Education Isn’t About Job Training and Other Privilege Based EDUMyths

In fairness, since then Ontario
has released new computer
studies curriculum that actually
includes the word ‘cybersecurity’
in it! That’d be the first time
anywhere in Canada.
It’s 2023. 

I posted a piece about the drastic ongoing shortage of cybersecurity specialists in Canada last week. Those would be the people who keep the digital communications we depend on every day running… and we don’t have enough of them

“Talking Points
– Canada was short on cybersecurity workers five years ago and the problem has only worsened
– One in six jobs goes unfilled in protecting data and critical infrastructure
– the cybersecurity workforce is older, whiter and more male than the general population”

When things get hacked in school boards, the learning stops pretty quickly as most now depend entirely on networked education technology to communicate lessons and learning. Cybersecurity also underlies the supply chains that provide the fuel and food we depend on and the financial systems that grease all those wheels. You’d think support of it would be obvious.

It’s Twitter though so self interest will always trump the collective kind – until there is no food, gas or electricity because our critical infrastructure is crippled in a cyber-attack. What struck me about this response was how insulated the thinking is.

The response that education shouldn’t chase job training is a common one in education. As a poor immigrant kid whose family struggled to make ends meet, it’s also one dripping in old settler generational comfort and privilage. If you are so sheltered that you can spend your time in public education finding yourself, then good for you; the rest of us are trying to feed ourselves.

Perhaps watching my family crash through bankruptcy while I was in high school put a unique spin on my experience. I dropped out and went to work because it’s what I had to do. A bit more time in class helping me find what I’m good at and then directing me into it would have been appreciated. It doesn’t all have to be about job preparedness, but stubbornly refusing to acknowledge it at all feels politically self serving.

When I started teaching in my mid-thirties, one of the senior guys in the department asked at lunch, ‘do you know why you never see a guidance councillor looking out the window in the morning? Because then they’d have nothing to do in the afternoon.’ I’d only just started teaching and didn’t know many guidance councillors, but my experience as a student with them wasn’t positive. What I can say after 20 years in public education is that guidance is one of those roles that you never see people leave. Classroom teaching is tough. You seldom even have time to go to the toilet. You’ll see a lot of people try it for a couple of years and then bail on the profession entirely. You’ll see others work their way into ‘support’ jobs outside of the classroom as soon as they can. Bright eyed twenty-something VPs are a fine example. My litmus test for if those jobs are easier than the classroom is how often I see people move back to teaching to get out of them. The answer is: you don’t.
A few weeks ago I found myself at dinner with a very smart person who is a leader in educational training. They said something that stuck with me. The problem with the education system is that it’s mainly populated by people who have never done anything else. The vast majority of educators attended K-12 schooling (where they felt very comfortable), went straight into university, got their undergraduate degree and then bachelor of education, and then immediately returned to K-12 education. They have never been in any other circumstance beyond the education system. They have never worked in a non-unionized environment. If we’re wondering why education has trouble evolving, this is at the core of it.
That insolated world view is where you get comments like, ‘education isn’t job training!’ Perhaps that should read, ‘education was job training for me, but it isn’t for you!’ That explains the politically self-serving piece.
A quick fix would be to require all teacher candidates to have at least one year of life experience beyond the education system they’re so comfortable in. Perhaps then the status quo wouldn’t seem quite so inevitable.

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Moving The Needle On Learning: the failure of edtech in education, 2023 Edition

Back in 2014 I had one of those strange moments when I suddenly found myself freed from the day to day necessities of the classroom and thrust into a space where I had time to think about pedagogy. I once had an administrator tell me, “what does pedagogy even mean anyway? It’s one of those words that doesn’t mean anything.” I’ve never felt that way but perhaps that’s because I’ve focused my career on teaching rather than getting out of the classroom at the earliest opportunity. Throughout that career I’ve clung to moments of pedagogical best-practice in a sea of compromises.

The main purpose of schools is to run a schedule that has students in set places at set times to the benefit of adults. You can call it daycare if you want to, many people treat it like one. Order and regularity are the primary functions of school organization, not learning; hence that astonishing observation from someone who is focused on managing it. Being a teacher committed to teaching has often put me at odds with this reality.

I hesitated to get into education for a long time because I found it a dehumanizing experience as a student.


This is the expectation people have around technology integration – it’s
supposed to improve learning! But scores continue declining.

Over the Easter long weekend in 2014 I was invited down to the ASU/GSV Summit in Phoenix. Stepping out of the moribund but relatively well funded Canadian education system into the ‘breaking bad’ of America where teachers live just above the poverty line and everyone is fixated on common curriculum success dictated by standardized testing (you don’t get to be the 25th best education system in the world by chasing pedagogy!), I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there were a lot critical thinkers at this summit.


One that really rocked me was Brandon Busteed who stated (to the astonishment of everyone present)  that, ““Educational technology has failed to move the needle on either cost effectiveness or student success in the past ten years.” He then showed statistically significant drops in literacy and numeracy even as the buzz around educational technology as an answer to everything was at a fever pitch. You’d think we’d have come around to a sensible integration of digital technology in learning nearly a decade later, but post pandemic things are even worse.

PISA Results from that time show statistically significant drops in learning. Things haven’t improved even with accelerated technology use. On top of that, COVID proved that we were unable to leverage ICT even during an emergency to preserve essential learning.


Post COVID we’re in a recovery situation because we couldn’t leverage technology to work through pandemic lockdowns. We had the tools but most people in education (children and adults) have no idea how to use technology to actually improve (or even provide basic) learning opportunities. On the back of forced rapid technology integration due to the pandemic, our learning outcomes have gotten even worse. Our information revolution has made data so much easier to access and manipulate, but not in education where we used digital to imitate the paper based systems we clung to long after the rest of the world had moved on.


Looking back over a teaching career spent in the middle of an ‘education technology revolution’, I’ve been frustrated at how technology has been applied in the classroom. Coming out of information technology into education in 2004, I found that classrooms were a decade or more behind the businesses I’d just been supporting. I was even more surprised to see schools going out of their way not to engage with digital learning opportunities – banning them for the longest time before reluctantly adopting them with no training or education (for staff or students) around their use. This delay resulted in educators being LESS digitally literate than the students they serve. As a result, digitally delayed teachers weren’t thinking about how edtech could enhance pedagogy because they were some of the least capable of doing so. Delaying digital integration has damaged both staff and students.

