Digital devices in the classroom: A learning aid or a toxic distraction for kids?

While some schools are introducing iPads as part of their daily curriculum, and others are banning all digital devices entirely; the topic of devices in the classroom is hotly debated, especially as we enter Back To School season.

This recent article that went viral on Twitter recently demonstrates just how divisive this topic can be.

https://twitter.com/nick_kapur/status/1032687436185436166/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1032687436185436166&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fblog.remarkable.com%2Fmedia%2Ff41b71e7a040169fc2ef74601b8bb27d%3FpostId%3Da5efb434809

Many of us feel like the powerful folks in Silicon Valley, the ones who try and feed our kids more technology, are keeping it away from their own children.

So, are access to digital devices good or bad for helping kids learn in the classroom? Or is the answer more nuanced than that?

We took a look at the pros, cons and recent research to find out:

Why exposure to digital devices in the classroom is a good thing?

Whether we agree with it or not, technology is a big part of our lives and school-aged children today are very much digital natives: They grow up with technology rather than learning the skills as an adult (like many of us in the older generations who are more aptly named “digital immigrants.”)

In the US more than one of three middle school students report using smartphones (39%) and tablets (31%) to do homework according to a 2012 study commissioned by Verizon.

Much of the world that they already have, and will, interact with is digital. This includes the inevitable use of technology in their future careers. So why not have it as part of their education?

According to a study by the IT Trade Association, educators say that developing technological skills with their students is important preparation for joining the workforce later in life.

Students need to be device and mobile literate for their careers, and the students themselves seem to concur; with nine out of ten agreeing that using technology in the classroom would help prepare them for the digital future.

Alongside this is the importance of promoting good digital citizenship. Using the internet effectively, responsibly and safely are important skills which should be developed by parents, educators and school counselors.

Do digital devices in the classroom help kids learn?

While the argument for digital device education and experience seems strong, is this sort of technology in the classroom actually beneficial to learning?

As Vawn Himmelsbach, Education Technology writer, points out; there are seemingly lots of reasons why online digital devices help in the learning environment. Not only do students have access to a vast world of information and learning materials but that this kind of technology allows students to learn at their own pace through individualized instruction.

Also, rather than just passively learning in the classroom, kids become more much interactive with the teacher thus they become more of an advisor or coach as the kids explore their learning more independently.

Lastly, using online polls, quizzes and similar activities could help engage all students, including those who are normally shy and wouldn’t always raise their hand in class to participate.

It’s no wonder that, in a recent survey, around 75% of educators think technology has a positive impact in the education process.

While this sounds promising, and there are clear advantages to having technology in the classroom, the current research in this area suggests that we should be cautious with how we use it and that learning can just as quickly be hindered by these same devices.

What the research says:

While some devices can be of benefit, there’s a plethora of research also suggesting that many of these devices, especially laptops, distract from learning. Not only for the student using the device but for those around them.

In one particular study they found that, regardless of the duration, any laptop use negatively affects students learning in terms of information recollection. This is backed by the fact that multitasking and distraction devices affect our ability to study, as we outlined in our recent article on “How to stay focused while studying”.

This is certainly true when the device allows for browsing that isn’t relevant to the studies. But another study reported that, even when the device allows for relevant information browsing and school-related apps and sites, that this isn’t helpful for learning either.

When it comes to devices like iPads, which have growing popularity in classes for much younger students, the results seem much the same.

While people (students and educators alike) report enjoying having them in the classroom, there is much concern around the potential to be distracted by them.

It’s also worth noting that handwriting, rather than typing, is very beneficial to information processing, focus and memory. Read more about it in our recent article on the benefits of handwriting.

We also recently explored the latest trend of embracing doodling in the classroom as well. Which is shown to have similar benefits.

Conclusion? It’s not the device, it’s the distraction.

Being able to use digital devices efficiently is an important part of education for young digital natives and there seems to be lots of good arguments for the benefits of these technologies to aid learning.

