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Alberta

Alberta government’s new smartphone restrictions won’t eliminate digital distraction in classrooms

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5 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Paige MacPherson and Tegan Hill

Research has shown that simply having a smartphone nearby is enough to distract students from completing a task, and that it takes students 20 minutes to regain focus on learning after being distracted. And when schools removed smartphones from the classroom in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain, learning outcomes improved, especially for underperforming kids.

According to a new directive from the Smith government, beginning next September there will be restrictions on smartphones in Alberta schools. While the directive is light on details, one thing is clear—given mounting evidence that smartphone distraction can hinder academic performance, unless the province (or individual school authorities) ban smartphones in the classroom, students will continue to suffer the consequences.

Indeed, research has shown that simply having a smartphone nearby is enough to distract students from completing a task, and that it takes students 20 minutes to regain focus on learning after being distracted. And when schools removed smartphones from the classroom in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain, learning outcomes improved, especially for underperforming kids.

Moreover, the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report found a clear connection between smartphone distraction and declining student achievement, particularly in math. Specifically, 80 per cent of Canadian students report being distracted by the devices of other students in math class—and students who were distracted by smartphones in math class scored 15 points lower on PISA math tests than those who were not distracted. (PISA equates a 20-point drop in student test scores with one year of lost learning.)

Again, this is not just students distracted by their own devices, which are obvious attention-zappers for kids and teens. This is students distracted by the devices of other students. The research on digital distraction and its impact on student achievement makes clear that only a smartphone ban—with very few exceptions—will save kids from digital distraction.

And notably, Alberta’s PISA math scores have fallen 45 points in the last two decades, from 2003 to 2022, which PISA equates with more than two years of lost learning, with the decline predating COVID school closures.

The empirical evidence against smartphones in schools is mounting. But it’s also common sense, and people understand. The Alberta government’s own survey revealed that 90 per cent of more than 68,000 respondents—including parents, teachers, students and principals—had concerns about phone use in schools. This is consistent with other public opinion research in Canada. One survey showed 80 per cent of Canadians support banning phones in public schools. Another found that 51 per cent of Albertans said that phones should be banned in K-12 classrooms, and another 40 per cent said they should not be allowed unless directed by a teacher.

In 2019, the Ontario government issued a similar directive restricting smartphones in K-12 schools, which was nearly pointless because the government left the specifics up to school boards (just like the Smith government is now leaving the specifics up to school authorities in Alberta). Without being able to point to an overarching policy, Ontario teachers said they spent too much time surveilling and nagging in class, and many stopped trying altogether.

In its directive, the Smith government indicated there will be exceptions not only for reasonable health and medical needs (e.g. blood sugar monitoring) but also for “learning needs, and for educational purposes.” To actually eliminate digital distraction in the classroom, the provincial education ministry must support school authorities, who must support principals, who must support teachers to help enforce an actual ban.

While we should be skeptical of reflexive government “bans” in general, smartphones clearly impede student learning and socialization in schools. Banning smartphones in K-12 public government schools is the right move. But a patchwork approach, which accommodates endless exemptions, won’t free Alberta classrooms from the negative effects of digital distraction.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

Scotia Place – Calgary unveils design for new arena / events centre

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News release from the City of Calgary

Scotia Place, Calgary’s new event centre, designed as a place for community where there is room for everyone

The City of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) are excited to reveal the design for Calgary’s new event centre – formally named Scotia Place.

The design is influenced by the ancestral and historical land of Indigenous Peoples and the culturally significant site that embodies our shared purpose – to gather. It brings together Indigenous cultural perspectives with Calgary’s and the region’s natural beauty, reflecting the four elements of nature – fire, ice, land and air.

A striking feature of the building is the central structure with a textured flame motif that emulates a home fire, which is further amplified when it is lit at night. The home fire, a place of warmth and energy that brings people together to share stories of the past and create stories for the future, rises from the white, glacial-like forms that define the lower parts of the building.

“When you consider that Calgary is already the envy of other cities with a new world-class convention centre in the heart of the Culture + Entertainment District, the addition of Scotia Place is another signal to investors that our city understands how to build a future that leverages hospitality and hosting as its core strengths,” says Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “We are also acknowledging and honouring the foundational role that Indigenous communities have played for generations in making Calgary, and now Scotia Place, a space where we all belong.”

Scotia Place, which is scheduled to open in fall 2027, celebrates the area’s importance as a place for all and will be a landmark attraction in Calgary’s emerging Culture + Entertainment District. More than a building, however, the 10-acre city block is designed for community and connection and includes a community rink, outdoor and indoor plazas spaces, four restaurants, the Calgary Flames Team Store, and future development opportunity in the northeast corner. It will provide gathering places and amenities for the 8,000 people who will live in this new downtown neighbourhood.

