I’m not teaching you to play a game

There has been much talk of gamification as a means of engaging the digital native (sic).  I’ve been a fan of integrating complex simulation into the classroom for a long time now, and I believe that digital tools offer us a great deal of paracosmic power in that regard.  As a means of assessing student ability, nothing comes close to the immersive simulation to see multi-dimensional aspects of student skill, from basic knowledge to how they work under pressure and what their lateral problem solving skills look like (something most assessment is devoid of).

But like the flowery classroom in which no one can fail, the vast majority of games are designed to be entertainment.  The satisfaction you have in finishing them is entirely artificial – the point was for you to finish them.  Sort of like making a big deal of getting a high school diploma… way to get what just about everyone has.  I missed my high school graduation, but I didn’t miss my university ones.  The best part about those degrees where all the people who started with me that didn’t finish.

If we’re going to set up games in the classroom, then they need to be full spectrum experiences (where failure is an option).  If you want to go all the way, actually set up the simulation to put your students in an impossible situation and then assess how they respond rather than how they perform.  If it works for Starfleet Academy in two hundred years, it should work for us now.

One of the most immersive games I’ve ever played was called Planescape: Torment.  I’ll spoil it for you because no one will go looking for a fifteen year old game to play.  You begin in a Memento-esque amnesia in a morgue.  Through the course of the narrative you learn that you are immortal, though you’ve been killed many times (and are covered in scars).  The end of the game has you having to come to terms with a character you’ve come to identify with realizing that he has to die (and spend an eternity in hell – he hasn’t been a nice man) in order to complete the game.  It was a game playing moment where I was completely lost in the story, when it asked more from me as a participant than I wanted to give, but I gave it anyway, and have never forgotten the effect.  Watching a character you’ve struggled to keep alive walk into an eternal battle on the planes of hell was truly epic.  Winning isn’t always about collecting badges.

I’ve had a number of those epic moments while playing Dungeons & Dragons.  I’ve also created some sufficiently complex simulations in the classroom where students have forgotten where they were.  Being a Dungeon Master is excellent training for a teacher.

In English I’ve spun mutants v. humans in a Chrysalids simulation that had students who thought the prejudice and violence shown by characters in the book where ‘ridiculous’.  An hour later the simulation had the same students jailing (and worse) the hidden mutants in their classroom, while the mutants tried to hide, then ended up drunk on their own power.  It left many students hyper-engaged, frustrated and introspective about human nature.  I wonder what kind of quiz would have resulted in that mind space?

Immersive simulation is a powerful learning tool – I believe it should be the end game of digitization in education.  A student who has had to experience Brock’s sacrifice or Napoleon’s Waterloo will have a sense of personalized learning that strikes the gaming nerve – they feel like it was a personal experience rather than something told to them.

They do this on the holo-deck all the time in Star Trek.  Janeway has Leonardo Da Vinci as a mentor, Data has arguments with Einstein and Hawking about physics.  Their learning is personal and they are active participants in it, the learning environment is personalized, immersive and offers the mightiest access to information.

Any well designed simulation has to allow for free-play and unexpected outcomes (Data vs. Moriarty is a good example).  If your games are designed for single outcome, or you’re throwing badges on achievement, you might as well go back to photocopying worksheets, you’re not getting what games can do for people.  Unless you take into account player freedom of choice and are willing to address unexpected outcomes, you’re only hanging a badge on the same old linear knowledge attainment.

Rubber Maths

I’ve looked into the savage world of motorcycle tires before.  Way back in 2016 I got fixated on customizing the rims and putting new rubber on the Kawasaki Concours, and got introduced to the expensive nature of buying half as many tires that wear out way faster.  That first time left me with a $500 bill for getting 2 Michelin Commander sport touring tires installed and left me wary of the expense.

More frustratingly, I ended up using the Counteract balance beads anyway because the caveman weights used on a traditional balance machine still left the wheels with a wobble, so that $500 bill ended up being even higher, though it did make me feel way better about using those beads – they work better than weights and a technician half paying attention to the balancing machine.

