Larry Tesler, an icon of early computing, has died at the age of 74.
Mr Tesler started working in Silicon Valley in the early 1960s, at a time when computers were inaccessible to the vast majority of people.
It was thanks to his innovations – which included the “cut”, “copy” and “paste” commands – that the personal computer became simple to learn and use.
Xerox, where Mr Tesler spent part of his career, paid tribute to him.
“The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more, was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler,” the company tweeted. “Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas.”
Mr Tesler was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1945, and studied at Stanford University in California.
After graduating, he specialised in user interface design – that is, making computer systems more user-friendly.
He worked for a number of major tech firms during his long career. He started at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Parc), before Steve Jobs poached him for Apple, where he spent 17 years and rose to chief scientist.
After leaving Apple he set up an education start-up, and worked for brief periods at Amazon and Yahoo.
In 2012, he told the BBC of Silicon Valley: “There’s almost a rite of passage – after you’ve made some money, you don’t just retire, you spend your time funding other companies.
“There’s a very strong element of excitement, of being able to share what you’ve learned with the next generation.”
‘A counterculture vision’
Possibly Mr Tesler’s most famous innovation, the cut and paste command, was reportedly based on the old method of editing in which people would physically cut portions of printed text and glue them elsewhere.
The command was incorporated in Apple’s software on the Lisa computer in 1983, and the original Macintosh that was released the following year.
One of Mr Tesler’s firmest beliefs was that computer systems should stop using “modes”, which were common in software design at the time.
“Modes” allow users to switch between functions on software and apps but make computers both time-consuming and complicated.
So strong was this belief that Mr Tesler’s website was called “nomodes.com”, his Twitter handle was “@nomodes”, and even his car’s license plate was “No Modes”.
Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum said Mr Tesler “combined computer science training with a counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone”.
N.B. COVID-19 roundup: Non-medical masks now recommended for citizens in public
New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health now recommends people wear non-medical masks in public places such as grocery stores and pharmacies to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Jennifer Russell said Monday that members of the general public can cover their faces with homemade masks or another type of covering to limit the chance of spreading the virus to others.
The change in position is based on the latest information about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients, said Russell.
“The face covering prevents you from infecting somebody else,” she said. “It’s not to protect you from getting COVID-19 from somebody else.”
Over the weekend, Russell said chief medical officers of health across Canada, reviewed the latest evidence based on information around masks.
“We would like to reserve surgical masks for health-care providers. Period,” she said.
Dr. Theresa Tam, the top doctor at the Public Health Agency of Canada, gave similiar advice Monday, saying Canadians can use non-medical masks in tandem with social distancing measures to limit the transmission of the deadly virus when out grocery shopping or at a pharmacy.
Dr. Gordon Dow, division head of infectious diseases at the Moncton Hospital, said the advice from public health is changing all the time.
“Our advice is changing with new evidence and so we are recommending people start wearing a mask in public,” Dow said.
Here is a roundup of other developments.
2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 announced Monday
There are two new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 103, chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell told reporters during the briefing in Fredericton.
Both of the cases are in Zone 1, the Moncton region. One is in their 20s, the other is in their 30s.
Both are close contacts of a previously confirmed case, she said.
Seven patients are in hospital, including three in intensive care.
Although New Brunswick appears in many ways be faring better than other jurisdictions, with relatively low case numbers, relatively few hospital admissions, and community transmissions still relatively rare, “that is exactly why we cannot relax,” said Russell.
30 people have recovered from COVID-19
“We cannot lose vigilance,” she said, reiterating the importance of staying home as much as possible and maintaining a physical distance of six feet, or about two metres, when out.
“There have been too many instances of people flouting these rules, seeking loopholes or attending gatherings they presume are free of risk. No gathering can be free of risk right now.”
“The sacrifices we all make now will determine the severity of this outbreak.”
To date, 30 people have recovered.
Of the 103 cases, 59 are travel-related, 33 are close contacts of confirmed cases, six cases are the result of community transmission and five cases remain under investigation.