We’ve fumbled one of the greatest opportunities to improve education in the past century and have integrated technology so poorly that it actually reduces student success rather than amplifying it. We turned generic, paper handouts into generic, online documents, ignoring opportunities for collaboration and individualization that fluid digital information systems offer.

That rush to imitate paper based education on screen resulted in a drop in photocopying budgets which thrilled administration, but what we lost in printing costs we more than made up for in having to buy screens for everyone (something we still struggle with). Neither way is particularly environmental, but the screen route produces more waste and uses far more energy while reducing learning outcomes in digitally illiterate classrooms where students taught on home entertainment systems can only see digital devices as toys. This shell game of showing small cost reductions moving away from paper while ignoring the massive costs of edtech has further diminished our ability to focus on pedagogical best practices. Less money in the system is less money in the system.

We’re facing a generational digital skills shortage that highlights our failure to engage with digital literacy in a meaningful way. Teachers are less digitally literate than the general public because they’ve been working in this moribund system determined to ignore the benefits of digitally enhanced pedagogy. We have digitally oblivious teachers depending on students who have been told that they are digital natives and don’t need to learn how technology works because they can turn on an X-Box. You don’t need to look hard to understand why education makes such a juicy target for cyber-criminals. When I reach out in my current capacity as a cyber-focused educator I’m told by ministries of education across the country that online safety is covered in health class. Yes, you heard that right, phys-ed teachers are covering cybersecurity training for our students (or more likely skipping it).

You’re seeing this reflex again now with the panic around artificial intelligence inspired by ChatGPT. Students are using it to demonstrate the learning they didn’t do and teachers are using it to auto-generate the tedious and generic necessities required to keep the education system doing what it has always done. If we play our cards right no one (students or teachers) will actually be involved in education by 2030.


What we’re heading towards if we continue to ignore digital pedagogy! This was made with the Dall-E 2 AI image generator!





How would this educational technology revolution that never happened have gone down in a better world? We would have started integrating digital technologies as they emerged and teaching cross curricular digital media literacy as soon as we began using the technology. Rather than offloading digital fluency to home life and creating a skills gap that widens inequity, we would have taken responsibility for the technology as we adopted it.

As digital media literacy improved, teachers wouldn’t be behind the rest of society in terms of technical fluency and would have worked towards developing digitally empowered pedagogy that uses the benefits of easily accessible and malleable information to create a radically individualized approach to learning that produced truly equitable learning outcomes for all. This targeted approach to learning also streamlines the industrial education system into a more efficient and agile format.As cloud based technology emerged, these digitally fluent teachers engage data science to produce deep understandings of each student’s learning journey. These personalized data clouds are leveraged to produce bespoke learning outcomes. Instead of using digital technology to imitate class based, low-resolution lessons from the age of paper, we leverage our ICT revolution to take advantage of the fluidity of digital information. As we move away from the old, low resolution model we start to see astonishing efficiencies in student learning.

Our schools have evolved in the past two decades from age-based 19th Century storage units to smaller, agile, digitally empowered community learning centres where students work towards their own learning mastery. This individualized learning environment empowers students to take control of their own educational journey. School is no longer something being done to them but something they discover about themselves.

That education system resiliently leveraged digital empowered pedagogy to individualize and empower students across all interests and subjects. During the pandemic this education system leveraged its digital expertise to connect students, reduce social anxiety and keep learning alive by using our networked world effectively rather than treating our illiteracy in it as an excuse to quit.

Rather than being an easy target for cybercriminals, education is fortress of cyber-fluency where staff and students demonstrate exemplary digital awareness and integration. Instead of being the most likely to click on a phishing email, teachers are the least likely to infect their own networks. Schools are community centres of digital excellence that support their community families and local businesses in terms of technology support.

This better education system is agile and responsive, offering learning opportunities and variations in support for every student based on a detailed understanding of their needs. As a result, resources are applied in targeted, financially effective ways  Low resolution reporting processes like report cards are a quaint memory. Learning reaches demonstrated thresholds of understanding leading students to graduate through curriculums at their own pace. Parents can access this data in real time and are partners in their child’s learning rather than arms-length critics. Some students would graduate in their early teens, others later, but everyone would graduate with mastery knowledge of the fundamentals including the digital fluency needed to succeed in the world beyond school.


To summarize:


  • Education delayed engaging with digital technology for as long as it possibly could, putting it and everyone in it at a distinct disadvantage in the modern world. This frustrates parents and anyone else outside of education systems to no end.
  • The delay in digital engagement has resulted in entire generations of teachers and students who are less digitally literate than the general population.
  • When digital adoption finally took hold education used it to replicate the same lack of individualization that characterized the paper based learning that proceeded it.
  • Technology integration in the classroom depends on digital familiarity at home because many teachers were less digitally familiar than the general population and most schools still struggle to provide equitable access to hardware.
  • The digital divide has grown because of this ‘leave it to the parents’ approach because some simply can’t provide this essential media literacy.
  • Classroom management headaches due to students misunderstanding that digital technology is a tool and not a toy are the direct result of this approach.
I was listening to CBC’s The House a few weekends ago. In it Scott Brison described the federal service as “offering BlockBuster service to a Netflix clientele”. We’ve been Dancing in the Datasphere in an ongoing information revolution for over two decades. Education has missed opportunity after opportunity to meaningfully engage with technology itself and the digitally enhanced pedagogy that should have grown from it. As it falls behind our schools feel less and less relevant to the society they claim to serve.  As Brison suggested on Day Six, education isn’t the only government service struggling to integrate technology in a manner that citizens have come to expect. It’s particularly impactful in education because we’re hurting the people who need digital fluency the most: students facing a future immersed in it.
Instead of developing coherent digitally enhanced pedagogies and designing our schools around them, we use technology to stuff as many students as possible into an eLearning class that most of them don’t have the digital fluency to navigate. The eLearning course will likely be created using paper based, classrooms lessons converted to a digital format. If technology is engaged with at all it’s usually as a way to save money, but never to rethink how we might produce better learning outcomes.
There are a small number of subject specialists and educators who have worked hard to engage in a meaningful adoption of technology to improve learning, but these people and their organizations are underfunded and vanishingly rare in the educational landscape.
It’s never too late to start developing digital mastery in a coherent, curriculum wide context. It’ll be an uphill struggle swinging one of the most backwards institutions around to catch the digital wind and sail into the future, but it could still be done…

Riding Versus Flying to BC for Work…

I’ve got a work thing in Vancouver next month which got me thinking about incorporating a ride to the west coast and back. Turns out flying is much cheaper (even with car rental) than riding…

Cost of flying/ ($200 return) + renting a car for the week (inc. gas + taxes = $1100): ~$1300 total.

