Cellphones’ role in classrooms remains a debate


(Award winning professor Virginia Harwood using her cellphone)

Euvilla Thomas

The Chronicle

 There is an ongoing wireless war about the use of cellphones in classes across Canada.

On one hand Shahnaz Khan, a Toronto teacher, has publicly asked parents for their permission to confiscate student’s cellphones. Meanwhile, in Oshawa, many instructors at Durham College are incorporating the technology into their school content as a learning tool for education.

Virginia Harwood, is an award- winning law professor in the school of Justice and Emergency Services at Durham College.

She uses Top Hart technology as part of her daily class. Top Hart is an app that can be used on a phone to respond to questions. It is a learner response system with many capabilities. A professor can ask students questions and they can respond immediately using their cellphones.

“If I put up a question in a regular classroom, a student would have to put up their hands. In this case everyone can answer the question and know if they are actually understanding the material or not,” says Harwood.

This can also provide shy students with the opportunity to take part in activities without having to speak out loud in class.

“In a classroom of fifty students I can’t always gauge if everyone is understanding the material immediately. Sometimes I have to wait until a test, this way if 60 per cent of the class gets that question incorrect I can go back immediately and ask the class to do an activity around it,” says Harwood of the advantage of Top Hart.

Durham College is not the only school using cellphones. School Boards in Manitoba and the Durham Catholic District School Board integrated BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) into their school curriculum for educational purposes.

Students are allowed to use cellphones to have access to the tools and information necessary for learning. The school boards say BYOD improves student success.


Gary Gannon, a Human Resource professor at Durham College, says the college encourages students to use cellphones if it’s a means for information. For him the problem is when it becomes a distraction in the classroom.

“Personally I don’t have a problem with cellphones in the classroom, because at the college we now encourage people to utilize technology for learning,” says Gannon.

But teachers such as Shahnaz Khan say they can be a big distraction for students.

“It can be everything from not paying attention, just being really inattentive, and I find that particularly the kids who are vulnerable miss important information and are tuning out of class discussions,” she says.

Khan says the quality of the classroom experience is less.

The topic of technology has always been controversial. So students at Durham College were quick to give an input.

“I personally use my cellphone to take notes,” says engineering student Stephanie Manser.

Students such as Manser say their cellphones are important to their education, which includes note taking and finding information.

Virginia Harwood says cellphones can be used as learning tool rather than a distraction.

For Harwood it is all about making the technology educational.

“I think if we can harness the mobile device as a learning tool it will help us in terms of student learning,” she says.



Euvilla Thomas

The Chronicle


(From left to right Dearbhla Trainor, Leah Daniels and Haley Young)

It’s tough to be a female in the music industry. That’s the message a group of women in music had for students at the Reel Music Festival. Haley Young, Leah Daniels and Dearbhla Trainor were all panelist at the Women in Music seminar on April 9.

According to Trainor, it’s not easy being a female in the music industry. She said women get hit on and sometimes it is awkward. But she also said sometimes it can also be a bit easier as a female to book a meeting. She said that a man would most likely favour sitting and having dinner with a female “rather than a balding male guy.”

A 2015 report by Women in Music, a Canadian organization dedicated to fostering equality in the music industry, found female employees of music are least likely to work in music production (6 per cent) and most likely to work in promotion and marketing (20 per cent).

The survey also says women continue to face challenges, from lower pay to not being able to gain executive level positions and gender discrimination. It found that just under a quarter of executives positions are held by women.

Young, who works in artist management for Bedlam Music Management, told students in attendance it is a “boy’s club.” But she also encouraged students to not give up, and said they shouldn’t be discouraged.

Trainor also said the industry is a boy’s club. “As a girl, you need to call them out on it,” she said, adding that Feldman Agency, where she works, lacks female senior agents. For her it is a growing concern.

Leah Daniels, who has racked up a few nominations in her career, including Rising Star at the Country Music of Ontario, also joined in on the conversation. She, like other female artists, knows how hard it is to work in the industry, especially as a woman.

“There were times I remembered thinking, should we just stop?” she said.

According to Daniels, there is a double standard in the music industry. One of the first pieces of advice she got when she attended Humber College was “you will be rejected, that will happen.” Daniels now has her first top 20 single on the CMT charts.

Tony Sutherland, the professor who helped coordinate the event, said the students chose the panel and came up with the idea of what they wanted.

“If you are looking for money, don’t go into this industry. But if you want to build a career that you can have fun in, then this is for you,” he said.

Should I bleach my skin too?


(Brandi Washington styling both natural and straight hair.)
Euvilla Thomas
The Chronicle

Wild curls, tangled, frizzy and tough to manage hair; this is black women’s hair. In the 1900’s Madam C.J. Walker invented hair straightening products for black women to easily manage those frizzy curls. This product has been used by black women for centuries.

Straight hair is not a possibility for every woman.

From the early 1900’s up to this present day, black women have relied on hair straightening products to control their curls.  But according to a 2013 research study by Mintel, an intelligence agency that specializes in data and market research, black hair product sales have declined about 21 per cent since 2008. The decline in sales for hair relaxers are because black women are taking a more natural approach in hair maintenance.

In a society that thrives on self acceptance, loving yourself and “be who you are” slogans, black women are embracing a more natural look: one that is no longer concerned about straightening products. This new look has raised issues in the workplace.

Recently, Cree Ballah, a sales attendant from a Zara chain store in Scarborough, was told by two of her managers her hair wasn’t appropriate for work, citing the clothing company wanted a clean, more professional look. What a tangled mess.  Quite simply, the texture of your hair should not be a concern in the workplace. But clearly it is.

