Staring Into The Abyss

Originally published on Dusty World  in October, 2012:

I was just reading Doug Peterson’s Blog about how a number of edublogs are looking at the Amanda Todd story.  I can understand the urge, but I’m coming at this from a different angle than most.

I’ve had a particularly difficult year dealing with suicide.  In September I received an email from the coroner with a PDF attached.  In many pages of astonishing detail I read the science that showed that my Mum’s death wasn’t an accident, that she took her own life.  When you’re staring into an abyss like this the rhetoric currently in the media sounds astoundingly shallow.  Suicide isn’t a rational choice, or even an emotional one, it’s an existential choice, the most profound one imaginable.

To pin an action like this on a single motivation (ie: cyber bullying so you can amp up anxiety around technology use with children) is simplistic and manipulative.  I have no doubt that cyber bullying played a part, but to base suicide on a single motivating factor is asinine and seems more in line with pushing a political agenda than recognizing a complex truth.

When I was in high school I was big into Dungeons and  Dragons.  At the height of the hobby a kid in Orangeville killed themselves and the press gleefully pinned the cause on D&D, causing panic in parents and making me, as an avid player, feel isolated and vilified.  They’d done something similar a few years earlier with Ozzy Osborne and another suicide.  This kind of simplification fills up the reports of the chattering classes, and helps idiots create fictions that let them push agendas.  That many in the public swallow it is a lasting sadness.

From an educator’s point of view, this is being treated as a management issue.  I fear suicide is being used to manipulate cyber bullying as a political tool – which under my circumstances seems particularly callous.  Rhetorical stances like ‘suicide is never an option’ and rationalizations abound in an attempt to direct this very difficult aspect of human behavior.  Control is the goal, based on a very real fear of the outcome.  But the rhetoric still comes on in response to the presses’ assertion that cyber bullying caused this death.

I’ve been staring into this abyss for a while now.  It has made work difficult, it has made life seem like the self made experience that it is, which is exceedingly heavy if you’re like most people and happy with distractions and assumption as your reason for being.  Nothing is inherently valuable, life is what we make it – literally.  In my Mum’s case she was battling mental illness and was finally on medication for it – which she overdosed on.  Did mental illness play a part in her death?  No doubt.  Was it the only cause?  Not remotely.

The suicide I’m dealing with didn’t happen in a vacuum, I suspect none of them do.  I also suspect that none of them has ever, ever happened for a single reason.  There is no doubt that Amanda was bullied, and that this was a factor in her suicide.  What I question are the responses that focus on dealing with a single social issue that has always and will always exist as though resolving it would somehow magically have prevented her death.

People are naturally social and competitive.  Bullying is a result of this basic human nature, it always has been.  The twist now is that many of the clueless digital natives are publishing what has always happened privately for everyone to see.  Instead of being seen as a window to a previously hidden behavior, the media has dubbed this a cyber bullying epidemic and called into question the very technologies that have made a problem as old as humanity obvious.

The educational response has been to try and get out in front of this invented epidemic.  As someone who has circled this abyss, I’d ask everyone involved in education to consider the situation from more than a single perspective.  Please do not simplify suicide into a misunderstanding that can be rationalized away.

We are not serving our students well if we simplify this into an administrative exercise solely to reduce suicide numbers.  Appreciate the complexities of suicide and try to see the people who end up in this darkness as whole people with many interconnected, complex issues, and not something to be convinced, coerced, manipulated or managed into doing what is more comfortable for everyone else.

Suicide is complex, terrifying and present.  It deserves our full attention, not a soundbite.

Art Therapy.

Affidavits & Broken Ownerships

The XS1100 is finally mine.  After buying it off a clueless millennial who had managed to lose all useful paperwork associated with the bike, I’ve been able to re-establish ownership.  Here’s how you do it:

In order to reconnect continuity of ownership you need to get a signed affidavit from a legal notary.  Your local town government will have a notary on hand that can sign, stamp and date your declaration of ownership (they’ll offer this as a service).  I stopped in at the Centre Wellington Town Offices in Elora and explained the situation (clueless kid was previous owner, etc).  I showed them the ownership history the MTO had printed out for me (all six pages of it!), and the letter of sale from the previous owner.  I also said I’d made repeated attempts to find the last legal owner (I suspect he’s deceased).

The county clerk (who is a notary) signed, dated and stamped the affidavit I provided (that’s it above), and I took it back to the MTO office the next day.  In just a couple of minutes I paid the taxes on the sale price and the bike was attached to my name and a new ownership was printed out.  They keep all the relevant paperwork, including the affidavit.