However, many of these devices are proving to be too distracting and come with platforms and apps that are inherently designed to be addictive and steal your focus.

This is what drives our philosophy at reMarkable. We created a new type of device as a protest to the distractions that surround us every day. A digital tool designed to reclaim our thoughts and focus. Setting a new direction for human-friendly technology.

-Medium

27-storey luxury hotel unveiled for downtown Calgary

Calgary is getting a new luxury hotel.

Inspired by hotels in London and New York, PBA Land and Development chief executive Patricia Phillips said The Dorian will combine a local feel with British flair.

Construction of the hotel at 525 5th Avenue S.W. will begin in June. The 27-storey hotel will have 300 rooms with a main-floor restaurant, conference facilities, fitness facility and a top-floor restaurant-lounge with an outdoor patio.

“We can help do more than get this city back on its feet, we can help it rise to even greater heights,” said Phillips at a downtown press conference Thursday.

The $100-million hotel is to open in the fall of 2020 and will employ more than 150 people.

The hotel will cater to two distinct markets, said PBA senior vice-president Andrew Boblin. The Marriott Courtyard in the lower portion will appeal to “discerning business and leisure travellers” who are price-conscious, while the upper-level Marriott Autograph Collection is for travellers expecting “experiential luxury.”

The Dorian is the first project in the local initiative Calgary Rising, which is working to stimulate Calgary’s economy through private infrastructure projects. According to Phillips, the hotel will also support local businesses by using local soaps, linens and food.

“We’ll be buying and displaying works by local artists, photographers and sculptures. We’ll be playing music from local musicians and DJs,” Phillips added.

Arjun Channa, director with the Calgary Hotel Association, said numbers have been improving lately as the city emerges from the economic downturn of 2014.

“There is definitely an uptick. … With the exception of a couple of months this year, overall the year is looking very promising,” said Channa.

Calgary Economic Development CEO Mary Moran said the hotel is a perfect match for the city’s aspiring, young demographic, while Calgary Tourism CEO Cindy Ady said the project will boost tourism.

“One in 10 Calgarians make their living in tourism … . This is a shining new example of where Calgary is heading as it goes into the future,” said Ady.

STEPHANIE BABYCH

Calgary Herald

Canadian home sales fall to lowest level in five years

Canadian home sales fell to the lowest in more than five years in April, as tougher mortgage qualification rules deterred buyers.

The number of homes sold last month declined 2.9 per cent from March, the Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday from Ottawa. Declines were recorded in about 60 per cent of cities tracked including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

It was a disappointing start to the busy spring selling season for realtors that suggests markets are still struggling with tougher rules that require borrowers to prove they can afford to cope with higher interest rates. Policy makers made the changes along with other steps, such as foreign buyers taxes, to put the brakes on a surge in price gains last year that some fear could be a danger to the financial system.

The drop in April is the third monthly decline this year, with sales down over 20 per cent since December. The new mortgage qualification rules kicked on Jan. 1.

“This year’s new stress test has lowered sales activity and destabilized market balance for housing markets in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland,” CREA economist Gregory Klump wrote in the report. “This is exactly the type of collateral damage that CREA warned the government about.”

Even with the drop in sales, prices are still holding up. The benchmark index climbed 0.6 per cent on the month, and is up 1.5 per cent from a year ago.

The number of new homes listed for sale also declined 4.8 per cent in April.

-Bloomberg News

TD Bank drops 5-year variable mortgage rate as competition among big lenders heats up

TD Bank is joining a rival bank in offering a highly discounted variable mortgage rate as competition among Canada’s biggest lenders heats up.

The Toronto-based bank said Tuesday it’s lowering its five-year variable closed rate to 2.45 per cent, or 1.15 per cent lower than its TD Mortgage Prime rate, until May 31.

TD’s special rate follows last week’s move by the Bank of Montreal, which discounted its variable mortgage rate to 2.45 per cent until the end of May.

