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Learning an 'active process'

Michael Zwaagstra (Gadgets in classrooms are gimmicks, June 6) completely misses the point of providing technology such as iPads to students, because his conception of learning is limited to learning as knowledge, and knowledge as something that is fixed.

He is correct in saying that changing the tools of getting knowledge into students will do little to change how much knowledge we can get into them. A digital or paper textbook makes little difference.

What he doesn't understand, or actively resists, is that learning is an active and social process. Knowledge is not just knowing about, knowing what, or knowing how, it's also about knowing where, says learning theorist, George Siemens.

Zwaagstra has mistakenly accepted the myth that young people somehow naturally understand how to use technology to construct knowledge. Sure, they can update their Facebook pages and watch YouTube videos. Some blog and others tweet. Students can go to Wikipedia and copy and paste for assignments.

But do they know what to do with the abundance of information now available? Do they know how to find information? Do they know how to discern the quality or point of view of the information that they are interacting with?

Using technology such as iPads in classrooms is a recognition by today's educators that students need to learn how to find information and how to use information, as information is no longer limited to textbooks controlled by for-profit companies driven by particular ideologies.

Perhaps Zwaagstra's greatest fear is that students will create their own sense of what is important to know, which (shockingly) may not include the history of Canadian Confederation.

We should be excited about the knowledge that today's students will create and bring to the world, and we should make available whatever tools are necessary to make that happen.

BARRY DYCK

Landmark

 

What is needed for students to thrive is relevancy. Today's schools still run based on the 19th-century factory model. Students are sorted by age, and class time is artificially started and stopped by bells.

As society moves forward, students often enter a time warp in school. Some gadgets may be gimmicks, but many help students achieve higher learning.

The key is not technology but the pedagogy behind technology. Through a combination of an educator's content, technology and pedagogy, students can achieve their goals. If an iPad or a pencil help us to reach the desired outcome, so be it.

PAUL DOYLE

Winnipeg

 

Predictable opposition

Re: Lawn-care firms fighting for pesticides (June 5). Every province with a lawn-pesticide ban, especially Ontario, has experienced the predictable opposition from the lawn-care industry, claiming that only its science is valid and the industry has an overwhelming support from the public.

The illegal use of the toxic lawn pesticides in Ontario has been vastly exaggerated by these lawn-pesticides promoters. For example, in my immediate suburban Ottawa neighbourhood there has not been a single violation of the ban since 2009 when the ban went into effect.

Incidentally, the poll your story mentions conducted in British Columbia by the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association, showing that the majority of citizens in that province favoured access to lawn pesticides, is not to be trusted.

The name of this organization may sound innocent, but CCSPA happens to be a very committed lobbyist of the pesticide industry.

KAZIMIERA COTTAM

Nepean, Ont.

 

The chemical industry is out in full force trying to stop the government from doing what's right -- protecting Manitobans from exposure to potentially life-threatening lawn pesticides.

There is an obvious conflict of interest here. Industry wants to keep spraying these poisons because they benefit financially from this practice. Doctors say we should stop using toxic pesticides to protect our vulnerable populations from cancer, asthma attacks, birth defects and more.

I hope government will listen to the advice of health experts, who know what is best for our kids, not industry lobbyists looking to fatten their pocketbooks.

FARRAH KHAN

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

Toronto

 

Cherry-picking the Bible

Marilyn Friesen (Try reading the Bible, Letters, June 3) clearly misses the point of my May 30 letter. She starts from the supposition that we should all believe as she does -- that the Bible is the absolute truth.

The Bible is no more proof that God exists than a comic book is proof that Spider-Man exists. If you are going to cherry-pick parts of the Bible to justify your prejudices, then you should be prepared to defend the other less convenient passages.

I look forward to Friesen's future letters condemning people who eat shellfish, wear blended fabrics or oppose rape and slavery.

ANDREW MORRIS

Winnipeg

 

Tackling harassment

Re: Top Mountie speaks out (June 4). Bob Paulson says he's tackling RCMP harassment, but some members are "not on board."

Paulson is indeed tackling RCMP harassment, going after those who are harassing the RCMP for its institutional hypocrisy, sexism, bullying, racism and bigotry.

TIM SAYEAU

Winnipeg

 

Homophobia not a right

Re: Offended by pro-gay message (Letters, June 5). No one should be afforded the privilege of homophobia. Opting out of Bible readings by non-religious children (or children of differing religious backgrounds) is not on par with watching a video on sexuality.

Not everyone needs to sit and listen to Christian stories; everyone needs to be educated on issues affecting human equality.

Gerald Fast claims to have a say in what is taught in public school. This is an unfortunate stance, since his viewpoint in fact discriminates against the public itself.

SYDNEY TONI

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2013 A8

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