Rebranding & Refocusing on Applied Computer Technology

After learning about the messy history of computer studies in Ontario, I’ve been catching up on our school’s history.  The computer studies department was created just prior to the new computer curriculum in order to create a headship for a computer science teacher who has since moved on.  The headship consolidated computer technology, computer science and the school IT support role all in one place.

When computer studies (actually computer science) became its own area of study independent from the rest of computer technology in 2009, our departmental divisions minimized that damage by keeping the now separated computer studies/technology (what’s the difference? It’s hard to tell with the vague titles) together.
Was it a good idea to keep computer studies and computer technology (two apparently completely different courses of study) together?  I’d argue that it’s a pointless distinction based on a prejudice deeply ingrained in Ontario education.  Computer science teachers, like the majority of teachers, come from university/academic backgrounds.  These teachers are catered to in Ontario education with easier access to high pay grades (it’s much easier for an academic teacher to gain level 4/honours specialist).  Many technology teachers who come into teaching through industry experience and apprenticeships (many of which are as long or longer than university programs) never achieve the highest pay grades in teaching.  Teaching in Ontario is inherently geared toward academics.

When computer science was amalgamated into computer technology (as a technology course), many comp-sci teachers thought it a demotion into ‘tech’.  It took them eight years to get their academic subject back.

In a perfect world computer studies would be just that – computer studies, meaning a curriculum that addresses the subject completely from the most academic/theoretical side (computer-science) to the most applied/immediately useful (information technology, computer repair).  As in science (biology, chemistry, etc), we could have teachers with different backgrounds and training teaching complimentary subjects and collaborating within the same department.  It happens throughout the school (arts, science, tech), but apparently it can’t happen in computer studies.  I believe this is because it attempts to straddle that academic/applied divide.

Between the political history of Ontario’s computer studies and my own school’s focus on consolidating heads, it looks like our computer studies headship will go away and computer science and computer technology will fly apart.  Personally, this is a relief.  Trying to give students access to coding through a computer science department that does more photocopying than English and clings to Turing as the be-all and end-all of programming languages has been a continuing frustration.  Being able to refocus around the more open technology curriculum in comp-tech would allow me to develop real world computing skills for students, something that I think ‘computer studies’ has failed to do.

If applied computing is the focus of computer-technology, then I don’t intend to leave coding to computer science.  They can have the theoretical end of it all, and teach to university bound students interested in advanced mathematics, but I’ve long contended that coding is a universal skill that everyone should at least have a passing knowledge of, especially in the 21st Century.  To that end I’ve been remapping our course offerings in Computer Technology (as well as rebranding my subject area, because that is apparently – and sadly – what we have to do in Ontario).

A grade 9-12 curriculum of applied computer technology study using current technologies that would give students
immediately applicable skills. A student who took this path would be literate in information technology, computer
repair, networking and coding, as well as have an understanding of industry practices in all those fields.

Would this dig into computer science’s sections?  Yes, but isn’t it more important to introduce a computer technology curriculum that increases digital fluency school wide?  Computers may have once been a theoretical subject area, but they’ve long since become a daily part of our lives.  Our computer curriculum should be introducing computer fluency to as many students as possible.  Our comp-sci department hasn’t had a single girl in any senior course in the past four years.  That has to change.  Many other students who have an interest in digital technology are chased out of computer science by the photocopies, mistakenly thinking that comp-sci will teach them applicable skills.  That has to change too.

Rebranding computer studies to computer technology, because that matters to people in Ontario Education (though
it causes a lot of confusion for everyone else).  It’d be nice if pedagogy instead of prejudice dictated our computer
studies curriculums.
Here are some other pieces created for the rebranding:

Taken from’s fantastic array of promotional material and ICTC’s Canada specific technology industry research.
And yes, I cut out the word science after computer because that apparently causes confusion in Ontario.  Is this really
how we do computer studies in Ontario?  Yes, yes it is.

Here is the  post on the computer technology graphics.
Here is the post from grade 8 parent’s night, where computer studies was still a subject headship, that’s all gone now.

The computer studies prezi: showing parents a coherent focus on computer studies (comp-sci included)
The computer technology prezi: showing parents a coherent focus on applied computer technology (no comp-sci in sight).

Other Reading:

Straddling The Divide: the end of computer studies at CWDHS.
Do You Teach Computer Studies or Computer Studies?:  where Tim stumbles into the political distinctions in Ontario’s computer curriculum.