In 2017 the Tiger’s tires were getting tired, so I was once again at Two Wheel trying to get in for service (they suggested a one month wait was likely that time – local car tire places really need to look into this market).  At that time they were pricing Michelin Anakees at about $420 for both, with another $100 for installation which was only the tires because if I wanted service within a week instead of a month I had to remove the tires and bring them in myself.  With taxes and incidental costs that crept in on the bill, those two tires ended up costing me almost seven hundred bucks, and I had to take the damned rims off and put them on myself!

Fast forward to 2020 and supply chains are in tatters (not that they were that good a couple of years ago).  After trying to contact Two Wheel and getting no response to multiple attempts, I started looking elsewhere.  No local tire companies do motorcycles – you’re missing a market there everyone.  Motorcycle tires wear out quickly, get replaced often and cost more!  The only motorcycle focused company that could be bothered to raise a response was Revco, who were responsive and delivered the tires quickly and efficiently, even beating expectations I’d have had pre-pandemic.  If you need motorcycle tires in Canada, Revco can and do deliver!

Where am I at with costs this time around in the expensive world of motorcycle tires during a pandemic?  Counteract Balance Beads were just under thirty bucks, the two tires were $126 & $155, so the whole bill came out to $310.  I’m at $360 including taxes and delivery.  Lloyd installed them for $100, so now I’m at $460 for this round of motorcycle rubber.  That’s 35% cheaper than my last pre-pandemic tire buying experience.

Just out of curiosity I looked up the same Michelin Anakee tires I put on the Tiger three years ago that ended up costing me $500 just for the rubber.  They’re starting to square off and have a fair number of kilometres on them, so an over-winter tire change is likely this year.  On Revco three years later they’re $382 delivered with taxes, or 24% less expensive.  Even Lloyd’s newly updated shop costs for installation at Mostly Ironheads are less than dealer costs in 2017, and are done in 48 hours.  I’d be at $482 ready to roll when it cost me $700 before.

I know where I’m going and how I’m getting tires fitted from now on – and I’m even supporting my small, locally owned shop in the process.  The only thing preferable would be my own tire installation machine, but I can barely fit in the garage as it is, so that’d only come after a house move.  With the deficit in service around here, maybe I should just be doing motorcycle tires out of my garage anyway.

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Bike History, Ancient Rubber & COVID-proof Supply Chains

Ontario gets you to buy a vehicle history when you transfer ownership.  The main reason is to make sure you’re not buying something with an existing debt on it, but I like it for the history lesson; you get a good sense of a bike’s life from that list of dates and owners.  I’m the third owner of the Tiger.  The first one owned it for most of its life.  The guy I bought it from owned it for a short time (I think it was his first bike) before passing it along to me.

The Fireblade’s history also tells a tale.  In July of 1996 it was sold to a guy in West Hill, Ontario (part of Scarborough in the east end of Toronto).  He sold it to McBride Cycle in Toronto (Percy’s name is still down as the owner on bikes they brought in then) less than a year later in May of 1997.   McBride Cycle moved it on to a guy in Mississauga two months later in July of 1997.   The previous owner to me bought it in April of 1998 and owned it up until his divorce when he gave it to his ex as part of their separation.  It then sat with her through the divorce until her new boyfriend dropped it off for me last September, 2019.  Timeline wise, the owners of this bike have lasted:

  • 10 months
  • 2 months (dealer)
  • 10 months
  • and 21 years, though it looks like it was unused for most of the last decade of those.

I’m the 5th owner of the bike, and if I hold on to it for more than ten months I’ll be the second longest owner it has had.  This 23 year old Japanese super model only has twenty-five thousand kilometres on her and sat unused for long enough that the petcock that metres fuel out of the tank failed and flooded the engine, then it sat broken in a garage.

This Honda is a ‘supersport’ bike with ‘hypersport’ tires, meaning they’re soft, grippy and don’t last long.  I once heard a story of a guy who used to drive his supersport bike to twisty roads in his van, ride it hard for a couple of days, and then open up his van and change to new tires using the tire mounting equipment he kept mounted in there.  Heavy handed riders can burn through a set of these types of tires after a single track day.