Total mileage riding out and back: ~8800kms. at 0.58 cents/kms = ~$5100 (not counting hotels enroute). Flying is way cheaper! I’d save on having to rent a car while out there, but the costs of moving myself there (as opposed to being luggage on a plane) are significant.

If I took the week off before the week I needed to be in Vancouver, could I ride out there in that time? It’s about 4400kms to get there. Saturday to the following Sunday is nine days on the road, which works out to under 500kms/day. Intense but certainly doable.

4400kms out at 500kms/day = 9 days (8 nights of hotel). Going cross-Canada on the way out: = 4436kms. 9 days on the road at 500kms per day = 4500kms.

After the week on the ground in Vancouver, I’d take 2 weeks off to come back through the States, hitting key points like Yellowstone National Park. The way back through the US, even with the detour down to Yellowstone, is 4462kms:

It would probably be wise to factor in a tire change at some point on this 10k odyssey. I imagine they’re cheaper and easier to find in the States, so I’d throw on some new shoes and get an oil change and service once south of the border.

Riding out would chew up 3 weeks of vacation but would offer a chance to cross most of the continent on two wheels. In a perfect world I could find work related stops on the way out across Canada and get that week covered (mileage and hotels), then use 2 weeks of holiday for the return through the US.

Motels in Canada on the way out look to be between $120-150 a night (x 8 nights = $1200 in not fancy housing). If I stayed out of cities (where hotel pricing seems to have lost its mind), I could come in under budget if I was aiming at $150/night (taxes in) on average. Hotel prices in the States look similar.

Budget (assuming I covered all costs)

Hotel stays going out (8 nights @ $150/night avg taxes in) = $1200

Hotel stays coming back (12 nights @ $150/night avg taxes in) = $1800

Gas/day = $60* (= 2 tankfulls and ~700kms range/day on the C14) x 20 days on the road = $1200

Tires & Service: Bellevue Kawasaki in Seattle on the way back $1000

Travel eating: breakfast**: $10, Lunch: $20, Dinner: $30 = $60/day avg. x  20 days = $1200

Estimated total cost for a 3 week cross continent 2-wheeled odyssey: $6400

*  Well over what I’d need/day mileage wise and will be cheaper in the US
** If I’m staying a breakfast included hotel then I can save there

That budget isn’t being overly stingy and I should be able to come in ahead on it. It might also be possible to shave days off if I get into a groove (say, on the Praries) and do a couple of big mileage highway days. If I got good at a last minute booking app like HotelTonight I could probably save a bit on the hotel stays too. Another alternative might be to stay at the same chain all the way across and save that way.

We did it by car preCOVID and it was an epic trip. Riding would make it even better!

from Blogger

Lots of 8s


I’ve been on the road for work for the past couple of weeks (Newfoundland is spectacular!) The weather from there followed us back and we haven’t seen the sun for many days, until this weekend! It finally broke and I’ve gotten some riding in.

I was hoping to get the old Tiger to 100k this year in its 20th year on the road. On the way to that I managed to hit eighty-eight thousand, eight hundred and eighty-eight kilometres! Very satisfying, and the bike looked great doing it:

I pushed my luck the next day and took Connie out for a couple of hours to Hockley Valley and back…

Weather’s been good this week too, maybe we’re finally into spring time! I had the C14 out again for a ride over to the Forks of the Credit after work today… time to make some miles!

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How To DIY Your Way To Digital Fluency

 “We’ve all become used to thinking of Gen Z as the first truly “digital native” generation. They were born when the internet was available to everyone and don’t remember a time when it wasn’t normal to carry a smartphone wherever they go and document their lives on TikTok and Instagram. Unfortunately, it turns out that this form of digital native might not translate to being able to work with the tools and technologies that are expected to shape the 21st century.”

– Is Our Digital Future At Risk Because Of The Gen Z Skills Gap?

The digital skills gap is an ongoing concern, but in building a successful digital skilling program over the past two decades I’ve trial and errored my way to an efficient process for getting students from thinking they have digital fluency to actually having it. Here’s how:

Step 1: Start Where People Are Most Familiar (I.T.!)

Information Technology (or I.T.) is where most people have regular contact with digital technology, though many people don’t know what I.T. stands for. The devices we live our lives on in 2023 all depend on digital infrastructure and incredible engineering to do what they do. To unpack all that and make people aware of how this technology works, you build it!

RCT Ontario is the local branch of the Computers For Schools national program that takes off-lease technology and gives it to schools and others in need. They are all you need to get hands on with digital technology. I’ve found that building a desktop computer from scratch is a great way to get past the bluster of self-professed computer experts (aka: students who have been told they are digital natives) and let them show what they actually know.

All digital technology follows the same basic foundation of hardware, firmware, operating system, software. The desktop is a modular, relatively easy to assemble example of this architecture, but everything from laptops to smartphones to ATMs to Teslas uses the same stuff in the same way.

By building their own PCs from scratch, students who have some experience fill in gaps and students with no tech background find that they have a clear understanding based on hands-on familiarity. This also does a lot to clear away misconceptions and myths around digital tech (like that digital native one).

Another good resource is PC Part Picker that lets students theorize their perfect PC. Once they have an understanding of the hardware and how it goes together, suddenly customization becomes a possibility and the generic tech that most people live with isn’t enough. Many of my grade 9s have built their own PC at home by the time I see them again in grade 10.

Cisco’s I.T. Essentials course is available for free on Netacademy and offers media rich, current online learning support for this hands on I.T. exploration. It also makes students aware of the world of industry certifications out there in information technology. Students starting in I.T. Essentials can work towards their CompTIA A+ computer technician certification which is the first step towards moving in many directions in the industry.

Once everyone has their hardware worked out, it’s time to get into operating systems. Like I.T. hardware, people have experience with OSes but seldom get under the hood. A good way to expand familiarity and get students interested in OS options is to have them build a multi-boot system on their DIYed PCs.