Snow Honda

Driving in to work I pass by this old CB750 (?) Honda every day.  As the snow has piled up and the temperature dropped I’ve watched it get buried.

It looks in pretty well cared for, other than the sitting in the snow in -30° winter.

My first urge is to leave a note on the door asking if they’d be interested in selling it.

While my Ninja is getting cleaned with a toothbrush, this old classic sits in the snow, it makes me sad.  I’ve been looking for a project bike.  This might be a bit more project that I was first thinking, but there it is.

I’ve been reading a lot of bike history.  The big Hondas were one of the first super bikes.  There was a time when someone brought this home and it was the bleeding edge of motorcycle engineering, it must have oozed cool.

Of course, these old Hondas make for fantastic cafe racer projects too…

Maybe one of these days I’ll swing by and ask if they’d want to sell it.  I’d wait for a day with clear roads, get it going and ride it the few kilometres down the river to my garage, where it would get stripped down next to the Ninja and prepped for spring.

Everyday I go by it reminds me of fantasy art pieces of skeletons lying forgotten.  With the morning sun shining on it, I’d like to go with something other than the smartphone and take some serious photos of it – it strikes me as buried sculpture, a story slowly being forgotten, an opportunity being lost.

Why Blog? Lisa’s Meme

via Lisa Neale’s Never Ever Stop Learning:  

I get the sense that a number of educators are recommitting to blogging in the new year.  This can only be a good thing.  A blogging educator not only reaches out to other teachers with a blog, but they also reach out to the general public, who seem to harbour a number of misconceptions about the profession.  Blogging is a wonderful way for individual educators to bridge that gap.

I’ve written for paper publication and find it tiresome.  The constant editorial revision waters down any edge in your writing and can make even the most acerbic argument seem bland.  The worry over saying anything that someone else may have already said and the resulting over-citation also takes any joy out of writing (or thinking for that matter).  I understand why many people would back away from old-school publication, it’s a miserable experience.  Blogging is a way to refine your writer’s craft while still enjoying the benefits of an audience.

My favourite part of blogging is that there is no captive audience, no circulation.  If people want to read it, they can, if they don’t, they won’t.  It’s publication with none of the overhead (advertising, editors, space limitations, etc).  Blogging is an opportunity to write without having to carry a pile of other people with your words.

Lisa mentions Dean Shareski’s ‘excuse to write’.  With blogging you don’t need an excuse, just write!  If you find you want to write about different subjects, then do that too, it’s easy enough to create interest specific blogs, and it’s a great way to enter the online community of your new interest.  The more you write, the easier it gets (like most things).  The trick is not to get all wound up with what you’re writing, it’ll get better over time.

With that all said, here is Lisa’s dare:

Nominating blogger:  Lisa Neale
11 random facts about myself:  Facts?  How tedious… look me up online, it’s all there if you want facts.  The fictions are far more interesting though, and much harder to find.
List 11 bloggers?  I enjoy many of the staff writers on WIRED.  Quinn Norton is a genius.  If I had to pick a local edu-blogger, it would have to be Jamie Raeburn-Weir.  She’s a writer’s writer, a direct, honest voice.  Andrew Campbell is another one I enjoy reading.  He writes how he talks, which probably gets him into a lot of fights.

Lisa’s Questions:

favourite mode of transport:  motorcycles! The more minimal and visceral the better…

Random piece of advice:  luck is like everything else, you need to practice it to get good at it.  If you never test your luck you’ll atrophy it.  Virgil understood this when he said, “fortune favours the bold.”  We’re all less lucky (and compassionate) than we once were because of the nanny-state and insurance.

Favourite hobby:  Reading? writing? photography? art? riding? mechanics? Whatever lets me express myself most completely in any given moment.

How do I like my eggs: sunny side up and runny.

Something I think differently about: it’s not how long you’re here, it’s how you’re here that matters.

Must watch movie:  anything by Guillermo del Toro, dude’s a genius.

When nothing is pressing:  take a long ride on my motorbike.  It is meditation in the wind, you’re completely in the moment.

Preferred hot beverage:  loose leaf black tea

How do you say 2014?  11111011110

First job:  delivering newspapers, refing minor sports (hockey, soccer)

Lesson learned from relationships: nobody owns anyone

I think that’s it…  I’ve been told I haven’t done this properly, but I’m ok with that.

They Know Not What They Do

Yesterday the Waterloo Region District School Board didn’t cancel school due to inclement weather.  The response they got on Twitter was, to say the least, shocking.  That students don’t understand how the internet works is apparent in how they present themselves online.  Some of their comments not only reflected their ignorance but also uncovered a mob mentality that frequently appears online.  Students think they are private and anonymous when they are in fact standing on a world-wide stage making fools of themselves.