Canada’s lenders often offer special spring mortgage rates as homebuying activity picks up, but Robert McLister — founder of rate comparison website RateSpy.com — said last week that BMO’s special discounted variable rate was the biggest widely advertised discount ever by a Big Six Canadian bank.

TD’s discounted rate on Tuesday brings its variable mortgage rate offer in line with BMO’s.
“TD is not lying down,” McLister said Tuesday. “Mortgage growth is the lowest since 2001, you’ve got interest rates going up, and less people getting mortgages because of that… They have the ability to match this rate and still make money.”

TD spokeswoman Julie Bellissimo says its special five-year variable rate applies to new and renewed mortgages, as well as the variable rate term portion of certain TD home equity lines of credit.

“We are confident this is a strong offer for new and renewing customers, while ensuring we remain competitive in a changing environment,” Bellissimo said in an emailed statement.

The moves come amid slowing mortgage growth. The Canadian Real Estate Association said Tuesday that national home sales volume sank to the lowest level in more than five years in April, falling by 13.9 per cent from the same month last year. The national average sale price decreased by 11.3 per cent year-over-year.

Home sales have slowed due to various factors, including measures introduced by the Ontario and B.C. governments to cool the housing market, such as taxes on non-resident buyers.

Other headwinds for mortgage growth include higher interest rates and a new financial stress test that makes it more difficult for would-be homebuyers to qualify with federally regulated lenders, such as the banks.

As of Jan. 1, buyers who don’t need mortgage insurance must prove they can make payments at a qualifying rate of the greater of two percentage points higher than the contractual mortgage rate or the central bank’s five-year benchmark rate. An existing stress test also stipulates that homebuyers with less than a 20 per cent down payment seeking an insured mortgage must qualify at the central bank’s benchmark five-year mortgage rate.

The tighter lending rules are making it harder for homebuyers to qualify for uninsured mortgages, and shrinking the pool of qualified buyers for higher-priced homes, CREA’s chief economist Gregory Klump said in April.

Meanwhile, Canada’s largest lenders all raised their benchmark posted five-year fixed mortgage rates in recent weeks as government bond yields increased, signalling a rise in borrowing costs.

In turn, the central bank’s five year benchmark qualifying rate — which is calculated using the posted rates at the Big Six banks — increased last week to 5.34 per cent. This qualifying rate is used in stress tests for both insured and uninsured mortgages, and an increase means that the bar is now even higher for borrowers to qualify.

As well, since July, the Bank of Canada has raised interest rates three times to 1.25 per cent, putting added pressure on consumers. But a rising interest rate environment also means that the margins — or profit made on loans — on mortgages for banks will improve if interest rates rise. Rising interest rates also drive up demand for fixed-rate mortgages, and banks may discount variable mortgage rates in an effort to balance the books, according to McLister.

-Calgary Herald

Mortgage Loan Insurance: Quick Reference Guide

This handy quick reference tool provides helpful information to submit applications to CMHC for homeowner and small rental loans, for all CMHC programs: Purchase, Improvement, Newcomers, Self-Employed, Green Home, Portability, and Income Property.

Benefits of mortgage insurance

Some of the benefits of CMHC mortgage loan insurance include:

  • Available for purchase of an existing residential property with or without improvements and for new construction financing.
  • Our Green Home program offers a partial mortgage loan insurance premium refund of up to 25%. Refunds are available directly to borrowers who buy, build or renovate for energy efficiency using CMHC-insured financing. Find out more with our Green Home Program.
  • Self-employed borrowers with documentation to support their income have access to CMHC mortgage loan insurance.
  • Our portability feature saves money for repeat users of mortgage loan insurance by reducing or eliminating the premium payable on the new insured loan for the purchase of a subsequent home.

Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratios

For homeowner loans (owner-occupied properties), the Loan-to-Value ratio for 1–2 units is up to 95% LTV. For 3–4 units, the ratio is up to 90% LTV.