Russell and Higgs did not hold daily news conferences over the weekend. Instead, the government sent out news releases.
5,000 test kits arrive
New Brunswick received 5,000 COVID-19 test kits from the federal government Monday, “which greatly relieved the pressure on testing,” said Health Minister Ted Flemming.
Shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers, such as N95 masks, are also “on the way,” he told reporters Monday during the update in Fredericton.
The province has enough PPE “in normal times” to last us about 12 to 14 weeks, said Flemming.
“In situations like this, you go through them a little quicker, what is called ‘the burn rate,’ and we need to balance that so that we don’t use them up.
“I mean, if you’ve got a journey across the desert you don’t drink all your water in Day One. And that’s what we’re doing here — sensible, reasonable, balanced, putting patients and employees and health-care workers first.”
Last Thursday, Premier Blaine Higgs told CBC’s Power and Politics New Brunswick could run out of COVID-19 testing supplies within a week with ramped up testing and personal protective equipment within three or four weeks.
At that time, he said the province was conducting about 500 tests a day and planned to increase the number over the next few days to 600 or 700.
According to the government’s website, testing numbers since then has been:
- Friday: 386
- Saturday: 442
- Sunday: 195
- Monday: 265
Task force to lead response
A task force has been struck to oversee the health-care system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Blaine Higgs announced on Monday.
“It will allow us to react in real time,” he said.
The task force will include Dr. Gordon Dow, an infectious diseases specialist with the Horizon Health Network, Dr. Nicole LeBlanc, the regional chief of staff for the Vitalité Health Network, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell, and deputy health minister Gérald Richard, who will all work “hand in hand” with Health Minister Ted Flemming, he said.
It will have a “military-like command-and-control,” approach, said Flemming.
“We must stay, not on top of this virus, but ahead of it,” he said.
Province hopes to donate laptops to some students
As students return to a version of school today, the province is hoping to give laptops to those who don’t have access to a computer to do their class work online.
This comes after the province announced last week that public schools are expected to remain closed for the rest of the school year. Instead of regular classes, students now have to spend one to 2½ hours a day learning online.
The Education Department recognized that moving to online learning for the rest of the school year would not be feasible for all students, Dominic Cardy, the minister, said Monday.
“Some don’t have access to high-speed internet,” he said. “And some don’t have access to the technology that would like them to connect to a cell network or to the internet.”
But acquiring and distributing technological devices has challenges.
“If someone calls me up and says they have 50 laptops, it’s very hard to go and get them,” he said during an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.
“So just even trying to work out those sorts of logistics will take more time and be more complicated than they would be under normal circumstances.”
Cardy said anyone willing to donate technology or anyone with inquiries about and concerns about online learning should contact him at 506-238-5550 or via email at email@example.com,
“I hope more than anything else that we can get back to a regular school system as quickly as possible and get back to the things that we used to talk about on how to make French immersion better and whether snow days are good or bad,” said Education Minister Dominic Cardy.
“That would be kind of a blessing right now.”
Cardy said students who were not passing before schools closed must now work with their teacher to ensure they know the material before moving to the next grade.
“If you were having difficulty at that point, now is a chance for you to work with your teacher to be able to get some assistance to be able to move along.”
Provincial exams and structured evaluations are also on hold.
Here is a roundup of other developments.
Province doesn’t know when students will be able to hold graduation
The province is working with universities and colleges to make sure post-secondary institutions accommodate students graduating from high school this year.
“This is again, something that’s affecting the entire planet with nearly every single school student across the entire world at home right now, so the universities are well aware that they have to recognize that,” Education Minister Dominic Cardy said.
Over the weekend, Cardy posted a video online directed at Grade 12 students.
In the video, Cardy said the province doesn’t know how or when students will be able to celebrate.
“It isn’t fair and there really isn’t no other way to put it.”