Another incident that same day, this time in the United Kingdom, a black woman was told by her employer she should not show up to work with her natural hair. She was encouraged to wear a weave, which is additional hair sewn to real hair to add length or thickness.

Both these instances reveal a problem of systemic racism black women face in the workplace.

If straight hair, or long hair, is professional then this leaves black natural hair at a sad disadvantage. Conforming to mainstream culture is not a thing of the past because black women are expected to maintain a certain look: one which is not naturally attainable.

Curly Girl Collective, a company based in New York, started a movement to help black women embrace their hair in a way that is unique, beautiful and professional. The contest has been widely accepted by black women who support the notion of being yourself.

Imagine a time when white people are asked to wear an afro to work or risk being fired. That day will never come. There may be a way to tame those workplace concerns, but not the curls of black women. The texture of your hair should not raise issues in the work place. If black women are asked to straighten their hair or expected to conform to the idea that straight hair is professional, then they might as well just go ahead and bleach their skin too.


No real risk to drinking coffee?



(Wanda on taking a coffee break at Durham College.)

Euvilla Thomas

The Chronicle

Take a walk through the halls of the Durham College or UOIT campus for about five minutes and witness the number of students holding a Tim Hortons or Country Style cup, mostly likely containing coffee.

This is not a new found secret for years students have relied on coffee to make it through the long hours of class and the gruelling work load. But some health officials say it is not a healthy lifestyle.

According to Durham College nutritionist Sylvia Emmorey, she says caffeine is dehydrating and can increase your blood pressure.

But other experts say this is all a myth. According to a recent survey done by Harvard University, there are no real risks to drinking coffee.

A study, which was released in November 2016 by the Harvard School of Public Health shows people who drink two or more cups of coffee a day are less likely to die from premature illness.

Coffee also leads to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the study.

“I need it for waking in the morning and getting through the day,” says Lucas a Durham College student who was making his way through his third cup of coffee in the day.

Despite of all of the good to come from coffee, nutritionist Emmorey says it will increase your blood pressure and lead to insomnia. This could pose a potential problem for college students who need sleep to be able to stay focused and healthy.

“Maybe a cup a day, not too big an issue,” says Emmorey, adding it can become a habit or people can become reliant on that cup of coffee.

Yet, according to other researchers, caffeine has been associated with lower depression rates in women and lower prostate cancer rates in men.

According to the Canadian Coffee Association, coffee is the most consumed drink in Canada, even more than water. Two-thirds of Canadians drink at least one cup of coffee a day.

Emmorey’s advice?  Don’t drink too much of something because it may be good for one thing, but could potentially be harmful to something else.

Her solution to not making it a habit?

She suggests maybe having a glass of water in the morning instead of getting a coffee. Water is the number one choice for healthy drinks, after all, according to the same Harvard study.


The evolution of body image


( Model Jessica Clattenburg poses after an intense workout at the gym)

Euvilla Thomas

The Chronicle

Ashley Graham, a popular plus- size model in the U.S recently made history by landing one of the biggest marketing covers, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Graham became the first plus- size model to ever land this coveted edition. Some people say this sends the right message.

“The media has changed the way we think,” says Jeff Packer, a licensed therapist and counsellor in Oshawa. According to Packer, body image wasn’t an issue until it was commercialized by the media. “Negative thinking is what causes body obsessions says Packer, it’s a cognitive issue.”

According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, 1.5 per cent of Canadian women aged 15–24 years have had an eating disorder. Campaigns like the Dove Self Esteem project, and the NYC Girls Project, exist to help young girls overcome body issues. Though they are not directly related to Graham, these campaigns say they are starting the basic foundation for young girls to be able to feel better about themselves and to combat mental health issues.

Recently the U.K. made headlines when the Advertising Standards Authority pulled an Yves Saint Laurent advertisement off the air, claiming the model looked unhealthy and underweight even for the industry. The U.K. agency said it was sending a negative message to young people.

France has also passed a law against unhealthy models being used. Fashion houses failing to adhere to the law will be fined up to 75,000 euros. France is not the only country to place these measures. In 2012, Israel also passed a law banning underweight models

In 2006, Fashion Week Madrid informed models that looked unhealthy and thin that they would not be able to walk the the runway for the annual event. This decision was quickly followed by Italy, which announced that models with a body mass index of 18.5 would not be able to walk the runway show in Milan.

Eating disorders have become such a huge problem that these countries say these measures are made in an effort to stop a growing trend.

The Danish Fashion Institute in Denmark has also collaborated to produce the Danish Fashion Ethical Charter. This charter contains four rules including models must be served “nutritious and healthy food” at every job lasting longer than two hours.

“I feel like models today tend to portray an unrealistic body image, one that’s impossible for the average human being to achieve,” says Estelle Theodore, a student of the Durham College.

She also says lately plus size models have hit the industry proving to women everywhere that plus size can be beautiful too.

It’s just a start and a lot more can be done to improve such vain beauty standards, she said. Yet not everyone thinks that this is an issue.

“Everyone is born small,” says Jessica Clattenburg, a model from Milton. She says that people’s size is related to how they live their lifestyle. But not everyone agrees, according to Packer everyone is born differently, beautiful in their own way. It’s negative thinking that causes people to think that way, he said.

When asked what message he thinks plus size models sends to young people, Packer said plus-size and average models are healthier. He also said silence on the issues of body image is what’s most destructive to young people.

Meanwhile, Clattenburg says everyone has their own goal and body type. She says they should love the body that they are in.