2019-20: Persistence and Possibility

I stand on the cusp of another year teaching computer technology and I have to say I’m looking forward to it in spite of the various nonsense surrounding Ontario education these days.  I have a particularly strong crop of seniors and I’m hoping to exceed the lofty heights we’ve previously reached.  @CWcomptech continues to grow and seek out new opportunities.

I’m hoping for at least two Skills Ontario provincial medals and successful runs at CyberTitan and by all three (and possibly a fourth) of our teams.  Thanks to the groundbreaking work of our Terabytches last year, we’ve achieved a 50/50 gender split in our cybersecurity teams with 2 co-ed teams and our champion all-female team at a time when the industry is struggling to balance a 25/75 gender split.

I’m also hoping this strong senior group will uncover new opportunities for us to explore, but then they already have.  The Cybersmart Project, a student run training course for other schools interested in getting onto CyberTitan started over the summer and has already picked up a number of schools they are going to help.

We had Gord Alexander from IBM Canada come in last year and show our grade 10s how to code IBMcloud’s Watson AI.  The pickup on that was amazing with students of all skill levels returning to it in their culminating projects.  Gord followed up by applying to present at this year’s ECOO Conference #BIT19 on how students can access this free and very accessible artificial intelligence learning environment.  I’m looking forward to helping out with that at the conference.

One of the nicest things about teaching computer technology is that it’s never the same year to year, but sometimes those emerging technologies can be difficult to access.  Not so with Watson.  If you’ve got students who can code in Scratch, you can get them going with Watson and have scripted, AI supported projects very quickly.  I suspect students from grades four onward could manage the coding involved and I’m looking forward to sharing this exciting possibility with Ontario teachers in November.

Over the summer I took two Cisco courses (thanks Philippe!) that will improve our practice.  The IT Essentials course was something I’d been looking to complete in order to give my students access to current materials.  Up until now I’ve been cobbling things together from books and various online sites.  It was a lot of work and constantly falling out of date.  The Cisco Net Academy course is current and covers much of what we were doing anyway, but in a concentrated and curated format that should lighten my preparation for teaching IT in junior high school classes.

Having been a certified computer technician since 2002, the IT Essentials course was review, but the other course I took was a bit more ferocious.  The CCNA Cyber Operations course is designed for cybersecurity specialists who want to get a handle on the current state of play as they begin working in cybersec.  It’s a no-holds barred review of advanced networking analysis tools followed by detailed explanations of how cybersecurity has been implemented in the very networked world of 2019.  I’ve really enjoyed taking the course and should be wrapping it up over the next couple of weeks.  Having an understanding of best management practices in cybersec should help me coach our school teams more efficiently and effectively.  It has also handed me a plethora of current network assessment and management tools that will find their way into my senior ICT curriculum immediately!

2019-20 feels like it could be a banner year.  Competition is always fickle and you never know what Goliaths you’ll face, but we’ve never had better access to the tools we need to succeed as we do now.  As long as the education system isn’t thrown into an artificial crisis, we should be ready to produce an exceptional year of graduates with rich extracurricular experiences who are ready to tackle the challenging, digitally empowered 21st Century workplace.

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