Our record OS stacks in grade 9 had many operating systems ranging from various versions of Windows (XP, 7, 8, 10, server, etc) along with multiple Linux distributions (an OS most students haven’t touched but one that runs behind a lot of the tech we use) all bootable off one desktop. Familiarity with many different operating systems is a powerful step forward from the ‘we just use Chromebooks’ approach many schools have adopted (Chrome OS is actually a version of Linux).

We can usually do the PC builds and OS stacks in a week of classes (about 6 hours of instructional time). In an intensive course you could get everyone hands-on and familiar with the architecture of computers and operating systems in a day (6-7 hours).

Step 2: Use Your DIY TechTo Scale Down and Explore Electronics & Coding With Arduino

The Arduino micro-controller is a simple digital device that does a great job of showing the basics of how computer code performs with hardware. It also introduces students to circuits and the electronics fundamentals that drive all digital technology.

Arduino is open-source (like Linux) and doesn’t usually come in a pre-fabricated activity/kit from your friendly neighborhood edtech for-profit with pre-set lessons and learning outcomes (a sure way to fail at developing real digital fluency).
With relatively small outlay you can collect together Arduino microcontrollers and basic electronics like LEDs and resistors and facilitate a hands-on understanding of the electronics that make the modern world work. Kits with many parts cost less than $80 and if you’re crafty, far less). We always used Abra Electronics in Montreal to keep it Canadian.
There are piles of Arduino projects that students can try, but we always worked through the ARDX Arduino circuits to get everyone familiar with how breadboards and circuits work first. The Arduino plugs into the student-built desktops with a USB cable and then runs software that lets students explore both coding and circuit building in a very real way.

This is another area where the bluster gets cleared away by demonstrated mastery. If a
student tells me they already know all about electronics, I tell them that they only have to do circuit number five and then can go right into designing their own project. A few can show what they claim to know, but many struggle and then I gently redirect them to doing the circuits as a ‘refresher’. By the end of the Arduino unit everyone has tactile knowledge of the basics in circuit building and  coding.

Introducing Arduino and running through the basic circuits typically takes about a week of high school classes, so it would be another day (6-7 hours) if students were in focused training to quickly develop these real digital fluencies.

Step 3: Using Your DIY Tech to Scale Up And Explore Connectivity & Networking

To get students the Arduino software and access to circuits on their desktops, you would have to connect them to the internet. After Arduino, students are more comfortable with their PCs and how they work, so it’s time to go upstream and tackle networking!

This is another intimate aspect of people’s lives that is often misunderstood. By having students build local networks with each other’s machines and pass data across, they again benefit from direct, tactile, experiential learning.

We then connect these local networks together into a class-wide network and watch data travel across it in real time, but the favourite part is stress testing the network to see how much data it can handle. Tools like LOIC (low orbit ion canon!) can be used to DDOS machines off the network by overloading them with data. At this point complex, multi-disciplinary specialities in digital technologies (like cybersecurity) start to glimmer in the distance. Anyone trying to teacher cyber from a place with none of these foundational understandings in place is going to have trouble.

Another good stress test is to set up an older LAN based game which requires inputting IP addresses and other details. It’s not often students have playing a multi-player game as a classroom learning target. You can guess how popular that is.

Tools wise, Cisco offers their Packet Tracer network simulator for free (you can become a Cisco Network Academy at no cost, which makes dozens of introductory ICT, networking and coding courses available). Packet Tracer lets students build complex theoretical networks and then push data through them to see if and how they work.

The networking unit typically takes another week of high school classes, so could be managed in a single 6-7 hour day. By the end of it students are experimenting with their DIY desktops on their DIY networks. The learning doesn’t get any more genuine than this and the result is students who are tangibly developing real digital fluency.

Step 4: Using Your DIY Tech to Explore Data Management and Programming Through an Introduction to HTML and How the Web Works

In the high school junior grades we focus on Javascript and HTML (both common web-focused coding languages). HTML works well as it allows students to quickly understand how the webpages they spend so much time on are displayed. Javascript is helpful because it allows webpages to run executable scripts and hints at the complexity modern webpages are capable of. LIke the other steps, the point here is to get behind the curtain an begin to make students aware of how the technology they are codependent on works.

Students can create and share simple HTML webpages on their network giving them a hands-on introduction to internet architecture. W3 Schools does a great intro to HTML and Javascript (and CSS and HTML5). The point isn’t to create a web developer in a day, but to (once again) develop tactile familiarity with digital technologies that have always been hidden from them.

Coding takes time to develop, but an introduction to web design typically takes about a week to get students to the point where they know enough syntax to build a simple webpage. What’s nice about HTML is that there is an immediacy to it. You put in a command and immediately see the result.

Step 5: PLAY!

When you’ve got foundational digital fluency,
you can chase down NASA complex projects!
Here CyberTitans Vlad & Wyatt (also a 2x
Skills Ontario medalist in IT & Networking)
are building a Beowulf supercomputer!.. out
of ewaste!

I’d run this in adult up-skilling as an intensive week of digital fluency training. The final day would be a student directed mini-project. For those who dug PC building, they can build something to a specific purpose. For those who dug the Arduino and electronics, opportunities to explore await, and for those intrepid few who enjoyed networking and data management/programming, they can chase down more complex connectivity or web development.

When I did my A+ training way back during Y2K it was an intensive week which gave me enough context to chase down my certification in a few months of practice and study. I’ve had a few students manage to get A+ certified as a computer technician while still in high school, but it’s a challenge due to the breadth of material. I.T. techs need to be familiar with older tech and newer tech as well as what’s current. That experience takes time, which is why my seniors do in-school I.T. support. Being dropped into real world technology complications helps they hone the skills they need to be an effective technicians.

Why Do this?

This level of hands-on technical familiarity could be established in 35 instructional hours. When I see Ontario dedicating more time to mandatory courses like ‘Career Studies’ I shake my head. This kind of digital fluency would actually lead to a career, but instead we have grade 10s, most of whom have no idea what they want to do for a living, spinning in circles for half a semester (it’s also one of the most failed courses in the curriculum). We could be delivering digitally competent students and close the digital skills gap, but instead we mandate mandatory eLearning, then we’ll wonder why that didn’t work either. 

