Machines That Challenge

Tim’s Motorcycle Diaries

I’ve been taking a break from writing on work over the holiday and have instead been writing about my new love: motorbikes.  In the last post I wrote about mechanical empathy and how a machine that challenges you can also encourage growth; this resonates with technology and how we use and teach it.

Using technology without understanding it is what we aim for in school because we have so many other important things to get to, I think this is a fundamental mistake.  Using a tool in ignorance means you’re never really using the tool effectively.  I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to be a computer engineer in order to use computers, but there is a fundamental level of familiarity you need in order to use any machine, including a computer, effectively.

A machine that does too much for you, even to the point of making decisions for you, is a dangerous machine indeed.  An education system that caters to this kind of thinking is equally dangerous.  Our use of technology should never be founded on ignorance.

“That a machine should place demands on us isn’t a bad thing, especially if it leads to a nuanced awareness of our own limitations.  The machine that can overextend you, challenge you, stress you, is a machine that can teach you something.  We fool ourselves into stagnation when we design machines that do more and ask less from us.”

There is a consumerist drive to produce machines that appear to be our servants, that will do what we want, sometimes without us evening knowing that we want it.  This kind of magical thinking might sell units but it doesn’t offer any room for growth. That educators are willing to cater to this approach isn’t very flattering.

I’d originally written on this from the point of view of motorcycling, which makes extreme demands on the rider.  Compared to driving a car, especially a modern car that shifts, brakes and even parks for you, riding a motorcycle is a physical and mental challenge.  In that challenge lies a great deal of risk and reward.  The opportunity to amplify your thoughts and actions through a complex, nuanced, challenging machine is a growth medium.  Growth in our students is what we should always be aiming at, even in using the tools we hand them.

In extreme cases machines take over decision making for us, reducing us to irrelevance.  Teachers need to be especially vigilant about how students use technology.  It’s very easy for the tech to take over (it only wants to help!)  and the human being it’s supposed to be assisting becomes a passenger.

When we use a machine to amplify ourselves it not only magnifies our achievements, it also subtly changes how we create.  Any teacher who has observed the digitization of student work in the past ten years has noticed how cookie-cutter the material has become.  Plagiarism is just one aspect of the cut and paste nature of modern student work.

Even in a scenario where the machine is a responsive tool, it will colour how you create.  Some technology is even predicated on this thinking.  Your degree of technical understanding minimizes this influence and allows you to side-step homogenized technological presentation.  If you don’t care that what you are producing has been cookie-cuttered into a template that looks like everyone else’s, then what does that say about what you’re learning?  If you’re using technology to do something else you need to understand the technology in order to realize how it’s colouring your learning.

It’s a shame that so many of us prefer machines that will do it all for us rather than taking up the slack ourselves.  There are two ways we can integrate with machines, I’ll always go for the road less traveled and ask for a machine that offers me more opportunity, even if it also demands more expertise.

Bun Burning MotoGP

A few years ago we rode down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP.  It was a great few days in Indiana and it was pretty close to us.  At a push the ride there could be done in a day (we took two because I had my ten year old son with me).


This year’s only North American MotoGP is in Texas and happens the weekend before Easter.  How few days could I do it in?  It just happens that Austin is a Bun Burner Gold away, just over 1500 miles south west of here.  I watched a couple of fellow motorcyclists from the Lobo Loco long distance rallies pull a Bun Burner Gold off in the fall.  If I could get to COTA in 24 hours I’d be a rockstar!


If I left on Thursday evening I’d be down there Friday evening or a bit later if I missed it (BBGs depend a lot on construction and delays to pull off).  Either way I’d be up Saturday morning with some kind of Iron Butt ride (if I missed the BBG there are half a dozen other, easier ones that I could still aim for) under my belt to catch qualifying.  Early to bed Saturday night and then another day at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday for the races.  After a good dinner I’d be back on the road again making tracks north to home.


If I missed the Bun Burner Gold on the way down, I could attempt it again on the way back!  Either doing a Sunday night to Monday night blitz to get the gold, or breaking it into two long days and going for a plain old Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles over 36 hours).


