Blog - Unity Behind Diversity

Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Tagged: toronto

Ontario Premier Says Cellphones Could Be Useful In The Classroom

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

With schools, cell phones and a politician in the same headline, you’d think the story would be about another attempt to ban technology, but in Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty is telling schools to be open to uses for cellphones in the classroom.

McGuinty, who won’t even let his ministers keep the devices during cabinet meetings, said he understands they can be a major distraction, but there is a “right way” to use them in class.

“Telephones and BlackBerrys and the like are conduits for information today, and one of the things we want to do is to be well-informed,” he said. “And it’s something that we should be looking at in our schools.

The issue came up in light of the Toronto District School Board rethinking its blanket ban, and “exploring ways to make [mobile devices] more acceptable.”

Political opponents are already mocking McGuinty, and his government does have a really mixed track record on technology… but the comments here are actually quite reasonable. There’s room between the “discipline theater” approach of a total ban and the teacher’s nightmare scenario of a total free-for-all. A good acceptable use policy would attempt to reduce distractions while not precluding ways in which mobile technology can be helpful in the classroom.

I attended a strict private high school in Toronto from 2001-2005, and we had a blanket ban on electronic devices… but teachers were smart enough to know when it made sense to ignore the ban. I used my PDA to take notes and manage homework in every class, and another student in my year often used a tablet computer. The ban was eventually lifted after I graduated, acknowledging the fact that more and more students were using laptops and mobile devices in ways that helped them learn, while I’m sure they still have a no nonsense policy for students goofing off or distracting others. Rules are needed to minimize bad uses, but that shouldn’t prevent people from exploring good uses.

So, good for McGuinty for recognizing that we’re better off exploring applications for mobile technology in the classroom than simply trying to ban it.

Read the comments on Techdirt.

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#Twuneup Covers Edition

Last week, I attended the February #Twuneup — Covers Edition. #Twuneup is basically a monthly listening party (this was the second) run by a group of people in the Toronto Twitter community who share a love of music. There’s also lots of music sharing that happens on Twitter.

I found out about it too late to get a spot at the first one (space is limited), but this time I was quick to sign up. I was happy to learn that live performances were encouraged, so I busted out the T-Qualizer (perfect event) and played my cover of The Patient (Tool):

There were a couple other fun live performances too!

I also met lots of cool people. I first noticed @photojunkie last summer and I’d met him at #hohoTO, but the rest were new faces. @modernmod and @nicopop were the other organizers. I had a chance to meet @johnpapa, @alkerton, @rlangdon, @3rdparty, @pageby_paige, @zachaysan and lots of other cool people.

I had a great chat with @leilaboujnane (from Idée) and she gave me a Creative Commons sticker, before she even knew that I’m a CC BY-SA artist! I was going to put the sticker on my guitar case, but then I realized it had a clear background (black-on-black wouldn’t work to well). So… I put it on my guitar!

CC sticker on guitar

Rannie (@photojunkie) has photos on his site and Bev (@bev_w) has a Flickr set.
(Photo by bevw)

Lots of fun! I hope to make it back in March.

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There’s Probably A God, Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life

The United Church just gained big points in my book for their response to the athiest bus campaign in Toronto. The ads read: “There’s Probably No God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The United Church responded by adding an alternative response and running their own ads as a poll (highlighting the false premise in the original that to believe in God is to be worried and not enjoy life).

Though, the Torontoist coverage is pretty funny, in and of itself:

While the ads have definitely garnered a fair bit of attention, it may not be the kind the Church was hoping for. The latest Wondercafe poll results show the atheist position bringing down the house, with 53 per cent of voters agreeing there’s probably not a God, compared to 47 per cent insisting there probably is a God.

Since when does a 53/47 split constitute “bringing down the house?”

But it doesn’t end there! The Freethought Association provides even more to chuckle about:

“It’s just kind of funny,” says Katie Kish, vice-president of the Freethought Association of Canada, the organization spearheading the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign. “They’ve put this huge ad in the Globe and Mail that links to Wondercafe. Then you go to their discussion and we’re winning, so that gives us more press and more people coming to find us.”

