Gazette May 12. So when they head into the classroom, it’s no wonder their minds begin to wander when their teacher starts writing on the blackboard.

Learning in today’s digital society was just one of the issues tackled during this week’s Canada 3.0 forum, held at the Stratford Rotary Complex Monday and Tuesday.

“We’re in an old-school way of thinking and we have some work to do around that teaching culture,” said Janet Murphy, project manager for the Advanced Broadband Enabled Learning (ABEL) program at York University and the York Region District School Board.

She noted most schools ban cellphones, which are the “most powerful computing devices” we possess. She was quick to point out teachers and faculty are prepared to shift, but face a number of impediments along the way.

The ABEL program works with both public and private sectors to help transform learning and connect people together. She noted that young people don’t view technology as technology – it is only the older generations who see it that way. “This really is an opportunity like no other,” she said, of digital learning, calling every day a “learning day”.

Team from York is out of this world

York University researchers who designed and built a miniature space-borne pollution monitor are part of a team of Canadians who were honoured with a 2010 Alouette Award from the Canadian Aeronautics & Space Institute (CASI) , wrote the North York Mirror May 12.

The annual prize, one of the top accolades for the advancement of space technology in Canada, was awarded May 4 to the CanX-2 microsatellite team, headed by the University of Toronto.

York’s instrument, a microspectrometer dubbed Argus, is currently riding aboard the microsatellite, which launched in April 2008. Argus can accurately detect sources of industrial pollution on Earth, to a resolution of one kilometre.

“We’re very excited to be a part of the team receiving this award,” Brendan Quine, Argus Principal investigator and professor in York’s Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering, said in a release. “Argus is a Canadian first and we’re delighted we could make it happen at York.”

UK coalition likely to revive the issue in Canada

Britain is similar, but not the same [as Canada], wrote The Globe and Mail May 13 in a story about the new coalition government in the United Kingdom and an agreement between the parties to fix the length of its term in office. They have no written constitution, and Parliament can limit the Crown’s powers. Its coalition can pass a fixed-term law, wrote the Globe.

But another part of that agreed law is less likely to fly: changing the convention so that it will take 55 per cent of MPs to defeat the government. That would effectively give British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, with 47 per cent of MPs, a veto on its own survival. Changing that convention may be constitutionally questionable, especially if all the parties in the Commons disapprove, according to York University constitutional expert Patrick Monahan, York’s vice-president academic & provost.

Cash-strapped navy being cut to bone, analysts say

As celebrations continue for its 100th anniversary, Canada’s navy has announced what defence analysts say is a major reduction in the number of ships available for service, wrote Canwest News Service May 12.

The move, sparked by budget problems, will leave the navy a shell of its former self, according to analysts.

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick said the move cuts the navy to the bone. “The sheer percentage of the fleet that will be unavailable is staggering,” said Shadwick, a researcher in the York Centre for International & Security Studies. “It leaves the navy in the medium term with very limited capability.”

Independence of expert reviewing Newfoundland drilling questioned by critics

Critics have long claimed that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board has always been in a conflict of interest because it promotes offshore development while overseeing safety, wrote The Canadian Press May 13 in a story about a consultant appointed to review Newfoundland’s ability to prevent and respond to offshore oil spills.

Gail Fraser, a professor with the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, said the board is in a conflict of interest because it is involved in every step of the process of bringing wells into production.

Jones said the offshore industry “is regulating itself, now it’s investigating itself and…there’s been a lot of problems with that. This looks like more of the same.”

From pencils to parking spaces: local students feted for world-saving ideas

They hope to save the world – one pencil and one parking spot at a time, wrote the Richmond Hill Liberal May 12.

Five students from Richmond Hill and Thornhill have come up with ideas they believe can make a difference in the world. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario agreed, and gave the students $20,000 to help them on their way.

Two teams of students, from St. Elizabeth Catholic High School and the Schulich School of Business at York Unviersity, were each awarded $10,000 as part of the institute’s second annual Save the World contest.

The institute invited students to submit innovative business concepts that would make the planet a better place.

Schulich student Rich (Meng Ri) Zhou and Edward Huang of the University of Toronto Scarborough were finalists in the contest for their idea of creating an alternative to business cards in order to reduce the problems of environmental harm, information loss and social inactivity.

On air

  • Bridget Stutchbury, Canada Research Chair in Ecology & Conservation Biology in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, took part in a phone-in show about local birds on CBC Radio’s “Maritime Noon” May 12. CBC broadcaster Colleen Jones also did a segment on Stutchbury’s book, The Bird Detective: Investigating the Secret Lives of Birds, on CBC News, Nova Scotia, May 12.
  • Kelly Thomson, a professor in York’s School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and faculty lead in the York Bridging Program for Women, and student Asta Kiske, spoke about ways immigrants with professional qualifications can find jobs, on Rogers Television’s “Goldhawk Live” program May 12.