Lloyd at Mostly Ironheads measured the depth and determined that the ‘Blade needed new tires to meet safety requirements.  I’ve got the ‘Blade raised up in the garage at the moment and had a good look at the tires today, and found these:

But the numbers didn’t make sense to me because I’ve never had a bike with tires made before 2000.  Tires after the year 2000 have a four digit code printed on them showing the date of manufacture, so you know if they’re getting stale (rubber goes off over time).  If you see a 3507 stamped on your tire after the DOT designation it means they were manufactured on the 35th week of 2007.  But the ‘Blade’s tires show a 038 on the rear and a 395 on the front.

Pre-2000 tires only had a 3 digit code on them.  The first two are the week and the last one is the year, but you get to guess the decade, which is why they updated it in 2000.  If I’m reading the Fireblade’s tires right, the rear was made in the 3rd week of 1998 and the front was made in the 39th week of 1995.  The tire model is a Bridgestone Battlax BT56F, and they were kicking around in the 90s.  It appears the “Blade’s tires are well over 20 years old.

Sorting out tires during a pandemic should have been a real headache, but it was another COVID19 supply line success story.  I fired out requests to Two Wheel Motorsports, my local dealer, but they couldn’t be bothered to respond.  I also tried to reach out to all the local tire stores and not one had the tech to do motorcycle tires.  I tried other local bike shops, but once again, radio silence.  It’s like some people just don’t want to make money during this situation.  Perhaps getting handouts from the government is all they need.

The only reply I got was from John at REVCO.CA, an online tire company out near Ottawa.  He was straight up with me, saying that they can usually turn around an order in a matter of hours, but it might take up to a week right now.  What convinced me to spend nearly four hundred bucks with him was his responsiveness and openness, so I ordered the tires.  REVCO outdid themselves, delivering the tires within 48 hours.  Fortunately Lloyd at Mostly Ironheads can install tires, but not balance newer rims (he focuses on heavy metal from the 20th Century with spoked rims, not racing alloy rims).  It wasn’t a worry though because Revco also had Counteract balancing beads, which I’m a bid fan of.  I removed the old fashioned balancing weights, installed the beads on the new tires that Lloyd installed on Saturday morning, and the ‘Blade feels like it’s walking on air, wearing her first new pair of shoes in over two decades.

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OISE AQ Blog: Your dream lab

Our blog entry for today (we do one a day during this qualification course to teach computer engineering)…

Mike Druiven‘s lab at CKSS in Milton

In the context of teaching Computer Technology, 9 to 12
What do you like about 112 & 113 at CKS?

  • The rooms are purposed for what they teach (I have to teach comp-eng in a board lab with locked down computers shared with 2 other subject areas).
  • The cupboards were installed to a very high standard (we installed them last year ūüėČ and provide a lot of easily accessible storage.
  • The work benches have plugs on hand and encourage building as well as easy collaborating (Conestoga’s computer engineering lab uses similar benches – I’d LOVE a set of them!)
  • natural light is nice
  • Smartboard is permanently installed and out of the way
  • multiple seating areas
  • two labs designed around two different purposes so you can go to what fits what you’re doing best

What would you change?

  • the stools aren’t the most comfortable over a whole day, but that’s not really an issue for teenagers in 75 minute periods,¬†wheelie ergonomic work chairs¬†would be nice, but wouldn’t fit the regular student in here (as opposed to the old guy with a dodgy back)
  • rack mounted LCD monitors¬†that could be folded away when not in use would be nice for the benches, as would a sleeve to hold peripherals for quick set up of desktops
  • having more control of the server side IT structure would allow for more complete networking¬†opportunities¬†while still making use of board internet access
  • I saw a sound-field system used a few years ago and even though I’m not a particularly audial learner, I found it absolutely fantastic for de-stressing a teacher’s voice and aiding student learning, having one in here would be nice
  • we’re inches away from¬†3d holography. ¬†Mike could go full ‘help me Obiwan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!’ with a 3d holography system in front of his desk… where else but in computer engineering should we show of the leading edge of computer engineering?