In a perfect world I’d do the BBG on the way down, enjoy the weekend and rest up again before getting a Bun Burner 1500 on the way back, riding Sunday night after the race as far as I can, having a sleep and then getting up and finishing the ride within 36 hours.  If I’m back Monday night I would have only missed two days of work while getting to watch a MotoGP live and picking up multiple iron butts!  That’d shake the rust off after a long, cold, Canadian winter.


Does two Iron Butt rides around a weekend of MotoGP sound extreme?  From the dark depths of February after weeks and weeks out of the saddle, it sounds like a brilliant idea!  When you’re trapped under a polar vortex and some truly grim, neverending Canadian winter, the thought of trying to cross much of North America twice in five days on two wheels scratches an itch.

Slow motion through the esses at Indianapolis…

COTA has all sorts of pretty views for video and photography…


The long way down… and back.

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A Psychological/Metaphysical One-Two Punch

I’m still working my way through The Science of Well Being, an online psychology course done by Doctor Laurie Santos out of Yale.  This week she got into some neuroscience around how our minds work.  I originally experienced this during my philosophy degree thirty years ago when I was introduced to Bertand Russell’s Analysis of the Mind, which laid bare the mythology we erect around our thinking.  By the end of Russell’s book I no longer believed in a consistent sense of self because such a thing is a social construct; we don’t inhabit our own being in anything like a consistent, always-on way.  Most of our lives are run out of habitual reflex with little conscious direction.  We only experience moments of conscious direction before falling back into habit, some more than others.

Santos describes this in neuro-scientific terms in The Science of Well Being as a kind of default neurological network that lights up in our brains when we’re not consciously doing something.  The parts of the mind that activate during these non-conscious moments are the same parts that light up when we’re thinking about the past and/or future.  Amazingly, we typically spend almost half our time in this state of reverie, out of touch with the world around us.

She goes on to describe this evolutionary process that appears to be unique to our species as a cognitive achievement, but one that comes at a great emotional cost.  Research into this process has demonstrated again and again that living out of the moment makes us sad; a uniquely human melancholy that we all pay for if we want to be able to think beyond cause and effect, which has obvious benefits, though we still seem exceptionally bad at it.

Santos then explains how mediation and mindfulness can decrease the impact of that default reverie thinking process that makes us so unhappy while also providing all sorts of benefits like improved academic performance and mood.  Mindfulness brain exercises proved more effective than nutrition or even sleep in improving cognitive performance, which raises some interesting questions around how we’ve arranged school to be almost intentionally non-meditative.

People who haven’t had a lot of experience with mindfulness and meditation often fall into the belief that mediation is just wallowing in that default thinking reverie, but it isn’t that at all.  This was emphasized for me in a strange media-mix-up last week.  My son Max and I have been working our way through The Midnight Gospel on Netflix, a surrealistically animated series of podcast interviews by animator Pendleton Ward and comedian Duncan Trussell.

If you’re willing to do the mental gymnastics necessary, The Midnight Gospel will introduce you to a truly meta piece of 21st Century media.  The main character, voiced by Trussell, is a “space caster” who uses a universe simulator (he sticks his head into a giant vagina to activate it) to pop in to various realities where he interviews people.  The interviews are the podcasts re-jigged to fit this new format.

We’ve watched episodes on everything from Buddhism and karmic rebirth to Aleister Crowley style occultism to an explanation of the bizarre nature of North American death rituals in the 20th Century, so other than a complex subject being unpacked by smart people, you don’t really know what’s coming at you next.  This all happens while Yellow Submarine level psychedelic animation sometimes describes and sometimes does everything it can to distract you from what’s being said.  We got to the season finale of The Midnight Gospel not knowing what’s coming (because it makes it clear that you can’t), but looking forward to it.

The Silver Mouse is a breathtakingly personal finale where the animation suddenly clicks into gear with the story telling in the interview and amplifies it to such a degree that it left us speechless.