Cardy said he understands students are disappointed, but graduating high school is a major achievement and it will take time to work out the logistics of when students will be able to celebrate.
“A lot has changed in the world over the last few weeks. And right now public health and safety is everyone’s priority,” he said.
“But that doesn’t change the fact that graduating from Grade 12 is an important milestone that deserves to be celebrated.
Dairy farmers tossing product
New Brunswick dairy farmers say the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing them to throw out milk.
After a brief surge in demand for fluid milk soon after the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in Canada, the market has since collapsed.
“New Brunswick plans to throw out 670,000 litres of milk next week,” Marcel Daigle, co-owner of the Oscar Daigle and Sons Farm in Bake Brook, told Radio-Canada.
“In Canada, next week, we should throw out 12 million litres. That represents seven per cent of Canadian production.”
Demand plummeted dramatically with the closures of restaurants, stores and hotels, Daigle said. Plus, schools and daycares are no longer placing orders.
Daigle, a seventh generation New Brunswick farmer, said it’s impossible to completely stop his 160 cows from producing milk, but he can slow them down.
“Cows that were supposed to be dry or on a break before their next baby, they always have a two-month break,” he explained. “What we can do is extend that break and then pause it for three months or four months.”
Sussex group helps support truck drivers
Volunteers in Sussex are doing what they can to make sure truck drivers are well fed so they can continue doing their jobs.
Joanne Barton is a member of the group Helping Hearts of Sussex, which helps people in the area during these times of physical distancing.
Barton and others wanted to start a group after hearing many truckers were turned away from using washrooms and restaurants because of COVID-19 precautions.
“When I started hearing about the fact that they couldn’t even find a washroom or they had no hot meal at all, even the Irving’s aren’t even allowed to sell the hot dogs,” Barton said.
The group is stationed at Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. behind the Four Corners Irving, just off the highway.
Since most long-haul trucks are equipped with a microwave, the group is also providing drivers with soup they can reheat elsewhere on the road.
“We’re home,” she said. “Let’s get together and do this.”
What to do if you have symptoms?
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough or breathlessness. In this case, residents should:
Stay at home.
Immediately call Tele-Care 811.
Describe symptoms and travel history.
Follow instructions carefully.
240,000 Canadians have applied for CERB; Three more dead at Pinecrest as death toll at nursing home hits 26; 11 more deaths, nearly 450 new cases in Ontario
The latest novel coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Monday (this file will be updated throughout the day) with web links to longer stories if available:
1:35 p.m.: Quebec Premier Francois Legault is extending the closure of non-essential businesses in the province to May 4. Legault says COVID-19 is still on an upward slope in Quebec and it would be unrealistic to keep to the original April 13 end date.
The premier announced there were 19 new deaths in Quebec, for a total of 94, and 947 new cases for a total of 7,944. He says he hopes the number of new cases in the province will peak in the coming weeks.
1:30 p.m.: Premier Doug Ford confirms that 500,000 3M masks are coming to Ontario. Says he’s feeling more confident. There were mixed signals this morning. “I have a little bit of optimism now that we’re going to get this resolved.” Ford says close to four million N95 masks ordered and 500,000 of them released.
1:20 p.m.: Ford notes that the previously announced $200 per child under 12 and $250 per special needs child subsidy kicks in today. Apply online.
1:15 p.m.: Ford warns of “extremely serious consequences” if Ontario residents don’t stay home. “Our (medical) supplies are strained at this point.” He again urges residents to stay home.
12:45 p.m.: Ford to speak at his daily briefing at 1 p.m. Live video of the news comference will be livestreamed at thestar.com
12:40 p.m.: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says she just spoke with Premier Doug Ford to ensure that all the masks Canada purchased will be exported from the U.S. Ford has been telling reporters today that three million masks were stopped at the border this weekend coming up to Canada. Freeland and Ford have been working closely and talk several times a day.
12:35 p.m.: There has been a second death in Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of COVID-19. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the latest death is a 61-year-old woman who was admitted to hospital from home.