It’s a bit of a pain in the neck to reestablish ownership, but it’s not particularly expensive (twenty bucks to get it signed) and just takes a bit of leg work by the new owner.  I’d argue a hundred bucks off the price for your time and costs to get the bike sorted – more if the previous owner is a tool (which they probably are if they lost all their paperwork).

Tablets are like high heels part 2

The original: Tablets are like high heels

A while back I tried to wrap my head around tablets and why they are so popular.  I struggled using an original ipad and eventually gave up.  A bit later I had an opportunity to use a windows tablet and almost broke it across my head in frustration.  I’m a tech savvy type, so I kept at it.  If tablets are so great, what wasn’t I getting?

This past year I got my hands on an Asus Transformer – the tablet that would convince me that tablets are handy (because it also comes with a keyboard).  It only convinced me that Android has a long way to go in being a tablet OS.

I’ve got an ipad2 and the Asus Transformer floating around my department waiting for robotics to start, so I offered them out to my staff for test drives.  18 emails requesting the slower, lower memory, single tasking ipad, one saying either would be fine (he got the quad core multi tasking Asus).  Marketing works.  Perhaps that is the key to tablet success.

The sell on tablets is a hard one.  You’re getting epic style (yes, Picard has epic style) along with interweb access.  I want to be peppy, mobile and look like I come from the future!  I want a tablet, right?

Turns out I don’t.  After trying and trying to tablet up, it just isn’t sticking.  It appears I’m at an impasse when it comes to tablets and how I use the internet.

When I go online it’s a full contact sport.  I like to get into many things simultaneously (that knocks the ipad out), I’m constantly taking pictures from one thing and slapping them into another.  I’m in and out of photoshop, dreamweaver and other processor heavy software, I want lightning fast responses, the ability to create media on the fly, a keyboard that rewards me for years of learning how to touch type, and a screen that offers a clear view of as many full colour pixels as I can lay my eyes on.

Keep your filthy touch screens!
I want no part of it!

I expect to be able to toss something I found online onto my twitter feed or Facebook or linkedin, or flickr or evernote, or Ning, or Edmodo or any of a million other online tools without having to wonder if it’ll copy and paste this time or not.

Touch screens drive me bonkers.  Until I’m getting Iron Man like performance from my 3d touch interface, I’m not interested in taking stabs at data to see if I can pick them up over and over again.  Watching people do this on tablet baffles me, they seem content to have to attempt the same action over and over again, resigned to it – the inefficiency drives me batty.  The fact that you look like a lost mole looking for a hole makes me snort in derision!

Then there’s the screen itself.  I’m the kind of guy who cleans the windscreen in his car often (or his glasses before he got the lasers).  If I have to look through it, I want it pristine.  Peanut butter encrusted high def screens hold no interest for me at all.  Even a plain old finger print smudge makes me wonder why you’d pay for the high-def screen in the first place.  I’m a visual person, I want my digital window to gleam.

Tablets are for people who like to watch, spectators.  If you are a passive web media consumer, I’d suggest going back to TV, but if you’re determined to lurk, tablets are a good fit for you.  You look nice, but can’t do much; we’re back to the high heels again.

If you’re an active web user, someone who produces (and by produce I mean generate media, not merely be a retweeting machine) as much as they consume, then you’re going to find that the all show

Geeky high heels.

and no go reality of tablets frustrating.

There is no single moment where I’ve wished for a tablet when I’ve had my ultrabook handy.  Light, fast and fully capable, and running on a full/real operating system instead of the dumbed down mobile OSes on tablets; that is where my proclivities lie!

If I have to have a tablet at all, it’s a phone and it fits in my pocket.  It has a good camera, can get me online in a pinch, the batteries last all day and it doesn’t run so slowly as to drive me around the bend.  I’ll live with the lame mobile OS until they get better and it’ll do everything I’d ever need a tablet for without spending hundreds of dollars on a redundancy.

At any other point, when I really want to hit the web, I’ll turn to the laptop.

Tablets might be a good fit for how you go online if you’re a freaky lurker, but otherwise stay clear!  You’ll look great using them, but you won’t actually be doing much.  If that’s your M.O., an Apple genius is waiting to take your order.

Riding In the Desert On an Iron Horse with No Name… for reals this time

I’ve been through the desert on a lousy rental car with no name,
now I’ll do it properly on two wheels!

I landed a free trip to Arizona a couple of years ago for an educational conference.  I’d never been to the desert before, it was a great trip but the cunning plan to rent a bike fell apart when I discovered they don’t rent over the Easter weekend when I was flying in.