For small rental loans (non-owner occupied), the ratio is up to 80% LTV.

Minimum equity requirements

For homeowner loans, the minimum equity requirement for 1–2 units is 5% of the first $500,000 of lending value and 10% of the remainder of the lending value. For 3–4 units, the minimum equity requirement is 10%.

For small rental loans, the minimum equity requirement is 20%.

Purchase price / lending value, amortization and location

For both homeowner and small rental loans, the maximum purchase price / lending value or as-improved property value must be below $1,000,000.

The maximum amortization period is 25 years.

The property must be located in Canada and must be suitable and available for full-time, year-round occupancy. The property must also have year-round access including homes located on an island (via a vehicular bridge or ferry).

Traditional and non-traditional down payments

traditional down payment comes from sources such as savings, the sale of a property, or a non-repayable financial gift from a relative.

non-traditional down payment must be arm’s length and not tied to the purchase and sale of the property, either directly or indirectly such as unsecured personal loans or unsecured lines of credit. Non-traditional down payments are available for 1–2 units, with 90.01% to 95% LTV, with a recommended minimum credit score of 650.

Creditworthiness

At least one borrower (or guarantor) must have a minimum credit score of 600. In certain circumstances, a higher recommended minimum credit score may be required. CMHC may consider alternative methods of establishing creditworthiness for borrowers without a credit history.

Debt service guidelines

The standard threshold is GDS 35% / TDS 42%. The maximum threshold is GDS 39% / TDS 44% (recommended minimum credit score of 680). CMHC considers the strength of the overall mortgage loan insurance application including the recommended minimum credit scores.

Interest rates

The GDS and TDS ratios must be calculated using an interest rate which is the greater of the contract interest rate or the Bank of Canada’s 5-year conventional mortgage interest rate.

Advancing options

Single advances include improvement costs less than or equal to 10% of the as-improved value.

Progress advances include new construction financing or improvement costs greater than 10% of the as-improved value. With Full Service, CMHC validates up to 4 consecutive advances at no cost. For Basic Service, the Lender validates advances without pre-approval from CMHC.

Non-permanent residents (homeowner loans only)

Non-permanent residents must be legally authorized to work in Canada (i.e. a work permit). Mortgage loan insurance is only available for non-permanent residents for homeowner loans for 1 unit, up to 90% LTV, with a down payment from traditional sources.

-CMHC

March home sales plunge 22.7%, with national average price sliding 10.4%: CREA

The national average price for all types of residential property was about $491,000, with the Vancouver and Toronto markets causing most of the drag

The number of Canadian homes sold in March plunged 23 per cent and the national average price was down 10 per cent from the same month last year amid double-digit plunges in most housing markets across the country, according to the latest monthly sales data released Friday.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said the level of sales activity marked a four-year low for the month of March and was seven per cent below the 10-year average. Still, national home sales were up from the previous month by 1.3 per cent, according to CREA’s latest statistics.

The drop in home sales comes after several government policy measures were implemented to cool the country’s hot housing market. Last March, national home sales activity had reached an all-time record for that month, according to CREA.

Recent changes to mortgage regulations known as B-20 — which make it harder for homebuyers to qualify for uninsured mortgages — are fuelling demand for lower-priced homes, while shrinking the pool of qualified buyers for higher-priced homes, said Gregory Klump, CREA’s chief economist.

“Given their limited supply, the shift of demand into lower price segments is causing those sale prices to climb,” he said in a statement. “As a result, ‘affordably priced’ homes are becoming less affordable while mortgage financing for higher priced homes remains out of reach of many aspiring move-up home buyers.”

Apartment units posted the largest year-on-year price gains in March, up 17.8 per cent, followed by townhouse/row units at 9.4 per cent. One-storey single family homes saw price gains in March of just 1.3 per cent, and two-storey single family home prices were down two per cent from a year ago.