Fitzgerald reports nine new cases of COVID-19 in the province, increasing the provincial total to 226, and says there are eight people in hospital, including two in intensive care.
12:15 p.m.: Three more residents of a nursing home in central Ontario have died of COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths at the facility up to 26. The wife of a resident at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., has also died from the novel coronavirus.
The outbreak at the seniors’ residence in Ontario’s cottage country is considered one of the worst in the country. At least 24 staff members at the facility have also tested positive for COVID-19.
12:13 p.m. (updated): Canada’s top public-health doctor says wearing masks is a way for people who might have COVID-19 without realizing it to keep from spreading the illness to others. That’s a change from previous advice.
Dr. Theresa Tam says the change is due to increasing evidence that people with the virus can spread it without knowing they’re sick.
Cloth masks are advised if Canadians are in a position where they can’t be at least two metres away from somebody.
She says masks worn this way protect others more than they protect the people wearing them, and don’t exempt wearers from all the other measures they should take against COVID-19, including physical distancing and regular handwashing.
And Tam says medical masks still need to be preserved for front-line health workers, so cloth masks and other alternatives are the way to go.
12:11 p.m.: Tam says people as young as in their mid-20s are dying of COVID-19.
11:45 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Tam will give updated information on the use of masks in public at her daily noon briefing.
11:25 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asked by the Star’s Alex Ballingall about Premier Doug Ford’s comments to Citynews about how Ontario will run out of personal protective equipment for health-care workers in one week after claiming the U.S. stopped a shipment of PPE into Canada. Trudeau says the two countries continue to have productive conversations, and that it’s a two-way street.
11:24 a.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting 31 new cases of COVID-19. The province’s total has now grown to 293 confirmed cases — 64 of which have been resolved.
While most cases in Nova Scotia have been connected to travel or a known case, the province has confirmed cases are now being linked to community spread.
11:15 a.m. (updated): Trudeau says 240,000 people successfully applied for emergency relief in the first few hours after Ottawa opened the process. Only people with birthdays in the first three months of the year can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit today.
The benefit offers $500-a-week payments for workers who have lost all of their income. Trudeau says changes to the program will come soon to offer help for people whose hours have been slashed but who are still working a little.
11:08 a.m: As of 11 a.m., Ontario’s local public health units are reporting 4,859 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, including 149 deaths, according to the Star’s latest count of the public tallies and press releases issued by the province’s 34 regional health units.
The total number of cases is up nearly 450 cases, or 10.0 per cent, since the same time Sunday morning.
The health units have reported 11 new deaths in 24 hours, including four more reported in Peel Region Monday morning. Peel has not yet released any information on these deaths, which bring the region’s total to eight since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care continues to grow in Ontario. According to the province, 589 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, including 216 in an intensive care unit.
The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of deaths — 132 — may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in its reporting system.
The local health units post new information to their websites throughout the day. The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases, meaning they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.
10:50 a.m.: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling on the government to increase the charitable donation tax credit. He says this would help increase charitable contributions to hospitals, churches, food banks, women’s shelters and other worthy organizations.
Scheer also wants the government to immediately remove the capital gains tax on charitable donations of private company shares and real estate. He says although many businesses are struggling, some are still thriving and should be encouraged to support the charitable sector.
10:40 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will hold his daily media briefing about the COVID-19 situation at 11:15 a.m. from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. Live video of his briefing will be posted here.
On Sunday, Trudeau announced details for a cash payment for Canadians out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accepted starting Monday, offering Canadians who have lost their jobs because of the crisis $2,000 a month.
10:24 a.m.: The Open Championship, also known as the British Open, has been cancelled, organizers announced Monday. It’s the first time since 1945 that this major golf championship has been cancelled.
10:05 a.m.: VIA Rail has suspended service of the “Canadian” — its service connecting passengers between Toronto and Vancouver — until June 1, due to the spread of the coronavirus, the national rail passenger service said in a news release.