For those tackling adult re-skilling, I see a lot of cybersecurity ‘bootcamps’ that assume much of this digital fluency (much like K12 does) and then wonder why their dropout rates are so high. Cybersecurity is a multi-disciplinary specialization within ICT and you can’t get to it directly any more than you can expect an illiterate adult to tackle romantic poetry; you need foundations skills before you take on that kind of complexity. It isn’t an impossible ask, but it is one that needs to recognize the need to start from where people are at, which is further back than we think they are.

Resolving the digital skills gap and providing everyone with the fluency they need to operate effectively in digital spaces isn’t an option in 2023, yet we still treat it like one. Here’s the fix.

Follow Up Links

The Digital Divide is Deep and Wide (2017):

How to Pivot Ontario Education to Prepare for The Next Wave (we didn’t):

Exceptional Times: Using a Pandemic to Close the Digital Divide (any day now):

Why Canadian Education is so Reluctant to Move on Digital Literacy (hard to teach it when you don’t have it either):

from Blogger

Past Another Cold, Dark Winter

 I’m getting back out with regularity now that the worst of the winter is past. Both of the regular road bikes are fit and took to the road effortlessly. I had a bit of a breakthrough with the Concours14 last year and we’re understanding each other a bit more. It’s a big old bus but it’s remarkably agile for how big it is and we’ve come to a kind of mutual kinesthesis, but I still took the Tiger out first because it’s like putting on an old shoe….

… and we picked up right where we stopped. The goal is still to get to 100k this year in the bike’s 20th year on the road, and I think we’re good to get there.

I took the Tiger out again for some exercise in the gaps between snow and ice at the end of March….

But when I took both bikes out between the ice storms of April (isn’t Canada magical?)…

I enjoyed the Connie so much that in another break in this never ending winter last week the C14 got pulled out in front of the Tiger (which enjoys pride of place in the garage).

I took the bigger road home and passing cars was like being on an arrow loosed from a bow; what a monster that bike is! …And yet so versatile with piles of luggage space, no chain maintenance and (now that I’ve got the tires and shocks worked out), exceptional handling for its size. All of that and the adjustable windshield makes it feel a bit like flying an F14 Tomcat.

The Bonneville project is still not getting the time it deserves, but I’m in a new phase of work and I’m enjoying pouring my time and energy into that. In the meantime, both road-ready bikes are facing a promising riding season.

from Blogger

And Now For Something Complete Different: Quantum Computing

 If you’re not paying attention to quantum technology development, you’re missing out on the most exciting tech evolutions happening. Quantum computers are still in development, but as MIT suggests, “Thanks to some recent breakthroughs, aggressive roadmapping, and high levels of funding, we may see general-purpose quantum computers earlier than many would have anticipated just a few years ago”.

Had I remained in the classroom this year I would have been building a library of quantum computing resources that I could introduce to my seniors in hopes that some of them might consider it as a viable (and much supported) pathway in their post-secondary journey. But I’m not in the classroom, so I’m considering quantum on a much bigger scale, ideally a national one where I can connect educators to accessible quantum technology learning opportunities for students both in STEM and in non-technical fields of study.

Back in January, the Minister of Innovation, Science & Economic Development for Canada (ISED), François-Philippe Champagne, announced Canada’s Quantum Strategy. Looking past the ambition in the announcement, Champagne described Quantum as “…not vertical, it’s horizontal. Like AI, it is going to have an impact on everything.” This emphasizes the breadth of this new discipline even more than the hundreds of millions of dollars.

When electronic computers caught on at the end of the Second World War an industry needed to grow up around them to support their rapid development. There will certainly be a need for quantum algorithm creators who emigrate out of traditional computer science programs to explore this new and quite different form of programming, and there will be a need for engineers to design the complex systems needed to create stable superpositioned qubits at near absolute zero temperatures in environments screened from all interference. But there will also be places for human resources professionals, marketing types and other personnel who need a working understanding of quantum technologies in order to understand the business model and support the engineering needed to make it happen.

Pathways development in information and communications technologies are what I’m working in at the moment and ignoring quantum possibilities, especially with the resources being poured into it and the rapid improvement it has prompted would be short sighted. As I said to open, had I still been teaching in class I would be introducing my graduates to quantum computing so that they can consider it moving forward.

Being in a strategic place this year, I’m more concerned with finding a way of introducing quantum opportunities to a wider range of students. Business students need to understand what fundamentals quantum requires in order to keep the lights on. Communications students need to wrap their heads around the tech, at least enough to be able to be able to create accurate outreach for it, and educators need to be aware of it because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that’s about to get even bigger.

To that end, here are some quantum learning opportunities. Keep this on your radar! Your students will appreciate the heads-up.

Quantum learning resources for your classroom:


Jan, 2023: MIT: What’s next for quantum computing

2020: Business: What quantum computing could mean for customer experience

2020: Quantum computing and quantum supremacy, explained

What a quantum computer is and online mini-games that help explain it:

An open source quantum programming online learning opportunity: Coding in quantum looks more like circuit design than what people traditionally think of programming.

Canada’s National Quantum Strategy:

9 Industries at Risk from Y2Q:

2022 Summer, Quantum Progress:

Digital Supercluster Quantum K-12 Program:

UBC Quantum Resource Hub:

DTQC: Quantum resource hub

Quantum Arcade:

Quantum Playground:

Quantum Examples (summer ’22):

Quantum Computing & Sims for Energy Applications:

Time to take quantum-safe cryptography seriously: Major implications for cybersecurity with quantum development.


The STEM skills gap will be stretched wider if we don’t start addressing emerging technologies such as quantum and artificial intelligence as well as catching up on other subjects:

Canada’s STEM student gap:

The New Creativity: how AI will empower learning, if we let it.

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Rings and Carburetors: Swimming Upstream on this Vintage Motorcycle Restoration Project

The never ending winter drones on up here, so I’m putting my back into getting the ’71 Triumph Bonneville project closer to a state of mobility.

I have a new 750cc head and pistons on hand, so I gave the piston rings a go. Installing them is pretty straightforward and the first set went in no problem, but as I was compressing the second set into the cylinder sleeve it didn’t feel right, so I backed everything out and the bottom ring came out in pieces. I can only think it was already compromised in the package.

