On its own, the impressive TEDxWaterloo 2012 line-up of speakers and entertainers would be enough to seriously overload the minds and hearts of even the most jaded, hardcore TEDx fans. Take for instance the heart-wrenching yet spiritually redemptive stories shared by Alicia Raimundo and Izzeldin Abuelaish. Their personal anguish, still ringing in my consciousness, also evoked in me the refrains from a couple of popular songs from the 70’s (Driven to Tears or King of Pain by The Police).
Now don’t get me wrong. TEDxWaterloo 2012 wasn’t all purgatory and pain. It was also punctuated by a generous dose of giddy moments, like when Mathew Ho delighted us with his ‘Lego man in space’ video. Or when Krister Shalm with his personal magician and swing dancers actually made quantum physics look like fun. Anyway, if you want the complete list of remarkable presenters and their biographies, I urge you to visit TEDxWaterloo.
I would also like to share with you the podcast (below) of an interview I conducted with two of my Technological Skills Elementary Competition colleagues (Kellie Grant & Rolland Chidiac) who attended TEDxWaterloo for the first time. They shared with me some insights into their take on the main theme of this year’s TEDxWaterloo event ‘Dis Connected’ and how it relates to their students’ lives.
Has anyone at OECTA head office every stopped to consider that chalk dust or even some of the chemicals found in common tap water may pose more of a health risk to our children than WiFi?
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), there are links between chalk dust and allergy and asthma problems. Why has the OECTA Health & Safety committee not investigated eliminating chalk from our schools?
Why they decided to target WiFi in schools via its recent position paper, A position regarding the use of Non-Ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation, including WiFi, in the workplace, and in conjunction with the Ontario Teacher’s Federation, its AGM Action directive 37, is beyond me.
“That the Association through the Canadian Teachers’ Federation lobby the Federal Government to review Safety Code 6 with respect to lowering the current Threshold Limit Values (TLV) regarding electromagnetic radiation, especially in the microwave WiFi frequency band.”
OECTA AGM Action Directive 37
Here’s why I believe we need to oppose any further attempts by teacher associations to limit or restrict WiFi access in our schools:
1. A June 2011 fact sheet by the World Health Organization indicates that “research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and self-reported symptoms, or “electromagnetic hypersensitivity”. In short, according to Health Canada & WHO – both widely respected and expert organizations in determining risk factors to public health & safety – there is no conclusive or convincing scientific evidence that electromagnetic fields from wifi is doing harm to humans.
2. At a time when most school districts are struggling to equip antiquated classrooms with 21st century learning tools (E.g. Interactive projectors, wifi networks, e-Tablets, integration of teacher & student-owned personal electronic devices) all of which would help differentiate learning and engage students – lobbying the Federal Government to lower the current Threshold Limit Values regarding electromagnetic radiation would further discourage the use of wifi in schools and be counter-productive to the efforts of those who are struggling to equip many of today’s under-funded classrooms with digital technology that help would position students and teachers in 21st century learning environments.
3. OECTA’s position that we advocate on behalf of the purported 3% of the Canadian population that are affected by ‘environmental hyper-sensitivity’ – is prudent in the extreme, but rather than deny 97% of the student population the potential academic benefits of internet access (research) via wifi networks using board issued and their own electronic devices – OECTA Health & Safety should develop strategies to safeguard the 3% who may be affected by ‘environmental sensitivity’. E.g. have the 3% attend class out-of-range of wireless base units.
4. There has been enough damage already to OECTA’s reputation by recent sensational media coverage of the OECTA publication, A Position on the Use of Non-Ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation Including WiFi in the Workplace. Passing AGM disposition 37 may cause further negative media coverage by further painting OECTA as ‘overly-reactionary’ and ‘anti-technology’ – while also unnecessarily feeding the irrational growing ‘anti-Wi-Fi’ movement in Ontario and across Canada.
Much of what we do in life involves some risk and it is prudent to try and minimize these risks. But when educational leaders ignore the reasonable conclusions of respected organizations entrusted with our physical well being, I suppose they get the educational system they deserve.
Though it’s unfortunate, especially for our students, that it may look more like the school house on the prairie with straight rows and blackboards, than the truly dynamic, collaborative and interconnected learning community it could be.
Photo: Hope in a better future by Massimo Valiani