Develop a 5 year action plan to improve a Computer Technology classroom that you work in, have worked in or have seen.

  • improve tools & supplies
  • improve equipment
  • improve seating and lesson delivery
  • improve displays
I’ve¬†agonized over the lab they gave me¬†since seeing Mike putting together his lab last summer. ¬†I initially gave up, then started looking at cheap ways to make use of this giant space. ¬†I went on an ethernet spending spree and purchased long (25 and 50 ft) ethernet cables whenever they went on sale. ¬†When I had enough I took an afternoon after school and migrated all the computers at the back up the unused wall, so the school lab is now located all toward the front of the room (and connected to the drops at the back by looong ethernet cables). ¬†With the back clear, I got my hands on some work tables and set them up in a C pattern at the back. ¬†It is here that we build our own networks and PCs.
I began picking up computers from schools from our board’s regional school (GCVI in Guelph), so every year I have relatively new machines we can experiment on. ¬†This year we’re especially lucky because our technician asked if we could keep 30 of the retiring PCs back for us to use, so in the fall we’ll have 2GB Pentium Core2Duo machines, which should be fun.
I’d still like the lab to be computer engineering specific. We currently run 3 grade 9 sections and an 11/12 combined section. ¬†If I can get that up to eight sections, I could lock down the lab and¬†re-purpose¬†it to computer engineering and nothing else. ¬†If that happened I’d chuck the board lab (someone would be happy to have it somewhere else) and run work benches down the middle of the room, leaving the side tables for other work.
I’m currently looking at getting my hands on more Raspberry Pis and Arduinos and expanding our electronics¬†repertoire. It’s currently stored in a back room, I would very much like to have in-room access to this material as Mike has in his room.
Seating and lesson delivery would be aided by a lab with re-adjustable benches and seating.

The Dream Media Arts Lab

A couple of years ago I saw¬†THIS¬†video about Finnish classroom furniture. ¬†I used it in my¬†dream media arts lab. ¬†Having a room with furniture that could reconfigure on the fly for whatever we’re doing is the kind of flexibility I dream of in the classroom.

I saw¬†Mosaika¬†a couple of years ago at the Parliament¬†buildings¬†in Ottawa. ¬†It blew me away! ¬†It turns out projection is the next big thing in¬†animating buildings. ¬†I’d like to do something similar in our school ¬†with a long throw projector, using it to show announcements and pictures on the wall of our library. ¬†Five years out I’m hoping that¬†pico-projectors¬†will be cheap enough that the walls, floor and ceiling of my classroom will become pedagogical tools for student learning. ¬†I don’t think I’m going to get to see¬†holo-decks¬†during my career, but the idea of a holographic or whole room projection is a pretty exciting prospect, and once again, where else to show the future of computer engineering if not in a computer engineering lab?
Coding the walls to show supporting information around student learning as it happens… we haven’t even begun to consider just how powerful pervasive digital presence in the real world could be! ¬†(I’m tempted to put an evil scientist laugh in here)
My lab 2013:

Waiting for it to Heat Up

It was a 6¬į morning, so I waited for an hour or so until the sun warmed it up to double digits.  The goal was to enjoy some curves on the last weekend before it’s back to work.

I pushed north to Grand Valley and got a quick coffee at Brewed Awakenings before pushing on up past Shelburne and onto River Road out of Horning’s Mills.  Finally, here were the twisty roads I’d been looking for.  South Western Ontario is a patchwork of tediously straight roads.  The exception is the Niagara Escarpment and this is one of the closest pieces of it.

Playing with vanishing point electrical lines

South out of Terra Nova Public House after a quick (and fantastic) bowl of hand made fish soup, I pushed south down the spine of the escarpment into Mono Cliffs and Hockley Valley.

By this point it was early afternoon and a warm, 22¬į late summer day.  Leaving the escarpment I pushed back across the barren desert of straight roads.