I sent Britcycle an email and they looked through the warehouse to see if they had any extras laying around, but I was out of luck, so it’s a $100 failure (new rings, taxes, shipping). Ouch. This got me looking at costs for this vintage project. The last one I did was the Fireblade. Those are my favourite kinds of restorations. Parts are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, the bike is rideable fairly quickly and, after riding it for a season, I can turn it over for at least what I put into it (or with a small profit as was the case with the Fireblade).

New cylinder heads and cylinders… and broken ring.


I think I’m still right way up on the Bonneville simply because these older bikes seem to work under their own economy. I was looking up prices of what I’ve got on eBay this evening and the frickin owners manual that Bryan threw in at the last minute is $50US! A used top end is $500US (and Bryan gave me 2 of the things!). I imagine I could double my money just parting it all out, though dealing with people doing that would be a giant pain in the ass – at least it has been with the newer bike crowd, maybe the vintage types are less adversarial.

I had a couple of choices when I was considering going old school, and I think I picked the hardest possible one to bring back to life. The technical side of it doesn’t bother me, but with costs increasing all around I’m bothered more about the high prices and difficulty finding and shipping parts than I am with what I’ve got to do to bring it back. That old BSA would have probably been a better choice for my first vintage resto, but it (and alas, Bryan) are long gone.

I’ve got what I’ve got, and I’ve got a lot of it, and I’m crafty. I’ll see what I can do about replacing fasteners and the other bits and pieces I’m missing without it breaking the bank, those these strange old British pre-metric fasteners are a story unto themselves. The goal right now is to rebuild the bike to an operational state and then maybe ride it for a bit before putting it up for sale. I still need a seat and exhausts and I’ll need other odds and ends like control cables. If I can get it back to a state of play, I think I can cover costs and move it along, then I’m thinking I’ll go back to my favourite hunting grounds: forgotten bikes from the 80s, 90s and 00s that I can turn over for next to nothing while giving me a chance to ride something different for a little while.

When the ring crumbled on me I changed gears and rebuilt the Amal carbs. That went well, but I’m missing two of the bolts to put the second carb back together – they weren’t on it when I wiped the mud and rust away. It’s these little setbacks that stall things, and it’s not like I can grab a couple of replacements out of my big tray of bolts (most of which are metric).


How simple can you make a carburettor? These old Amals are pretty close to first principles. The combination of archaeology and simple mechanics is very appealing when everything else I ride carries a computer and my day job is all about them – it’s nice to be fully analog!

I’d broken down the carbs in the fall and left them packaged in a segmented toolbox. Putting them back together was problem free and the kits I got from Britcycle replaced all the gaskets and rubber grommets in them. The old rubber bits were really showing their age.

Guess which one is the 50 year old ring (I;m assuming they’re original)?

Just need some bolts (at $3.50US a pop)

If money and time were no object I’d dig deeper into this vintage resto thing – I dig the mechanical simplicity and I enjoy seeing how mechanical evolution happens over time. As a hobby in retirement, it has great appeal, but I’m some years away from that much free time on my hands.

I’ll see this one through and then refocus on the SPQR-WRO (small profit, quick return – with riding opportunities) side of it where the costs and time commitments aren’t quite so demanding.



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Computers Are Like Pizzas

I’m currently working with partners developing curriculum that creates an understanding of how computers work. The challenge is in getting adult focused instructional designers to recognize the enormous gaps students have in terms of their understanding of computer technology. Digitally fluent adults assume young people have an intuitive understanding of how these machines work, but they don’t. If you assume this you end up with frustrated and confused students.

We rolled back initial lessons to the point where we’re introducing students to how computers store local files, but even that wasn’t far enough. With no coherent digital skills curriculum in our schools, you have to clear away a lot of misconceptions and back up the truck all the way before you can start building a coherent understanding of how digital technology works. As in the case of most problems, thinking about pizza helps…

Only Old People Use Computers…

 ‘Wait a minute!’ you say. ‘I’m super cool! I don’t use old fashioned things like computers! I’m a digital native who lives on their phone.’

Newsflash! Smartphones are computers! So are tablets, Chromebooks, laptops, desktops, IoT devices like your smart thermostat or the Alexa that’s listening all the time. Because they’re all fundamentally the same thing, you can understand and fix them when they go wrong. You’re using a computer to read this right now, it just might not look like one.


If you think about pizza when you’re diagnosing a computer (which might look like a phone, car fuel injection system, laptop or smart fridge), it helps you to isolate where the problem is and clarifies what you need to do to fix it. All electronic computers share the same fundamental components, and those components are pizza-licious!


This is the part of the pizza that can look very different. The physical shell we put a computer in can range in size from a smartwatch to building-sized supercomputers. Generally, the smaller they are the slower they are because electronic computing generates heat and that’s hard to get rid of when you can’t install fans and other cooling stuff to get the heat out and let the processor run at top speed.

That’s why desktops always feel faster than laptops. Their architecture can be designed for speed because engineers can get rid of the heat made from running a processor fast. Mobile processors are often throttled down desktop hardware. Even smaller computers tend to be specialists only having to do a few tasks that engineers can optimize the hardware for. Phones can only run certain apps, watches are even more limited and single function computers like ATMs or smart thermostats can optimize all of their hardware to a single task.

If you’re having hardware headaches, like a computer overheating and locking up, you can fix it like a mechanic, with tools (and thermal paste) and some physical attention. If you get handy enough, you can even start building your own crusts.


Computer hardware doesn’t know what it is – it’s just STUFF. When you first power up a computer (phone, desktop whatever), you often see text appear for a second and then disappear. That’s the saucy FIRMWARE. Firmware is software that’s written onto a chip in the computer that tells it what kind of hardware its running on. 

Firmware is sometimes called BIOS, which stands for Basic Input/Output System – which is literally what it is; software that tells the computer what hardware it has that takes care of inputting and outputting data. UEFI replaced BIOS on modern computers, but it’s just a fancy BIOS with graphics that make it easier to navigate. It’s pointless acronym expansion like this that puts people off learning about computers!


On top of the firmware sauce you have the cheesy OPERATING SYSTEM. You’ve seen logos for them for years, but probably don’t give them much thought. If you’re a PC type person you’ll have seen Windows evolve through XP, 7. 8. 10 and now Windows 11 versions. Apple people know OSx (Operating System 10), and if you know any nerds they’ll tell you about Linux – the free, open source operating system that gives you great power to modify.