“Calgary has a long history of hosting world-class events, drawing millions of visitors to the city each year, generating revenue for local businesses, and boosting the economy,” says Danielle Smith, Premier of the Province of Alberta. “With construction on the Calgary Rivers District and Event Centre now underway, Calgary is one step closer to a revitalized downtown that will bring new energy into the city, attract more exciting events, and create jobs to improve the quality of life for Calgarians.”

A development permit application for the facility was submitted on July 19, 2024. This was a significant milestone for the project team, consisting of CAA ICON, HOK-DIALOG, and CANA/Mortenson. People interested in following or commenting on the permit can find the application at Calgary.ca/dmap. The application is expected to be heard by the Calgary Planning Commission by end of 2024.

“This is an important day for Calgary,” says Councillor Sonya Sharp, Event Centre Committee Chair. “Today is about so much more than the designs of a building. Today is the unveiling of a place where Calgarians and visitors from around the world will make memories at concerts, and sport and community events. I hope that everyone is as excited as we are, knowing that Scotia Place will become the complete experience in our new Culture & Entertainment District.”

“At CSEC, a key component of our mission is to be the heartbeat of our community, create connections and bring people together,” said Robert Hayes, CSEC President and CEO. “Scotia Place will become the perfect home to achieve and share this mission with all Calgarians. Seeing the design brings the vision of so many contributors to life. We are especially thankful to the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta for their leadership and support to help bring us to this point. In stride with our partner Scotiabank, we are very proud to play our role in presenting Scotia Place as the culmination of diligence and passion, that is now visual in this breathtakingly beautiful and meaningful facility.”

“For years we have seen firsthand the value these partnerships bring to the communities in which we operate and for our clients,” said Aris Bogdaneris, Group Head, Canadian Banking of Scotiabank. “Scotia Place introduces a bold new vision for what will be Alberta’s premier sports and entertainment venue. For nearly 20 years, Scotiabank has been a proud partner of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and together, we are committed to bring fans and our clients an unforgettable experience when they walk through the doors of Scotia Place.”

“We are excited to start the construction of the critical infrastructure needed to build thousands of new homes and to make the Calgary’s new Culture + Entertainment district a reality,” says Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors. “Albertans expect basic infrastructure to be maintained and improved and this commitment from the province goes a long way in helping Calgary build these projects.”

Acknowledging the significance of the building’s location at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers on the ancestral land of the Treaty 7 Peoples and the Metis Nation, The City, CSEC, HOK-DIALOG and CAA ICON worked with an Indigenous Advisory Group that included representatives from the Treaty 7 Nations, the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3, and the Urban Indigenous community throughout the design process.

“It was great to be part of a truly representative voice that included all indigenous peoples of southern Alberta regarding the design of this center acknowledging the historic significance of the land it sits on to the Metis people,” said Carmen Lasante Captain of the Calgary Elbow Metis District. “Inclusivity is a core part of who the Metis are. The City has worked hard to include many diverse histories together in creating this space.”

“Engaging in the right way is fundamental to the success of relationship development with the Indigenous communities, as we have played a critical role in the identity of the land now known as the city of Calgary as the Indigenous nations are inextricable linked to the landscape and environment,” says Ira Provost, Piikani Nation Consultation

A key theme heard often during the Indigenous engagement sessions was “Come in, there is room”, making it clear that Scotia Place needs to be a place that is designed for all.

The public plazas are designed to honour the deep-rooted connection that Indigenous Peoples have with the land, incorporating representations of the tipi, Métis Trapper’s Tent, and elements of Alberta’s world-renown natural landscape.

An important design decision was to lower the event and ice surface so that the primary concourse will be at street-level. Calgarians and visitors will be able to move seamlessly between the curb, the primary concourse and the outdoor public plazas.

“We at DIALOG are thrilled to join forces with HOK and combine our unique expertise to transform Calgary’s Event Centre into the catalyst for a dynamic new urban community,” says Doug Cinnamon, Partner Architect at DIALOG.

“Other design principles including public realm activation, the integration of indigenous influences, public art & storytelling, sustainability, and a balance between past, present, and future is central to our vision. The ultimate goal is to ensure seamless accessibility, promote mixed uses, and create vibrant public areas for everyone to enjoy. This joint redesign represents an opportunity to spur investment into the area and enhance its cultural vitality, anchoring Calgary’s position as a thriving, bustling community hub.”

Scotia Place is a generational investment in Calgary’s emerging vibrant Culture + Entertainment District. A modern event centre with universal accessible design throughout and with energy and water conservation built in to maximize efficiencies and the ability to be net-zero by 2050, Scotia place is designed to serve Calgary’s growing community for decades to come.

Construction begins this week. Additional information about Scotia Place including design renderings, a video, and frequently asked questions is available on Calgary.ca/ScotiaPlace.

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Alberta

Jordan Peterson interviews Alberta Premier Danielle Smith

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This episode was recorded on June 29th, 2024

Dr. Peterson’s extensive catalog is available now on DailyWire+: https://bit.ly/3KrWbS8

ALL LINKS: https://linktr.ee/drjordanbpeterson

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