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Winter Is Coming

My first season in the saddle is rapidly coming to an end.  I’m sad.  I’ve been OD’ing on magazines and media in the past couple of weeks but I’m also doing more concrete things to keep the dream alive over a cold, dark Canadian winter.

This weekend I’m finishing the garage (insulation & ply-board) which should make it more inhabitable for stage 2 of Tim’s cunning winter motorbike plans.

With the garage organized (a tire rack for the car’s off season tires, new workbench, shelving, etc), there should be a lot more room!  The Ninja will find a nice corner to spend the winter (while I strip the fairings off and refinish the frame).  In all that empty space I feel a strong urge to project bike!

One of my earliest motorbike urges was driving by an old Honda on the side of the road over and over again.  That bike was selling for $450.  If I can find an old bike that needs some TLC I’m going to get it home and give it a place in the garage.  I’ll spend the winter stripping carbs and breaking it down to nuts and bolts.  The best way to understand is to lay hands on.  Having a rebuild project would be the perfect way to keep myself immersed in two wheel thinking.

Come spring I might be kick starting an old beasty that hasn’t rolled on roads in years.  My recent infatuation with Cafe Racer culture might inform this process a bit.

Good Will: it’s what holds the education system together

As thousands of young teachers are handed pink slips and those left behind are looking towards a system intent on cramming as many students into a classroom as possible, good will is drying up in Ontario education.  You might not think that this matters, but it does.  Good will is what has teachers doing hundreds of hours of volunteer work each year to maximize student experience in school.  All of the teacher coaches and club leaders spend time enriching their schools with these efforts.  I’m hard pressed to think of a single teacher I work with who doesn’t do some kind of volunteer work in addition to their paid work.

Beyond the volunteerism, there is a general misunderstanding in the public about how well teachers are paid.  From reflective edu-blogging and sharing best practices on a Saturday to marking on a Sunday morning, most teachers aren’t work free when they aren’t at work.  You might think this extra effort is well funded, but it isn’t.  With five years of university and the massive debt that accompanied it, ten years of industry apprenticeship and experience, five summers of additional qualification training and fifteen years of teaching in Ontario classrooms, I take home about $58k a year.  I don’t work all year round, true, but on the weeks I do work I typically average about 10 hours of work a day on teaching related activity and about five hours per weekend.  I typically put in at least 6-8 hours of work a week during holidays as well, just to keep up on marking and planning.  Out of my fifteen teacher summers off I taught summer school on five of them and took additional qualification courses that I had to pay for myself in another four.  On other years I’ve presented at conferences and learning fairs.  I don’t think I’ve had an actual summer off yet, so don’t get too carried away with those ‘summers off’.  The vast majority of my summers have been work related, and often at my expense.

Some Teacher Math:
2000 hours of work while teaching daily (40 weeks per year, 5 days a week, 10 hours a  day)
+160 hours over weekends (40 weekends per school year, 4 hours per weekend)
+25 hours over stat holidays (Xmas and March Break, Easter, etc)
=2185 hours of work.   That’s not counting the week before school starts when I’m usually in pretty much every day until things are ready to go, or extended field trips when I’m essentially at work 24 hours a day, or the times in the summer when I’m training, or presenting at educational conferences.  Nor is counting any of the hundreds of hours I spend working on Skills Ontario, CyberTitan or other extracurricular student enrichment.  Sure, not all teachers hit it this hard, but you’d be surprised at how many do.

At my $58,000 take home a year that’s about twenty six bucks an hour – and I had to spend huge amounts of money and years of my life to get myself trained to the point where I could even begin to do this job – a job that I still have to do even when I’m sick (teachers plan their own absence when away ill).  I then had to spend fifteen years teaching at lower salaries and paying for additional qualifications to get to where I am at the top of the pay scale.  If you factor in all the extracurriculars that many people believe should be a requirement of my job, my take home pay for the amount of time I put into this gig is about twenty bucks an hour.  If you think teaching is about the money, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

When I left millwrighting in the early 1990s I was taking home $918 a week for a forty hour week.  If I took an extra half shift, which I often did, my take home was more than I make now as a teacher some thirty years later.  Of course, when I did overtime in the private sector I got paid for doing overtime.  When I do overtime as a teacher, I get attacked by my employer.