People outside of Kitchener can see Twitter? Dude!

The fellow on the left is surprised that people not from Kitchener are responding to tweets.  The entire world could see these tweets and they’re now a permanent part of the digital record, you can’t take back what was said in anger online.  You can only imagine what this does for their digital footprint, not that anyone is teaching them this in school.

My wife suggested that if WRDSB hadn’t let all their elementary librarians go in the last ten years, those librarians might have been there to teach this generation of ‘digital natives‘ how not to make fools of themselves online.  I only wish that were true.  The vast majority of librarians I’ve met are determined not to address digital citizenship because they feel that technology is a threat to traditional (book based) learning.  Alanna herself didn’t get hired recently because she ‘was too digitally focused’.  I fear that librarians themselves and the people who hire them aren’t the ones to fix this.

So who does teach digital citizenship?  I’ve got a teacher at my school who does it because he feels it’s a vital part of any relevant, modern civics course – he doesn’t even have a full contract.  The only people addressing digital citizenship are outliers, though our students (those digital natives) are expressing themselves inappropriately through this technology all the time.

The mob mentality and the righteousness that comes with it.

Take a moment to look over the tweets directed at WRDSB in the last 24 hours and you see students making the common mistake (because the formats are similar) of assuming tweets are like texts.  In the student’s mind they are texting directly to their school board but, of course, that is not how Twitter works.  You see students unaware they they are publishing death threats publicly, you see students encouraging the mob mentality that had them hurling invective at their school board.  You have to wonder what a kid in Rwanda thinks about all of these grammar impaired, spoiled, first world kids commplaining about having to go to school.  Yes, people in Rwanda can read your tweets.

So we’re left with an awkward, embarrassing situation here, and not one limited to Waterloo Region.  We have students who spend the majority of their time in digital communications without realizing what it is or how it works.  We have students who are essentially making themselves unemployable by creating such deplorable digital footprints that no one would touch them.  Can you imagine what you’d do if you googled the kid who just asked for a job and found death threats against their school board published online?  It shows a startling lack of prudence.

 Instead of embracing digital communications to create a live résumé that would generate job offers for them, they are building themselves a digital ghetto, and this is happening on a massive scale.  An entire generation of students are making themselves irrelevant.  I wonder how many more times this will happen before we start to integrate digital citizenship into curriculum like it matters.

North American International Motorcycle Show

Hey NAIMS, you coulda had my wife there… a master’s degree,
great job, but you’re not appealing to her demographic…

My son and I went down on Friday morning in -25°C  temperatures for our first ever motorcycle show at the International Centre in Mississauga.  My wife didn’t come because the advertising on the website (which also had a complete lack of social media) put her off.  I suspect you’ll get a better class of customer with more in their pocket if you appeal to educated women interested in the sport.  I’m not sure who you cater to with the twinkies, but I suspect they aren’t great customers.  You’d also bring in many more younger riders (I think the average age at the show was about 50) if you embraced social media.

Old white guys & twinkies, it’s a weird,
backwards, and kinda creepy
dynamic, time to change it up

Since it was my first time at a show like this I was a bit worried that I was bringing my son to a de-tuned strip club, but I was pleasantly surprised.  There were a few other families there and the crowd represented a typical Canadian cross section.  With the bike clubs on hand, the variety of bikes on show and the various supporting retailers, this wasn’t a biker bar scene at all – it’s a shame that the advertising doesn’t show this for what it is.

There were little herds of Harley aficionados trying too hard in their leathers and badges, but they were a minority.  On our way in from the parking lot an older fellow we were walking in with gave us a discount coupon, and the people in the show were encouraging, accessible and not at all snobby (which is nice when you’re a n00b).

We spent the better part of four hours walking around and missed an entire hall.  The amount of material was prolific, from the gear to the bikes themselves.  Two brands really stood out for me and the others were generally a disappointment.

You’d normally be hard pressed to get me interested in a
Harley, but they make it easy to like them, and what a
good looking bike!

I’m the furthest thing from a Harley Fan, but Harley Davidson Canada put on a great show.  They took a good chunk of floor space, had a lot of room to try out bikes and were more than willing to focus on developing a relationship with their customers rather than leaving it to dealers who are only interested in moving units.

Having dealers take care of your brand loyalty is like have the tigers at the zoo do the job of the zookeepers.  If they can drum up any customer relationship building at all they’re only pretending, all they really want to do is feed themselves a sale.