Duncan made this interview with his mother, Deneen Fendig, just before she passed of terminal cancer in 2013, and it describes her coming to peace with her mortality through meditation.  Duncan had always struggled with the idea of mediation, and Deneen’s honest, unpretentious guided meditation practice not only worked for him in the interview, but it also resonated with me on many levels.

https://strawd0gs.blogspot.com/2017/11/suicide-how-to-steer-past-staring-into.html

The animation begins with Duncan as a young man and his mother as an older woman, but through the course of the episode she grows old and dies, only be reborn by Duncan himself so they can continue their conversation.  As she grows up, Duncan grows into an old man and dies himself; it’s a beautiful representation of the circle of life, carefully crafted and delivered.  For a man who lost his mother in difficult circumstances at around the same time Duncan lost his mum, it rocked me.  I’m in tears now as I write this.  I wish I could have had this conversation with my mum before she passed, but mental illness took her away from me long before she died.

Deneen’s wisdom in finding her way to a meditative awareness of not only her own being, but also to a sense of how it hangs in the firmament of the universe was told humbly, honestly and without pretense.  That she found a tangible way of escaping the non-present ruminating mind wandering we all tend to fall back into was also inspiring.  She doesn’t hang a lot of superstitious nonsense around the radical sense of self awareness that she uncovers in herself.  Many people seem to cling to belief when facing the end that comes for us all, but not Deneen.  Her bravery is inspiring and underscored for me the fact that we don’t have to believe in miracles and other historical fictions to realize our place in the universe and find peace in the face of death.

Between the psychology and science of The Science of Well Being course and the magical realism and stark emotional honesty of The Midnight Gospel, it has been a rich week of media empowered reflection that puts everything else that’s going on in perspective.  To top it all off, Max and I got to watch a spectacular, once in a lifetime lightning storm blow over us the other day.  My life feels unexpectedly rich at the moment.

photos.app.goo.gl/smqSdUzvn8E2ePc49

Notes:

Science of Well Being, Mind Control:  www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being/lecture/58VUO/mind-control

The Midnight Gospels:  Mouse of Silver:
original podcast:  www.duncantrussell.com/episodes/2016/7/18/my-mom-part-2
Netflix animated series:  www.netflix.com/title/80987903


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Viking Biking: Motorbiking beyond The Wall

I’m day dreaming about another exotic ride:  Iceland!

On the left is Isafjordur!

Below is what it’s all about, vikings, mountains, ocean, wilderness!

How about a two week motorbike drive around Iceland, much of it off road on mountainous trails around fjords and past volcanoes?  Hot springs, aurora borealis, and some of the most remote, beautiful riding you can imagine.

Iceland has a ring road, but the smaller coastal roads offer an even more remote riding opportunity.  2300kms in 15 days.  Time to stop, take diversions and find the road less travelled.

Iceland!  2300kms around the island!
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Biking-Viking/58177814797

A bit of research uncovered Viking Biking in Reykjavik.  So we fly in to Keflavik International Airport and cab it to Reykjavik.  There at Viking Biking we get outfitted in true Long Way Round fashion on BMWs and hit the fjords.

Viking Biking suggests a 7 day circumnavigation, but I think I’d go for 15 days on a BMW F800GS, though going whole hog on Charlie and Ewan’s R1200GS would be a blast too.

Fjord roads!

Most parts of this trip look beyond epic, but with whole sections that trace fjords around rugged coast, this would be some truly unforgettable riding.  That’s without considering the stops at hot springs, volcanoes and the stunning wildlife in these remote locations.

Budget & Planning

17 day trip (one day coming in, one day coming out, 15 days on the road)
Depart:  August 20, arrive Aug 21

FLIGHT DETAILS
Tue. Aug. 20 (Arriving Aug. 21) Toronto, ON to Reykjavik, Iceland
Toronto (YYZ) to Boston (BOS)
Depart 4:25pm  Arrive 6:00pm
Layover: Boston (Logan Intl.) 3h 0m
Boston (BOS) to Reykjavik (KEF)
Depart 9:00pm  Arrive 6:00am +1 day
Duration: 5h 0m
Total trip time: 9h 35m | 4,608 km
  • 1 day in Reykjavik, check in at Viking Biking, prepare for early departure on the 22nd
  • Aug 22 early to Sept 5th (15 days) return bikes Sept 5th afternoon
  • Sept 5-6th morning: R&R in Reykjavik and fly home