The measure is needed “in light of the continued expansion of travel limitations as well as the widening of physical distancing and isolation measures,” the company said.
Passengers who booked a trip during this period will be contacted and reimbursed automatically.
10 a.m.: Toronto Mayor John Tory says he’s in favour of shutting down High Park, which usually attracts huge crowds for the cherry blossoms later this month. “I just don’t think that crowd scene is going to work in terms of the kind of physical distance we’re trying to encourage,” Tory told CP24, adding that he hopes to have some announcement this week of some sort of livestream so that people can still see it.
Hundreds were turned away from Toronto parks over the weekend as residents defy COVID-19 warnings, the Star’s Katie Daubs reports.
9:58 a.m.: Spain reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases in more than two weeks, a sign that Europe’s biggest outbreak is slowing.
New infections were 4,273, taking the total to 135,032, according to Health Ministry data on Monday. The death toll rose by 637 to 13,055 in the past 24 hours, a smaller gain than Sunday’s 674 and the lowest number of daily fatalities since March 24.
9:44 a.m.: Stocks jumped in markets around the world Monday after some of the hardest-hit areas offered sparks of hope that the worst of the coronavirus outbreak may be on the horizon. U.S. stocks climbed more than three per cent in the first few minutes of trading, following similar gains in Europe and Asia. Bay Street was up 3.6 per cent at the opening of the market.
9:40 a.m.: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to hold his daily media briefing about the COVID-19 situation at 11:15 a.m. Monday from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. Check back here for the live video from the news conference.
9:15 a.m.: The latest numbers on the Johns Hopkins website report the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide at 1,288,372 with 70,482 deaths. Among those, 270,249 have recovered from the illness. The United States (337,933), Spain (135,032), Italy (128,948) and Germany (100,132) have the highest number of cases.
8:44 a.m.: South Africa, one of the world’s most unequal countries with a large population vulnerable to the new coronavirus, may have an advantage in the outbreak, honed during years battling HIV and tuberculosis: the know-how and infrastructure to conduct mass testing.
8:31 a.m.: The United States and Britain braced for one of their bleakest weeks in living memory on Monday as the social and financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic deepened. New infections in Italy and especially Spain showed signs of slowing, with emergency rooms in the hard-hit Madrid region returning almost to normal a week after scenes of patients sleeping on floors and in chairs.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was infected last month, was hospitalized overnight in what his office described as a “precautionary step” after persistent symptoms. The 55-year-old Conservative leader, who had a fever for days, is the first known head of government to fall ill with the disease.
8:26 a.m.: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that he will declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures as early as Tuesday to bolster measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak, but that there will be no hard lockdowns.
7 a.m. Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canadian passengers on the Coral Princess cruise ship will be headed home Monday, after undergoing a health screening.
Champagne says in a tweet that Canadians who don’t show any symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to disembark the ship in Florida and get on a flight chartered by Holland America.
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The minister says they’ll be screened again upon arrival and subject to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period.
Some passengers were allowed off the ship yesterday but Canadians weren’t among them, due to new guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
Those guidelines said cruise passengers shouldn’t board commercial flights, meaning only those with chartered flights were able to disembark.
6 a.m.: Three out of four U.S. hospitals surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, according to a federal report that finds hospitals expect to be overwhelmed as cases rocket toward their projected peak.
4:15 a.m.: Applications open today for the new federal emergency aid benefit for Canadians who lost their income because of COVID-19.
The Canada Revenue Agency will open its application portals this morning to those born in the first three months of the year, with those born in other months able to apply later in the week.
People born in April, May and June can apply Tuesday, those born in July, August or September can apply Wednesday and applications are accepted Thursday from people born in October, November and December. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be open to anyone.
More than two million Canadians lost their jobs in the last half of March as businesses across the country were forced to close or reduce their operations to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Others are unable to work because they are required to self-isolate at home, or need to look after children whose schools and daycares are closed.