As of Jan. 1, homebuyers with a down payment larger than 20 per cent seeking a mortgage from a federally regulated lender are now subject to a financial stress test. These borrowers now have to prove that they can service their uninsured mortgage at a qualifying rate of the greater of the contractual mortgage rate plus two percentage point or the five-year benchmark rate published by the Bank of Canada.

The new policy reduces the maximum amount buyers will be able to borrow to buy a home. An existing stress test already requires those with insured mortgages to qualify at the Bank of Canada benchmark five-year mortgage rule.

In turn, home sales activity was pulled forward to the end of 2017 as home buyers tried to lock in a mortgage before the new rules took effect.

Sales in the first quarter slid to their lowest quarterly level since the first three months of 2014.

Overall, the national average price for all types of residential property slipped to about $491,000, down 10.4 per cent from March of last year — with the Vancouver and Toronto markets causing most of the drag.

Excluding Canada’s two most expensive real estate markets, the national average price would be $383,000 — a decline of two per cent from March 2017.

March marked the third consecutive double-digit decline compared with the comparable month last year, when prices in the Greater Toronto Area soared to record highs.

CREA said activity was below year-ago levels in more than 80 per cent of all local markets, in all major urban centres except for Montreal and Ottawa, with the vast majority of year-over-year declines well into double digits.

Markets are likely to remain under pressure from the recent B-20 regulations, higher mortgage rates, and provincial regulations in some regions, TD’s senior economist Michael Dolega said in a research note.

“However, lower-priced markets where affordability is good should generally outperform in the current environment.”

-Calgary Herald

Homeowners income was about double that of renters in 2016

According to new data from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Income Survey and Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, the average before-tax household income, adjusted for inflation, increased 9.6% from $81,200 in 2006 to $89,000 in 2016.

Canadian homeowners’ average household income was roughly double that of renters throughout the 2006 to 2016 period. However, renters’ average household income grew more between 2006 and 2016 with a 14.4% increase compared to 9.7% for homeowners.

In 2016, Alberta had the highest average provincial household income at $107,500 while New Brunswick had the lowest at $73,200. Differences in the level of before-tax household income across provinces also existed when households were grouped into homeowners and renters.

Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest growth rate in the average before-tax household income between 2006 and 2016, at 25.8%. Alberta was the province with the lowest growth rate in the average before-tax household income over the same period, at 7.8%. The growth rate in average before-tax income varied across tenure groups.

In 2016, Edmonton had the highest average before-tax household income in selected Metropolitan Areas at $113,500 while Trois-Rivières had the lowest at $66,500.

The average before-tax household income declined in Hamilton, St. Catharines-Niagara and London between 2006 and 2016, with the largest rate of decline of -8.8% registered in London. Other selected Metropolitan Areas experienced positive growth in the average before-tax household income over the same period, which ranged from 0.3% in Thunder Bay to 30.1% in Saskatoon.

Average before-tax household income, by housing tenure (owner and renter), Canada,1 2006 – 2016 (2016 constant dollars)

 Text version

1 The Canadian Income Survey and the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics include all individuals in Canada except residents of Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, residents of institutions, persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces and members of the Canadian Forces living in military camps. Overall, these exclusions amount to less than 3 percent of the population.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Income Survey 2012 – 2016. Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics 2006 – 2011

Average before-tax household income, all households, selected Metropolitan Areas, 2006 and 2016 (2016 constant dollars)

 Text version

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Income Survey 2012 – 2016, Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics 2006 – 2011

-CMHC

HOUSING MARKET INVENTORY ON THE RISE. Prices remain stable compared to last year

As expected, slow sales this quarter have persisted through March in the City of Calgary. This is not a surprise, after stronger growth in sales at the end of last year following the announced changes to the lending market.

First quarter sales totaled 3,423 units, nearly 18 per cent below last year’s levels and 24 per cent below long-term averages. Easing sales and modest gains in new listings caused inventories to rise and months of supply to remain above four months.