Return: Sept 6th

FLIGHT DETAILS
Fri. Sep. 6 Reykjavik, Iceland to Toronto, ON
Reykjavik (KEF) to Boston (BOS)
Depart 10:30am  Arrive 12:05pm
Duration: 5h 35m
Layover: Boston (Logan Intl.) 2h 15m
Boston (BOS) to Toronto (YYZ)
Depart 2:20pm  Arrive 4:03pm
Duration: 1h 43m
Total trip time: 9h 33m | 4,608 km

Bike Rental for 15 days: $2400
Airfare Toronto to Reykjavik: $1000 return
Hotels: $150/night for 16 nights, $2400

Sundry: $1400
TOTAL:  ~ $6900 solo (cheaper per person if travelling in a group with shared accommodation)

I think I’d have to do at least a bit of this dressed for Game of Thrones!

A Lighting Storm For The Ages

This spectacular light show passed over us in Elora, Ontario, Canada last night (Tuesday, June 2nd) at about 10pm.  All photos taken with my Canon T6i DSLR with the kit 18-55mm lens.  All shots taken on full manual with shutters ranging from 30 to 10 seconds (I actually had to segment the shots to shorter shutters because there was too much lightning in each shot).  F stops ranged from F29 while the sunset was still bright and and I was looking for long shutter shots to catch the approaching storm down to F6.3 as the sunset faded and the storm rolled over us.  I tried to keep ISOs as low as possible, usually 100 or 200, to keep noise down.  Photos were touched up in Adobe Lightroom, usually just turning down any noise.


Of interest, not a drop of rain fell and we didn’t see any ground strikes, this was all cloud to cloud lightning.  My son and I felt like it was trying to tell us something.  My three favourites are the lightning dragon, the pinwheel and the electric jellyfish – you’ll probably guess which ones those are as you look at them.  You can always click on one to see it in more detail full screen.








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A Lighting Storm For The Ages

This spectacular light show passed over us in Elora, Ontario, Canada last night (Tuesday, June 2nd) at about 10pm.  All photos taken with my Canon T6i DSLR with the kit 18-55mm lens.  All shots taken on full manual with shutters ranging from 30 to 10 seconds (I actually had to segment the shots to shorter shutters because there was too much lightning in each shot).  F stops ranged from F29 while the sunset was still bright and and I was looking for long shutter shots to catch the approaching storm down to F6.3 as the sunset faded and the storm rolled over us.  I tried to keep ISOs as low as possible, usually 100 or 200, to keep noise down.  Photos were touched up in Adobe Lightroom, usually just turning down any noise.


Of interest, not a drop of rain fell and we didn’t see any ground strikes, this was all cloud to cloud lightning.  My son and I felt like it was trying to tell us something.  My three favourites are the lightning dragon, the pinwheel and the electric jellyfish – you’ll probably guess which ones those are as you look at them.  You can always click on one to see it in more detail full screen.








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Throttle Control Sensor System on 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i

The issue:  The Tiger stalls occasionally on idle.  Sometimes it seems to hold regular idle around 1000rpm, other times it drops down to 3-400 RPM on the verge of stalling and if I give it gas it cuts out.  It always restarts.


What I’ve done so far:  replaced the fuel filter and spark plugs.


Next target:  The idle stepper motor:


MOTOR, STEPPER, ISCV T1240888              $123.61
O-RING T3600037                                            $1.37
HOUSING,ISCV,3 CYL T1241064                  $42.79
GROMMET, ISCV T1241063                           $3.84
TUBE,CORRUGATED,200MM T1242502
2000MM                                                            $18.45
TUBE,CORRUGATED,145MM T1242501
145MM LONG                                                  $18.45


$208.51US = $281.34CAD
From Bikebandit’s online parts diagrams: www.bikebandit.com/oem-parts/2003-triumph-tiger-955i/o/m121594#sch565827


Visual inspection: Gasket (#4 on diagram) is partially squashed, may not be sealing.  One of the pipes was loose going into the back of the unit.