To be eligible for the emergency benefit, workers must have earned at least $5,000 in 2019, or in the 12 months before applying. The benefit is the same for everyone regardless of previous income, and is a less complicated application process than for employment insurance.
Canadians who sign up for direct deposit could get their first payment before the end of the week, while those who opt for printed cheques will get money in 10 days.
4:05 a.m.: Students across Ontario begin online learning today, more than three weeks after COVID-19 shuttered schools in the name of physical distancing.
Teachers will lead the effort with both live and pre-recorded lessons, but the move poses challenges nonetheless.
The Ministry of Education has said that e-learning cannot fully replace the in-class experience, so the goal is to help students continue their education as much as possible during the pandemic.
4 a.m.: The U.S. Surgeon General says Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while the nation’s infectious disease chief warned Sunday that the new coronavirus may never be completely eradicated from the globe.
Those were some of the most grim assessments yet for the immediate future and beyond. But hours later, President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could mean beginning to turn a corner.
“We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at a Sunday evening White House briefing. Pence added, “We are beginning to see glimmers of progress.”
The president, however, added that he thought the next two weeks “are going to be very difficult.”
Earlier Sunday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN, “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.”
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 337,000, with the death toll climbing past 9,600. More than 4,100 of those deaths are in the state of New York, but a glimmer of hope there came on Sunday when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state registered a small dip in new fatalities over a 24-hour period.
4 a.m.: There are 15,512 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada, according to The Canadian Press.
- Quebec: 7,944 confirmed (including 94 deaths, 464 resolved)
- Ontario: 4,038 confirmed (including 119 deaths, 1,449 resolved)
- Alberta: 919 confirmed (including 23 deaths, 279 resolved), 331 presumptive
- British Columbia: 1,203 confirmed (including 38 deaths, 673 resolved)
- Nova Scotia: 262 confirmed (including 53 resolved)
- Saskatchewan: 249 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 67 resolved)
- Newfoundland and Labrador: 217 confirmed (including 1 death, 28 resolved)
- Manitoba: 187 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 17 resolved), 16 presumptive
- New Brunswick: 101 confirmed (including 28 resolved)
- Prince Edward Island: 22 confirmed (including 6 resolved)
- Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed
- Yukon: 6 confirmed (including 4 resolved)
- Northwest Territories: 4 confirmed (including 1 resolved)
- Nunavut: No confirmed cases
- Total: 15,512 (347 presumptive, 15,165 confirmed including 280 deaths, 3,069 resolved)
7:20 p.m.: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to a hospital with the new coronavirus.
Johnson’s office says he is being admitted for tests because he still has symptoms, 10 days after testing positive for the virus.
Downing St. says the hospitalization is a “precautionary step” and he remains in charge of the government.
Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26.
Father says lack of internet access at rural home hurting daughters’ education
Gord Hiebert says he’s tried to get the internet installed at his house — roughly 18 kilometres outside of Saskatoon — numerous times.
But because he’s in a rural area, it has either been too slow or too costly.
While some service providers, including SaskTel, have said the installation is possible, Hiebert says he was told it would require the installation of a 20-foot tower on his house — something he worries may be toppled by the Saskatchewan wind, which blows fiercely around his Valley Road home, or cause damage to his roof.
The installation also comes with a hefty price-tag. Hiebert said it would have cost him hundreds of dollars, as he would have to cover the cost of equipment, travel and installation.
Using the hotspot on his cell phone, he’s been able to circumvent the issue, allowing his two daughters to access the internet when he gets home from work. But now, with some students across Saskatchewan continuing their education remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he says the lack of internet access is hurting his daughters’ education.
“It makes me feel like my kids are being discriminated against, really,” said Hiebert, whose children attend the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.
Hiebert said he wants his children to take advantage of the remote learning framework but he has concerns about making his daughters start their school days in the evening, a time he says is usually reserved for family.