“Economic conditions are slowly improving, but it has not been enough to outpace the current impact of higher lending rates and more stringent conditions,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

“We are entering the most active quarters in the housing market with more inventory, which could create some price fluctuations. However, the improving economy is expected to prevent overall prices from slipping by significant amounts.”

While prices trended down on a quarterly basis, they remained relatively unchanged over last year’s levels due to modest gains in the detached sector offsetting declines in the apartment sector.

The citywide benchmark price for detached product averaged $502,000 in the first quarter. This is slightly lower than the fourth quarter of last year, but comparable to levels recorded in the first quarter of last year. In March, the detached price reached $503,800, 3.6 per cent below pre-recession highs, but one per cent above the lows recorded during the recession.

“The market today is better than what we experienced at the peak of the recession,” said CREB® president Tom Westcott.
“You can find good value if you’re looking to buy a home, and you can also get good value if you’re selling. Being well-informed, in any economic condition, is the key, because there are differences in the market depending on what type of property it is and where it is located.”

Detached market inventories in the first quarter of 2017 were low compared to historical standards. This year, detached inventories have averaged 2,573 units over the first quarter, 10 per cent below first quarter averages recorded during 2015 and 2016.

Spring will have more inventory than last year, slowing progress on price recovery. However, the amount of price adjustment will vary depending on competing supply by location and product type.

-CREB

Real Estate Market Update

Real Estate Market Update | March 2018 

What a difference a year can make. Year-over-year we are seeing significant changes throughout real estate markets across Canada. In each of the four major markets I’ve reviewed, Sales have dropped and Active Listings are on the rise, which means Beauty Contests and Price Wars will dominate the marketplace. 

Year-over-year, Vancouver is -30% in Sales, Edmonton -12%, Calgary -27% and Toronto nearly -40%. These are noteworthy changes and deserve some evaluation but I don’t think the sky is falling. Markets change but we as professionals need to be able to change with them.

Calgary, AB

Comparing March 2018 to March 2017, sales are down just over 27% and inventory is up almost 25%.  This means as of March 2018, Calgarians are working with roughly 4.6 months of inventory.  There’s no doubt you are in a shrinking market which means there are fewer sales happening for the same amount of people.

Richard Robbins

Housing Market Inventory on the Rise

As expected, slow sales this quarter have persisted through March in the City of Calgary. This is not a surprise, after stronger growth in sales at the end of last year following the announced changes to the lending market.

First quarter sales totaled 3,423 units, nearly 18 per cent below last year’s levels and 24 per cent below long-term averages. Easing sales and modest gains in new listings caused inventories to rise and months of supply to remain above four months.

“Economic conditions are slowly improving, but it has not been enough to outpace the current impact of higher lending rates and more stringent conditions,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

“We are entering the most active quarters in the housing market with more inventory, which could create some price fluctuations. However, the improving economy is expected to prevent overall prices from slipping by significant amounts.”

While prices trended down on a quarterly basis, they remained relatively unchanged over last year’s levels due to modest gains in the detached sector offsetting declines in the apartment sector.

The citywide benchmark price for detached product averaged $502,000 in the first quarter. This is slightly lower than the fourth quarter of last year, but comparable to levels recorded in the first quarter of last year. In March, the detached price reached $503,800, 3.6 per cent below pre-recession highs, but one per cent above the lows recorded during the recession.

“The market today is better than what we experienced at the peak of the recession,” said CREB® president Tom Westcott.

“You can find good value if you’re looking to buy a home, and you can also get good value if you’re selling. Being well-informed, in any economic condition, is the key, because there are differences in the market depending on what type of property it is and where it is located.”

Detached market inventories in the first quarter of 2017 were low compared to historical standards. This year, detached inventories have averaged 2,573 units over the first quarter, 10 per cent below first quarter averages recorded during 2015 and 2016.

Spring will have more inventory than last year, slowing progress on price recovery. However, the amount of price adjustment will vary depending on competing supply by location and product type.

-CREB