Next step:  remove the gas tank (again) and remove the entire throttle control/idling system, including pipes, and inspect for breaks.  Replace pipes if damaged.  If no pipe damage evident, look into getting a new stepper motor from Inglis Cycle.

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Refining Motorbike Fashion



Getting the Ninja had me going all in on the sport bike look.  The full helmet and ballistic nylon riding gear makes me look like I came out of the future.  When I’m all out on the Ninja it suits.  But a sport bike was never the goal.  I like the vintage look and as the bike evolves so will the gear.





I’ve watched It’s Better in the Wind a couple of times now and dig the vibe.  Cafe racers, old Triumphs, all customized.

A couple of other things are making me rethink the gear.  At the training course they talked about how the helmet doesn’t seriously mitigate the chance of injury.  If you think that a helmet will make riding safe you’re not understanding the physics.  Helmets help to minimize one kind of injury.  If you can’t handle this truth then you shouldn’t be riding, helmets don’t make riding safe.

The fighter style open face helmet
is a modern take on the old open
faced helmet

They also said, during the same training session, that you should wear a full face helmet and full armored everything all the time.  I get being as safe as you can be, but if the safety equipment gets in the way of the experience, or worse, makes you uncomfortable, it prevents you from doing the deed in the first place.

The Bell is a classic, though it made
me head look HUGE!  It’d be nice
to get my Mondo Enduro on though

In Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Persig says he doesn’t like to wear a full face helmet because he finds it claustrophobic.  If the point of riding is to experience that expansive sense of speed and openness then I think I want to try out an open faced helmet.  This isn’t an expensive proposition, though the helmet might lead to a classic bike, which might be.

A variation on the classic by Bell,
the Pit Boss is a bit less
bulbous

Open faced helmets are popular and tend to focus on a specific style.  The fighter jet style half helmet is a modern take on the classic open faced helmet, but you can still get vintage styled helmets.  I’m partial to the Bell classic but it did make my head look huge.

The Bell pitboss had a nice look to it, but they didn’t have one in my size to try on, though I think I’d go with the over the ears cover for protection and wind reduction.

I’m helmet inspired by a couple of things.  The family history sure plays a part in it, but so do movies.  Picking up something that I can plaster a rebel alliance sticker on would be cool.

Here are a couple of other eye catching open face helmets I’ve been thinking about:

Bell Hurricane ~$100


ZR1 Royale Air Ace ~$127


Nolan Outlaw N20 ~$205

Thanks to www.canadasmotorcycle.ca and www.motorcycle-superstore.ca for letting me window shop.










The other day someone parked their original Thruxton next to the Ninja and I got the itch for that old bike once again.

What a lovely old machine, beautifully cared for…

Motorcycle Photography & Art

I usually toss anything graphically motorbike related that I find onto pinterest.  Here is some motorbike bike art recently found mostly as is (but some photoshopped):
The photography in Performance Bike Magazine’s recent article on the Kawasaki H2 on the Isle of Mann was fantastic.  After a bit of photoshop it became my current background wallpaper.
The new Triumph Bonneville with a Scrambler kit
The bonkers new Honda RC213R – the $140k Motogp 1%er collector bike
Riding in South East Asia with Adventure Bike Rider Magazine

 

H2 on the Isle of Mann

 

H2 wheelies in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th…
Adventure riding in Oman with ABR
Adventure Riding into the Himalayas with ABR

 

Do you teach computer studies or computer studies?

Stay with me now, we’re going down the rabbit hole that is Ontario curriculum for computer studies, or as it’s also known, computer studies.

What was once computer science is now called computer studies.  Shortly thereafter computer studies (same name) was created in the technology section of curriculum.  These computer studies are so different that qualification in one doesn’t qualify you to teach the other (unless you happened to be already qualified in computer science ten years ago).  The descriptions of each have so many similarities that you may be forgiven for wondering why a teacher of one isn’t a teacher of the other (computer studies).