“I want to spend a little time with them,” he said. “If they’ve got a full day of school work to do, I don’t want them to start it at 6 o’clock when I get home from work. So yeah, it’s tough for them.”
Hiebert said he would be open to seeing technology, like internet-enabled laptops, deployed to families who want to participate in the province’s voluntary learning framework, but don’t have access to internet or technology.
“There should be one for every kid and there should be internet available for every kid,” he said.
Hiebert said he’s recently received emails from the Catholic school division detailing what his children’s education plan will look like. These included an email asking parents what kind of access they have to technology.
In a statement from the GSCS, the division said while supplemental learning plans do have a “heavy online component,” it recognizes that “access to the internet is a barrier for a significant number of students.”
“That is why plans include multiple modes of communication and access to learning. Teachers and staff are in the process of determining access and needs of each student and developing plans accordingly,” said the statement. “We’re in the early stages of this and don’t have solutions for every scenario yet.”
In the statement, the GSCS said paper copies of lesson plans and assignments are an option for those without internet access, noting they are working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to ensure safe handling of physical copies.
The division notes it has already started lending out tablets and Chromebooks to some students, and is working with service providers to ensure families without Internet access are able to go online.
“If parents have concerns about access to learning, we ask that they contact their teacher or school directly to find solutions and ensure all students have access to learning,” the GSCS said in the statement.
The Saskatoon Public School Division, the province’s largest, has also started to gauge how much access its students have to technology, with teachers already reaching out to families.
“That is the first-order of business that we are doing,” said the division’s deputy director of education, Shane Skjerven.
Using data collected by teachers, Skjerven said the division hopes to have a solid idea about access levels by early this week and will be working with its staff in education technology to develop a plan around access for students. Skjerven said while the internet is important to education, the division is still examining alternative methods for delivering education.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we are unable to provide learning to families that don’t have access to technology,” he said, noting the school division is examining how to safely deliver different learning methods while following recommendations from health officials.
This includes “paper and pencil” learning materials.
“It may not be as fancy,” said Skjerven. “But it can still be effective in terms of getting at the learning outcomes that are in our curriculums.”
He said the change has been a difficult one for everyone involved, including the division’s front-line staff and teachers.
“Our teachers want to be in the classroom. They want to be working with students. They cherish the opportunity to get to do that everyday,” he said. “Now that they don’t have the opportunity to do that face-to-face, I think it is something our folks are a little bit disappointed [about].”
However, the division understands the public health orders are in place for everyone’s protection and says they want to make sure they’re following the recommendations fully.
For Hiebert, he says the dispatching of technology to students might address issues around accessibility in the short-term, but SaskTel, a Crown corporation, should be doing more to ensure all of Saskatchewan’s residents have access to the internet.
“We — as a province — we own SaskTel. Why do we not have better infrastructure for our rural communities? It’s terrible,” he said. “A lot of the rural communities, they paid the bills to build SaskTel.”
SaskTel said in a statement to CBC that it understands how important internet access is for its customers during this time. The statement said since 2010, it’s invested roughly $3 billion in its networks, technologies and services, noting its internet coverage reaches 99 per cent of the population using both wired and wireless technology.
While SaskTel offers wired access to 450 communities in Saskatchewan, there are some areas where wired internet is still not an option. In these cases, SaskTel will use its wireless network for internet access, but this requires “line of sight” between the customer and a tower.
“In cases where there are obstacles between the end customer and the tower (such as terrain, trees, and/or man-made structures) it could be necessary for a customer to erect a small tower to ensure their equipment can acquire and maintain ‘line of sight’ with the tower,” the statement said.
The Crown corporation also said it will waive domestic data overage fees for all wireless services from March 17 to April 30, because the pandemic has caused customers to rely heavily on home internet connections.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education said individual divisions are responsible for developing supplemental learning plans for their students.
While the Ministry of Education says models of delivering instruction could include anything from paper and phone calls to “sophisticated online environments,” the divisions will determine what methods will be used to meet the needs of their students.
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