I think teachers get paid sufficiently, but you’d have to be nuts to say it’s extravagant.  Unlike provincial politicians, Ontario teachers haven’t seen cost of living increases that keep up with inflation in the past decade, and we’ve had all sorts of contractual obligations illegally stripped in the same period.   So, if it isn’t the money and safe working conditions that keeps people at this, what does?  It’s good will.  Teachers go above and beyond for their students.  All they ask in return is to work in a system that honours that effort with equal bonhomie.

When we get into a situation like we do now, where a government uses our profession as a scapegoat for all of society’s ills, that good will evaporates at a startling rate.  A difficult but satisfying job becomes just difficult.  Young teachers who have been battling for years to find permanent work are shaken out of the system and the best senior teachers start thinking about all the other ways they could make a living with less hassle elsewhere.

Good will is a fickle thing and it seldom beds well with politics.  As our populist regime with a mere 23% of Ontarian’s votes steamrolls our public support systems while paying off friends and family, the feeling that this is about balancing a budget feels less and less true.  If Ontario were to attack its financial imbalance in all areas, I think education would be more than willing to do its part, but when MPPs are voting themselves cost of living increases while removing many teachers’ ability to make a living at all, it’s hard to feel like we’re all pulling together.  As things tip further and further out of balance, there will be a brain drain from Ontario, which is a loss that is already hurting our classrooms and one that will cost the province for years to come.

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The Mood I’m in When I Return from a Ride

BIKE magazine had a travel piece where the writer paraphrased a French pilot talking about how flying takes him away from the minutia of life. ¬†I’ve flown planes but I find riding a motorcycle much more what I thought flying would be like. ¬†The check listed and tedious process of operating an aircraft along with the strictly regulated flight paths don’t lend themselves to a sense of freedom. ¬†You’re much more likely to slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of god on a Hayabusa than you ever are in a Cessna.

I was reflecting on my mood when I returned from a ride with my son Max on the weekend. ¬†It wasn’t a big trip but I came home relaxed, as I always do from a ride. ¬†Riding a bike involves you. ¬†You can get lost in the complexity of operating it. ¬†Even once you get familiar with the controls the subtlety of working them all together harmoniously becomes a never ending aspiration. ¬†You can always ride better.

I started writing this in October when we went for our ride, but it’s the beginning of the new year now and it’s been weeks since I’ve ridden. ¬†At this point I’m reduced to driving a damned car which offers nothing like the sensory thrill you get from riding a bike. ¬†While everyone else wrings their hands about how dangerous being out in the wind is, I’m addicted to it. ¬†Riding a bike makes even the most tedious commute an adventure.

Coming back from that ride all those weeks ago, I was blown clean by the wind. ¬†I’d been in the world in a way that seems foreign to me now, encapsulated in winter. ¬†About the only redeeming feature of having a long off season is the growing anticipation of getting back out there again.


I sometimes wonder how my son Max feels about riding. ¬†I’m always worried that with his autism he finds the sensory overload overwhelming, but he loves going for rides. ¬†Even on very long trips he’s a trooper who is always ready to hop back on the bike. ¬†He isn’t generally interested in being cool, but I don’t think the cool factor is lost on him. ¬†I don’t get many images of him on the bike behind me, but I love seeing him doing his wings in these images.

It’s been snowing for days. ¬†We’re buried in the stuff. ¬†The thought of jumping on the bike and going for a ride is still months away. ¬†Sigh.

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Machines That Challenge

Tim’s Motorcycle Diaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Biking: Motorbiking beyond The Wall

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

On the left is Isafjordur!

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

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

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

Iceland!  2300kms around the island!

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

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

Fjord roads!

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

Budget & Planning

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

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

Return: Sept 6th

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

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

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

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