Computer Studies (aka: computer science) defines itself as:
Computer studies is about how computers compute. It is not about learning how to use the computer, and it is much more than computer programming. Computer studies is the study of ways of representing objects and processes. It involves defining problems; analysing problems; designing solutions; and developing, testing, and maintaining programsFor the purposes of this document, the term computer studies refers to the study of computer science, meaning computer and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, and their impact on society. The major focus of these courses is the development of programming skills, which are important for success in future postsecondary studies.

When you compare the computer studies curriculum outline with the computer studies curriculum outline you may notice many similarities.  Both begin with an emphasis on how they aren’t about teaching users to use computers, and neither are limited to programming.  Both go on to emphasize a course of study focused on how computers operate, including how computers are able to create and manipulate objects and run processes.  The computer studies (comp-sci) document then goes on to state that computer studies actually means computer science, which doesn’t really help clear anything up since computer studies (tech) calls it computer and information science, which may or may not be the same thing.

The computer studies (tech) curriculum is pretty much interchangeable with the computers studies (comp-sci) curriculum, but it also offers engineering focuses on electronics and computer hardware, so it might be argued that this is a more complete ‘computer studies’.

The ‘other’ computer studies found in technology studies defines itself as:
Computer and information science is more than running application programs and programming Rather, it relates to the ways in which computers represent conceptual objects and how computer systems allow those objects to interact. Computer and information science is the study of ways of representing objects and processes. It involves defining problems, analysing and designing solutions, and developing, testing, and maintaining programs. Computer and information science education is relevant for all students because it incorporates a broad range of transferable problem-solving skills and techniques. It combines logical thinking, creative design, synthesis, and evaluation, and also teaches generically useful skills in such areas as communication, time management, organization, and teamwork. Computer and information science will prepare students for an increasingly technological world. A foundation in this discipline will introduce students to the excitement and opportunities afforded by this dynamic field and will begin to prepare them for careers in information technology.
As you can see, not only is the language used similar, but even the explanation of the scope of the subject seems the same.  I suppose computer and information science are so completely different from computer science as to make this a no-brainer.

If this wasn’t muddy enough for you, there is also the issue of computer science teachers (because they were here first) getting grand-fathered in as computer studies-tech teachers, even though they may have no engineering background at all and may be as familiar with the inside of a computer as your grandmother.  This results in computer science teachers (theoretical mathematics majors) attempting to teach how to solder a circuit or build a functioning network.  More often than not, in my experience, they simply ignore this part of the subject.

If you want to be computer studies (tech) certified now-a-days you have to produce years of industry experience and professional certifications in order to even be considered qualified to begin the certification.  If you were hanging out in a math class ten years ago it landed on you.  I’m having trouble doing the pedagogical calculus with that one.

Between the confusion in subject area titles, almost identical descriptions and the right-time-in-the-right-place-with-no previous-experience history of computer studies qualifications, it’s little wonder that Ontario Education in this area is, at best, confusing, and not particularly effective.  When you meet a computer studies teacher that doesn’t know how to open up a computer, you have to wonder where we went wrong.

I just threw together a quick venn diagram of computer studies to try and straighten out my thinking around this.  Now, I’m not a curriculum expert at the ministry or anything, but it seems to me that arbitrarily dividing a subject into two camps isn’t very pedagogically helpful, let alone logical.

I’m just spit-balling here, but wouldn’t a coherent course of computer studies
that recognizes how all these parts integrate into a whole make some kind of sense?

If you consider the basics, computers run code on hardware.  If you’re going to teach computer studies, I would suggest that it makes sense to recognize this and form your curriculum around this simple truth.  Rather than grand-father in one extreme end of the computer studies curriculum (computer science), why not form a coherent, single department that studies the subject in all its glory?

If you’ve got previously computer science focused teachers, make it easy for them to expand their knowledge of the subject into the more practical side of computing, but don’t expect it to magically be there.  If you have people coming at it from the more practical side (as I did from information technology), make it easier for them to bone up on coding and the theoretical side of things.  You’d end up with a curriculum of computer studies that not only addresses the extreme ends of the spectrum (computer science up one end, electronics up the other), but also creates a sensible, interconnected and relevant understanding of computers in both staff and students.  Best of all, you’d never run into a computer studies teacher who says things like, “Oh, I don’t touch computers, I have no idea how to fix one.”