I ended up throwing a leg over a bunch of Harleys and I’m much more curious now than I was before, well done HD.

Shows like NAIMS are an ideal opportunity for manufacturers to develop a relationship with their customers, and I was surprised that so few did.  I want to be a Triumph fan, I’m from the UK, I love their bikes from a design point of view, but they were only there through a local dealer who parked the bikes so close together that it was impossible to sit on many of them (which was no doubt the idea).  The special ‘deal’ on Triumph t-shirts had them on ‘sale’ for $60… for a t-shirt.  Between the inaccessible bikes, the over-priced merch and the dealers rolling their eyes whenever your kid wants to try and sit on a bike, we didn’t spend much time in Triumph land.

After the show I’m reconsidering how and why I might become attached to a specific make, or even whether I should (though motorcycling seems particularly intense in its tribal approach to brand).

Beautiful naked bike, the Z1000… it’s got me

Another manufacturer who didn’t take my loyalty for granted was Kawasaki.  My first bike was supposed to be a Honda or a Suzuki and it ended up being a Ninja. It’s been a great first bike and the KLR has long been on my mind as an alternate/multi-purpose bike (though the insurance chat later is making that unlikely).  Kawasaki has been good to me so far, and the show only made me more of a fan.

Like Harley, Kawasaki showed up instead of only being there through dealers.  The reps they had on hand were friendly, helpful and approachable.  The bikes were displayed in a way that encouraged you to try them out, and Kawi also brought the bling (which I immediately put up in the garage).  

Kawasaki was never on my bike lust list when I was younger (I was all about Interceptors and Gixers), but as an adult buyer they have my attention.  Well done Kawasaki!

The rest of the bike show was a whirlwind of gear and meet and greets.  Two Wheel Motorsport was there, and I had a quick chat with my motorcycle course instructor (while getting a great deal on a Bell Helmet for my son – I’m all about Bell helmets since seeing Rush).

I had a chat with Riders Plus Insurance.  They insured me in my first year of riding and were helpful and efficient.  This time round I was curious about how insuring multiple bikes work.  They told me that buying a second bike means you’re doubling your insurance payments.  This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as I can only ride one bike at a time.  I expected something like you’re insured at the rate of whatever the highest cost bike is plus 10% for the paperwork on the other bike.  What I was told was that you get a 10% discount on your second bike and pay another full set of insurance on it… which makes owning multiple bikes not really financially viable, so that dream goes down the toilet.

I was looking for Motorcycle Mojo as we wandered about since I’ve been emailing with the publisher, but couldn’t find them!  This show really is huge.  But I did find The Widow’s Sons.  After a round of secret handshakes I got some contact information.  A number of guys in my lodge have bikes but don’t ride with others.  I’m wondering if I can start a local chapter, or perhaps join the Grand River Chapter.

My son and I both really enjoyed the show.  It let us throw our legs over a lot of bikes and talk with a wide variety of people in the sport.  It was a wonderful thing to get excited about riding again even as the temperature outside turned truly arctic.  Kawasaki & Harley both get nods as my favourite manufacturers of the show.  Their stand up showing has me questioning brand loyalty based on some weird sense of belonging rather than a manufacturer’s interest in genuinely developing a relationship with their customer.  As a new rider I’m looking to be wooed.  Harley & Kawi both did some quality wooing.

My suggestion?  Get yourself out to the North American Motorcycle Show and bring your family along, they’ll have a great time and maybe even get a sense of why you love riding like you do.  

I hope the show will reconsider the marketing angle and get away from the twinkie/biker thing on the website and embrace social media next year.  If they do, maybe I can convince my wife to come along with us.

Some pictures from the show.

The Wolverine & Corporate Product Placement

Filmed In Japan, Manufactured in Italy

I just saw The Wolverine and enjoyed it.  I lived in Japan for a couple of years and have a soft spot for it.  The idea of Logan in Japan was cool and I was looking forward to seeing what local vehicular colour they put into it (Japan does a lot of domestic one-offs that you don’t see anywhere else).

Unfortunately I’d forgotten that Marvel is in bed with Volkswagen Group.  Imagine my disappointment when everyone in Japan is driving Audis or riding Ducatis (Ducati is owned by VW Group).  To top it off most of it was filmed in Australia and made to look like Japan.  If you’re looking for a film that shows you Japan, this ain’t it.