OSes are the software that span the gap between users and the machine itself. OSes have a lot of work to do running an incredible variety of applications, some of it very poorly made, without crashing, though sometimes they do. OSes have to integrate all the different input methods (touchscreen, mouse, trackpad, keyboard, etc) and all the possible output methods like screens, printers, haptic feedback or even the LED lights on the computer itself. Juggling all of that hardware and software, all of it engineered to different standards and coded with varying levels of skill, is a might task, though that doesn’t stop people from ripping on the cheesy OS…

Apple came up with a series of Mac vs. PC ads back in the day. Someone came up with the parody above – it’s funny, but the stretch operating systems have to do to bridge the gap between clueless users and complex layers of hardware and software is a massive.

It’s in the cheese of operating systems where you run into a lot of headaches, unless you make a computer so absurdly simple that it can only do one thing. Rather than learn the complexity computers are capable of in order to leverage the flexibility that a general purpose machine can perform, we’ve surged toward simplicity. It started with Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach to iOS, where apps must comply with (and pay for) strict standards. This allowed the iPhone to create a larger user base because it simply worked – just not in as many ways as it might.

Android came along with a more open approach and took back some market share, but most people would rather do less if it means not having to learn anything about computers. Nowhere is this better shown than with Chromebooks. Chrome OS that runs on a Chromebook is actually a flavour of Linux designed to give you only a browser. They’re great because you can barely do anything with them and they’re easy to manage – which is why we use them in schools to teach digital fluency.

Of course, if you’re crafty you can work around all these blocks. You can ‘jail break‘ Android and iOS phones to allow you to update the OS (many  companies freeze you out of updates after a couple of years in order to force you to buy a new device). Jail breaking usually involves finding a hacked firmware (remember the sauce?) that has removed any locks on what kind of OS can be installed. You overwrite the official firmware with deristricted firmware sauce and then you can keep updating your Android or iOS versions or install software on the device that the manufacturer blocked.


A pizza wouldn’t be a pizza without some toppings that customize it to your taste. When you first start up a new computer it’s a plain cheese pizza. Your dough (hardware) powers up and runs your sauce (firmware), which makes the computer aware of its hardware and then hands it all off to the cheese (operating system), which loads you into a plain pizza starting environment.

If you’ve got any problems that prevent you from getting to your OS starting screen then you know where to look in the boot process to solve the problem. If the machine doesn’t power up, you’ll be working with the dough. If it powers up but gets stuck in a text screen before the OS logo appears, you’re focusing on the sauce. If the OS logo appears but you don’t get to the start screen, you’re fixing the cheese.

 As you customize your pizza computer to your needs, you install apps adding another layer of complexity to your poor old operating system. Generally, the longer a computer has been with a user, the more toppings they’ve piled on. This gets complicated by apps and operating systems getting out of date, then you might have rotten toppings wrecking your otherwise yummy pizza. You’ve got to keep your toppings (OS cheese and even your FIRMWARE sauce) up to date or you can end up with problems. The vast majority of pizza lovers aren’t very good at looking after their cheese wheels, which makes hackers very happy.

If you really like pizza, you’ll make your own…

These PC pizzas were just coming into being when I was growing up in the 1980s. Early machines came complete as a ‘deluxe pizza’ with the crust, sauce and cheese all per-selected for me. My first two PCs, a Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64, offered crust upgrades (memory I could plug into the expansion port), and gave me control of the toppings, which we quickly learned how to customize.

In the late 80s/early 90s I got into i386 IBM clone computers. This was my first go at a truly DIY pizza PC. I got to select components to customize my crust, the sauce firmware comes with the hardware, but then I could pick my OS cheese too. I haven’t owned a ‘deluxe’ pre-made pizza PC since. My current desktop is a custom case I selected for its big fans so that it runs quick, cool and quiet (it also happens to look like the bat mobile). To that I added a high-speed motherboard, fast processor and lots of RAM (fast memory), so it never hesitates, even when I’m running many applications at once. A VR ready video card means my graphics are super quick and the whole thing is aimed at precisely what I want to do with it. Custom crusts are the way to go.

For the cheese I always install multiple operating systems. Right after my firmware sauce finishes it gives me a menu that lets me choose between many different OS cheeses depending on what I want to do.  My desktop will boot into two versions of Windows, three versions of LInux (each customized for a specific task) and it even ‘hackintoshes‘ if I need to test something in an Apple environment. My pizzaPC changes its cheese based on what I need it to do!

The Pre-made Pizza Dilemma: DELUXE PIZZAS USUALLY AREN’T

The urge to Chromebook us has always been with us. The ‘game system’ industry is a Chromebook for games.
Pre-selected crust, sauce and cheese lead to a limited selection of
toppings (games), but this simplification and one trick pony reduction of multi-purpose computers into toys is where the money is.

When we simplify computers to satisfy simple people
needs, we end up even more oblivious to how they work. When I first started teaching computer technology in high school, I could assume my incoming grade 9s knew how to navigate file management in a computer (that’s deep in the cheese). But as Chromebooks took over I realized that (thanks to cloud based everything), students had lost their understanding of how local files are stored.



If you’re curious about customizing your own pizza PC, PC Parts Picker is
a great place to start. Once you realize what’s available in terms of
doughy hardware and what you can do with your cheesy operating systems,
computers suddenly turn from something you barely understand (even
though you use them every day) to a tool that you can fix and customize
to your needs.

Here is the lesson plan we work from when I introduce students to computer architecture.

But the best possible way to get these concepts across to students is to have them build
desktops with their own hands and you can do this FOR FREE! Find the COMPUTERS FOR SCHOOLS program in your province and they will happily provide you with computer hardware to DIY your PC builds. I’ve worked with RCT Ontario for many years and they are fantastic, providing teachers who want to build genuine technology fluency in a hands on way.

Students love building their own machines, but the best part is the EQUITY and INCLUSION it enables. For students who don’t have a computers at home, they can build one and then take it home, making this one of very few times where the education system is actually closing rather than widening the digital divide.