Until we recognize computer studies as a single, coherent course of study and integrate curriculum to support this truth, we’re going to continue to limp along producing radically undertrained graduates who aren’t remotely ready for what faces them.  I often meet teachers in other schools who are surprised to learn that we teach computer engineering – or that it exists at all.  When I was in high school we ran two full teachers worth of computer studies (12 sections).  The school I work at now is about the same size and runs 7.  Are computers really about half as relevant now as they were in 1986?  Students numbers would suggest this is the case.  Instead of creating a modern, adaptive, complete curriculum, Ontario has created a divisive, broken one that students ignore.

I’d like to think we’ll stop the bizarre divisions currently going on in Ontario computer studies curriculum, but I get the sense that there is some history in this that won’t go away.  We need a clean sheet on Ontario’s approach to computer studies (starting with just one computer studies that incorporates the entire field of study), or we won’t be doing this emergent and vital 21st Century subject justice.

***

Follow-up:  Doug Peterson pointed out what each curriculum document is supposed to be replacing on G+, so I’ve been trying to trace the process.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

There are three curriculum documents that come up for computer studies.

  • The year 2000 Technology Studies document that contains computer studies as a complete field of study, from engineering to computer science.
  • The 2008 Computer Studies document (revised) that looks like it is separating computer science from computer studies but took the computer studies name with it (implying, I think a complete study of computers, not just computer science)
  • and the 2009 Technology Studies document (revised) that contains “Computer Tecnhology” and has stripped any computer or information science material out.
The 2008 Computer Studies (science) revised document states:
This document replaces the Computer and Information Science component of The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 and 10: technological Education, 1999, and of The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Technological Education, 2000. Beginning in September 2009, all computer studies courses for Grades 10 to 12 will be based on the expectations outlined in this document.

The 2009 Tech-studies document (revised) states:

This document replaces all but the Computer and Information Science component of The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Technological Education, 2000. Beginning in September 2009, all technological education courses for Grades 11 and 12 will be based on the expectations outlined in this document.

 
From the original 2000 Tech-Studies document:
This document replaces the sections of the following
curriculum guidelines that relate to the senior grades:
–  Broad-based Technological Education, Grades 10, 11, and 12, 1995
– Computer Studies, Intermediate and Senior Divisions, 1983
– Computer Studies, Ontario Academic Course, 1987
– Technological Studies, Intermediate and Senior Divisions, Part C: Ontario Academic Courses, 1987

I still can’t help but think that the ‘computer studies’ title is at best confusing and at worst misleading.  I wonder at the politics that played around that course of study being created with such an expansive (and previously used) title but such a specific focus.  It would be like renaming the “biology” department “science”, taking one part of a larger course of study and implying that it is the whole subject.  Computer Studies (the study of computers?) is not just computer science, or just engineering, or just information technology.  Trying to understand it in such a fractured way leads to confusion in the general public and students who then aren’t taking the course.

Just to throw a wrench in things, if you’re curious and look up
Ontario’s technology curriculum you get the old curriculum
document first every time.  If you’re not up on the secret
war between comp-sci and comp-tech in Ontario, you’ll
remain ignorant looking at the old document.

If you were teaching computer studies prior to September 2009, that meant computer studies (from end to end).  If you were teaching computer studies after September 2009. it  means only computer science.  I’m beginning to see why computer science is atrophying in modern high schools.  At a time when computer studies should be offering population wide access to digital literacy, one of the foundational areas of  computer studies in it has taken its toys and gone home.

Another question (that Doug probably knows the answer to) is those early computer studies courses, were they computer science based on more general in their approach to all aspects of computing.  My own memory of taking computer courses in the 1980s was very comp-sci/math based, and the teachers who were qualified to teach computer studies were computer scientists in university.  Yet in 2000 it looks like technology education took over computer studies (including computer science), yet the amalgamation doesn’t appear to have worked (hence the 2008/9 revisions).  I wonder why not.

The division seems to have happened over the past fourteen years, starting in 2000 with a failed attempt to place computer studies in technology education.  It’s no better today, and I get the sense that the attempted fixes have caused more problems than they solved.