So while Logan and his sidekick are on Ducatis (in Japan, sort of), I wonder what the local manufacturers are thinking.  Since the whole advertising/placement thing is sorted out by lawyers, I imagine that Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha had no say in it anyway.  Isn’t it a shame that brilliant local engineering like that can be made to not exist in a film?  Can you imagine if they did a film in America and everyone was riding Ducatis with not a Harley in sight?  It would seem unrealistic.  If film makers are more interested in milking advertisers for product placement than they are in making a film seem properly placed, it bodes poorly for the future of film.

I’d read an online discussion about the best summer riding gear and someone suggested looking at what Boorman & McGregor wore on Long Way Down.  It was immediately suggested that this wasn’t the best kit but merely the one that sponsored them.  Like Ducatis in Japan, media is more about advertising than fact.  With that in mind, can you trust anything you see on film about motorbikes or even the kit being used?

Ninjas! On motorbikes!

One scene that was motorbike crazy was Logan taking on a squad (clutch? herd?) of ninjas on motor-cross bikes.  I couldn’t see what they were (it was dark, there were ninjas everywhere), but it made for some frantic fight scenes, especially when one of the ninjas did a stoppie and hit Logan in the face with the back wheel.

I enjoyed The Wolverine, it was a good action flick, but it would be nice if they made more of an effort to create a genuine vehicular experience in the film instead of chasing hidden advertising revenue.

Motorbike Books

I just finished Melissa Holbrook-Pierson’s The Perfect Vehicle.  She has a wonderful writing voice, you really get to know her and her love of two wheels through reading the book.  The anecdotal pieces on trips she’s taken and the history flashbacks are very immersive and informative.  At other times she prosetalizes and it wanders a bit, but she always seems to find her way back to that love of bikes again.

The most memorable parts for me are her poetic descriptions of how it feels to ride.  She has come closest (by far) in describing the feeling of riding a bike.  If you are willing to let her take you on a ride and aren’t freaked out by her intelligence or gender, you’ll find the trip rewarding.

I then moved on to Motorcycling: A Life Long Passion, and after the Ondaatchi-esque prose of Melissa I’m having trouble getting into this strange book.  

I previously read Odessey To Ushuaia by the very entertaining Andres Carlstein, who makes a trans-American trip sound both naive and remarkably slutty at the same time; I really enjoyed it.

So here I am reading a less engaging road trip and then alternate chapters on the experience of motorcycling whose prose isn’t up to the task.  I’m only a couple of chapters in, but it isn’t grabbing me as the other two books did. I’ll keep at it with the hopes that it ups its game.

On a different angle I also picked up some more tech-orientated books. I got the Ninja Haynes Manual when I got the bike in the spring, but I was looking for more general overviews of bike mechanics when I came across the Basics Techbook and Motorcycle Maintenance on Amazon.

I’ve started the Techbook and after skipping the explanations of two and four stroke motors, I got a good explanation of the variety of motorcycle engines out there.  I’m finding the book detailed and well written so far.

After spending so much time finishing the garage, the only gratuitous purchase was the How To Set Up Your Motorcycle Workshop.  It’ll be both enjoyable and frustrating to see what a more perfect bike repair area would look like.

If I can’t be riding at least I can work my mind around other aspects of the sport.

Motorbike Magazine Mania

Since I’m in riding withdrawal I’ve been continuing my overdose on motorcycle media.

In one of the many magazines I’ve been picking up I came across the Overland Adventure Rally, which happens to be only about half an hour away from where I live.  I won’t be participating on a Ninja, but I’m working on that.

The magazine picks have been many and varied.  On the Canadian side I have picked up Inside Motorcycles and Canadian Biker.

 IM is very race focused so I’ve been trying to use it to get a grip on what racing is offered/popular in Canada.  I stumbled across the last MotoGP race of the year on SPEED and gave it a watch.  Utter madness!  But more entertaining than any F1 race I watched this season.

I’m still partial to British bike magazines and pick them up when I come across them.  Motorcycle Sport & Leisure is written from older perspective but the mag holds up the quality end of British magazines.  Few ads, lots of articles on a wide range of subjects, well written too. 


BIKE magazine is a big one in the UK and I can see why.  The writing is top notch, I was laughing out loud as I read one piece on all the ways an author has fallen off a motorcycle.  

I’d pick up Adventure Bike Rider again, but it was hard to find even when I was in the UK this summer.

These hard to find British magazines may drive me to reading on a tablet just so I can get at them.

Cycle Canada is the only bike magazine I’ve gotten a subscription to so far, no regrets there.