The Atheist Bus Campaign runs ads that generate a ton of talk and debate about God and religion in the public square, in places (like the Torontoist) that aren’t normally talking about God. And they think that getting attention from an ad campaign that’s purpose is to play off there’s is ironic? The efforts of the United Church aren’t to “win” in some poll on their website. It seems to me that the most ironic thing here is that athiests are getting people to talk about God.

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Toronto Police Seek To Solve Murder Cases With Online Tips

[This post originally appeared on Techdirt.]

Last week, the Toronto Police Homicide Squad launched a new website containing profiles of unsolved murder cases and wanted persons. Each profile contains details of the investigation — a written synopsis, photos and links to Google maps or even YouTube videos — and allows visitors to submit tips directly to the police. It serves not only as an appeal for information, but also as a resource for grieving families. Some of the “cold cases” date back decades, and the police are hoping that increased attention on the web (or even from the press on the website launch) might lead to a break in an investigation.

Police have long since used online tools to search for evidence themselves, but we’re starting to see them engaging online communities and developing tools and methods to appeal to the public for information through the web. A few years back, a cop from a neighboring city received a lot of press for uploading a surveillance video to YouTube, and now Toronto’s Crime Stoppers service has its own YouTube channel and Facebook page. Though, in the surveillance video case, the media coverage of the YouTube angle seemed to help a lot more than the actual video (and comments on some of the Crime Stoppers videos make you wish the comment audio preview was mandatory.) The Toronto police have found a lot of success in solving and preventing crime using these tools, and they recently presented their methods to an Interpol audience.

It’s great to see law enforcement embracing the web as a means of two-way communication with the public, though it may take some time before these latest efforts pay off. The new site looks like it could use some more design work, and previous success has involved engaging a largely younger audience on social networks, rather than trying to draw witnesses to a separate site. As long as they continue to experiment, police are bound to find the right methods to make these tools useful.

[Read the comments on Techdirt.]

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No, That Wasn’t Lightning

I woke up to this around 3:50am.

A propane depot went up around Keele/Wilson. I felt it at Lawrence/Bathurst. 😐

(Photos from Rannie Turingan.)

Update: video here

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Catholic school religious knowledge test: What’s so controversial?

The Toronto Catholic District School Board is piloting a new religious knowledge test for fourth grade students in order to assess the effectiveness of the religious education program delivery. This is not a test of students, but a test for the board. Yet, the Toronto Star thinks it’s controversial.

I don’t understand the objections to such an assessment.

The Toronto Star quotes Trustee Sal Piccininni:

Our faith is tested every day, with our morals and the way we live our lives. We don’t need to put pen to paper on that.

That’s nice. No one’s asking students to do that.

And John Podgorski from the Ottawa board says:

If I proposed it to my board, I don’t think it would go forward. The educational goals associated with religious education … are designed to draw forth some of the deeper questions about life, deeper values like your sacred dignity as a person, the value of friendship, family, community, justice in the world – those are the kinds of deeper questions posed through religious life programs.

That’s nice. I agree, those are the broader educational goals. How in the world does an assessment of the program undermine that?

There are some concrete things that kids ought to learn in a Catholic school through a religious education program. What are the sacraments? What is the significance of various Christian holidays? Who’s the pope? Can you recite the Lord’s Prayer? Things like that. These aren’t tests of character, faith or morality, but of curriculum. Going to a Catholic school, students are educated about the Catholic faith. The board is trying to get some feedback in the same way that the Ministry of Education gets feedback through its standardized tests.

What’s so controversial about that?

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Frozen at the Eaton Centre

My girlfriend captured this video at the Improv Everywhere inspired (Toronto chapter) event at the Eaton Centre earlier today. My brother and I were frozen down the hall, but the large concentration of people were at the main fountain were the video was filmed.

Notice how people gathered all along the railings on the upper levels to see what was going on – huge success!

Update: Improv Everywhere covers the event in Toronto and London.

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TDSB report recommends black-focused high school

Wait, so, Catholic schools are the devil but black schools make sense?

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Ubuntu Canadian Team

Ubuntu Canada Logo

Look what I found:

“We will be hosting an Ubuntu Toronto User Group Meeting on… 25 July, 2007 6:30 PM… held at the linuxcaffe…”

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