The Digital Divide is Deep & Wide

Using the Pandemic to Close the Digital Divide

 How to Pivot Ontario Education to Prepare for The Next Wave 

Why Canadian Education is so Reluctant to Move on Digital Literacy

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Refocusing on Learning Conditions (Teacher Working Conditions) in Ontario Education

 All sides are going to drag their feet for as long as they can with the new teacher contracts in Ontario. I’d certainly like my pay to keep up with inflation, but that hasn’t happened in any time recently, so I’m not sure why it should be a show stopper now. My buying power, even with the sub-par increases we’ve eked out, is significantly less than it was in 2010. This isn’t a ‘this government’ thing – the last one was pretty good at making us poorer each time too. The difference these days is that this one also likes to cripple learning conditions.

A problem with how we get to a contract in Ontario is that you’d be lucky to find anyone at the table who has been in a classroom teaching recently. Most professional unionists have levitated out of classroom teaching, in some cases for decades. On the other side of the table there is most likely no one who has ever taught a day in their lives. These are the people deciding teaching working conditions and student learning conditions in our schools.

I’m already out of pocket significantly, so another 1% per year raise isn’t going to do much, but I know where resources could be put that would make a difference both to myself as a teacher and to my students as learners. I’d accept a three year deal that gets us to the end of this provincial government’s mandate with NO RAISE, but only if we also did the following:

1) Reduce Ontario College of Teacher fees back to prepandemic levels and freeze them there for the duration of this ‘we don’t get a raise so you don’t either’ contract.

2) Restore public education funding to prepandemic levels. In 2021, while COVID droned on, almost a billion dollars was cut from education in our province. Restore that.

That gets us back on an even keel by removing the system damaging politics that have withered public education in Ontario. With the politics deflated, lets look at how we can make the system more efficient so that we can maximizing our funding and produce better learning outcomes. I suspect many teachers would be willing to focus on improving our classroom learning because student learning conditions are also our working conditions.

Here are some ways to shake the tree and put the focus back where it belongs (…with kids’ learning? …in classrooms? No?).


3) THE FLUSH: Any teacher past retirement age is welcome to stay on, but they aren’t seconded and doing office work in a board or ministry or elsewhere. I’ve seen too many ‘teachers’ who are collecting top tier teacher pay who haven’t taught in a classroom in years (sometimes in decades). In many cases they are doing ‘support’, but how can you possible support a classroom that you have no experience in? If the last time you taught was in 2007, you have no idea how much things have changed no matter how well intentioned you may be.

3.1) THE FLUSH Part 2: make cross training is the point of curriculum support. No more life-time non-teaching roles for teachers. Every teacher can have a two year secondment to curriculum support, but must be back in the classroom for two years before being able to apply for another one. This would go far to end the nepotism and favouritism that defines many of these roles.

This focus on classroom familiarity includes vice principals. They should be teaching one class a year. You could then have more VPs in training in schools with the money saved. Cross training and future career progression should be the focus of curriculum support and junior administration roles.

4) THE REBOOT: do the maths. With this many resources on the table (restored funding, no extra money needed for raises, expensive senior teachers retiring etc), what could we do to bring class sizes down? If you told classroom teachers that their class caps are all dropping by 20% in the new contract, I imagine they’d be very happy. No one wants to lose kids in need in overcrowded classrooms. I suspect classroom teachers would be thrilled with this approach, but they aren’t the ones at the table.

4.1) REBOOT part 2: as part of class size restructuring, include multipliers for students with special needs.  If I have a class cap of 24 students, none of whom have special needs, the learning will be equitable and the class manageable.  If I have a class with ten students with special needs and they are weighted (for example, a student with high needs might weighted as a 2.2 in their IEP under the new, lower class caps), then the class cap wouldn’t be 24. That 2.2 student alone would lower the class cap to 23 and other IEP students would lower it further. Quality of learning is maintained because we’ve focused greater attention where it’s needed.

We currently have an Individual Learning Plan (IEP) system that is vague about students with special needs and offers little in terms of in classroom support. If you want students to learn productively (especially in destreamed classes), and good teachers to stay in the profession, include mechanisms that automatically reduce class sizes for students with special needs so that teachers can do what they are trained to do: help. Watching the system systemically work against that goal is one of the saddest things about teaching in Ontario these days.

5) Give classroom teachers time for professional development and improve their practice. PD has died in Ontario education in the past couple of years. The Great Squeeze has chased many teachers away from the profession and created a shortage. Encourage young teachers and potential new ones to come back to the profession while looking after them as they develop best practices. Currently classroom teachers are in such short supply that teachers are given no time to improve their practice. It’s demoralizing.

6) Offer earlier retirement. Teacher retirements haven’t changed in years. The pension fund is healthy. If it can offer tired pre-retirement teachers who have fought their final years through COVID and plummeting work quality a way out, then it should. The system benefits from this as senior teachers with maximum qualifications make more than twice what a new teacher with beginning qualifications does. You’d think senior teachers would be helping junior teacher training (they do, but they aren’t compensated for it). The people who are compensated for training teachers often have only a fraction of the classroom experience needed to do the job (see #7).

7) Honour classroom specialists by giving them time to support newer teachers. My last two teaching reviews were done by administrators with less than a quarter the classroom teaching experience I’ve had. I’ve worked with classroom specialists who are Jedi masters in terms of classroom and learning management, but they never get a look in on teacher training or reviews. Honouring expertise in education from actually working in classrooms isn’t something that happens, but it should. The education org chart is remarkably rigid and, frankly, quite top heavy. Teachers who pass into support or administration roles can find themselves reviewing and supporting teachers who have done the job for 10x longer than they ever did.

It’s the combination of worsening learning/working conditions and pay cuts for years on end that have driven many away from teaching in Ontario. Smaller caps with even lower limits for classrooms with high needs learners seems like a logical move that would also make destreaming make some kind of pedagogical sense instead of being used as an excuse to stuff more kids into a room in the name of equity. Many students in non-academic streams aren’t less capable, they are struggling with learning challenges, so modifying class caps to focus more teacher attention in classes with these students seems obvious, but has never happened other than in streaming, which we’re in the process of cancelling.

This round of contracts will end up being whatever it ends up being – classroom teachers won’t have much say in it, but it’d be nice if Ontario decided that reasonable funding focused on smaller classes with more equitable learning outcomes for a wider range of students is something we could all get behind. Would I like to just once not get a pay cut thanks to inflation? Sure, but it isn’t likely any time soon. In the meantime, focus resources on improving learning conditions (which are also teacher working conditions).

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