Ever since driving a lousy Nissan rental car through the Superstition Mountains, I’ve wanted to go back and do it properly on two wheels.  My time has come!

We’re doing a family trip to Arizona over the Christmas break.  Opportunity never knocks twice, except when it does, like this time.

Eaglerider’s selections look all of a kind,
a kind that doesn’t really grab me.

Eaglerider has a huge selection of bikes, but AZ Ride has exceptional customer ratings.  I’ll end up looking into both and seeing which grabs me.

AZ has the Indian Scout, which tickles a fancy (riding in the desert with an Indian Scout, c’mon!), along with the ZG1400 Concours, which I’m curious about for obvious reasons.  

Eaglerider has a lot of Harleys and a smattering of other very heavy offerings from other manufacturers.  In other locations they offer Triumphs but not in Phoenix.  Scraping floor boards doesn’t make me think of spirited riding, it makes me think of a poorly designed motorcycle.  Lugging a massive hunk of iron that can’t corner around the desert doesn’t strike me as a good time.

Looking at what’s on offer, and taking into account the customer ratings on Google, I think I’ll be giving AZride a go.  They’re both up the right end of Phoenix to get to easily, so location isn’t a factor.  I’ll be aiming at a Concours if my son wants to come with or the Scout if I’m solo, then it’s off into the Superstition Mountains for a day… or is it?


309kms/192 miles, with that many bends should make for a good day of riding


The road to Roosevelt is something else.  I skipped it in the Nissan rental car, but on two wheels it might be reason enough to live in Phoenix.  It’s about 80kms of serious switchbacks through breathtaking high desert, except it’s a dirt road!  All my day dreaming about riding switchbacks of smooth Arizona tarmac aren’t happening unless I go the long way around and stay on paved roads.

Once up on the plateau I’ll make a point of stopping at the Tonto National Monument, which is a magical place.  The ride back down the other side offers a couple of nice stops, but also some tedium.  If that road to Roosevelt is as magical as it looks, I might just come back that way.




How do you say no to a road like that?  AZride has a BMW 800GS Adventure, but a ride like this would be the perfect time to try the new Triumph Tiger Explorer – alas, no one rents it.  I’ve been eyeing the 800XCx as well as the new Explorer, but no one rents ’em.  There is a Triumph dealer in Scottsdale.  Think I could convince them to let me have a 300km test ride along that crazy road?

*** 


In a more perfect world I’d rent bikes I’m curious about owning.  A short list would include:

The new Triumph Bonneville with the Scrambler package (favourite classic) – It’d also look awesome in the desert!

Kawasaki Z1000 (favourite naked bike), though Kawi just came out with a Z800, which I’d also like to have a go on – but I’d be trapped on pavement.


The Kawasaki H2 (because it’s bonkers) – but not so good on a dirt road in the high desert…

The Ariel Ace (because it’s sooo pretty) – but I suspect it lacks off road chops.








I’m in a conundrum now.  I really want to ride out of Apache Junction on the Apache Trail, but the bikes I want to ride are all pavement specialists while the adventure bikes I’d want to rent aren’t available to ride.

Meanwhile Triumph cruelly taunts me with their lovely new machines.










Damn it!

FOLLOW UP

Instead of turning left before Globe,
head on towards Show Low.  The
roads be magic there!

All is not lost.  If we’re on pavement for the ride there is a nice triangle that’ll make for a fine high-desert ride.  The road north out of Globe into the higher mountains looks like a corker too.  I don’t think I’ll be suffering too much if I can’t ride the Apache Trail.  Either of those would be a blast on a big Connie.

Now to find a day when the weather is cooperating and see if I can make this happen.

Midnight Thoughts

What we have here is a Yamaha XS1100 ‘Midnight Special’.  It looks like it needs some love and is for sale for $500 along with some extra parts.  The flash from the phone makes this ’70s bike look pretty disco!

The XS1100 is a late ’70s/early ’80s ‘super’ bike.  From what I’ve read it’s Yamaha’s Vincent Black Shadow.  You’re spoiled for choice as far as customization goes with the XS1100.  It’s a big, air cooled engine with the old fashioned dual rear shocks.  It begs to be café racered a bit.

As a tear down/rebuild, this makes a pretty good basis for a winter project.  It would be my first air cooled bike, as well as my first tear down/rebuild.

The Clymer manual is readily available (I’m finding Haynes manuals lacking in covering many motorcycles).  This could be a winter sanity thing.


Parts on Order Makes me Stop & Consider

Over the Easter long weekend I’ve rebuilt four carbs and put them back together again.  Unfortunately they won’t go back on nicely thanks to two decade old rubber boots, so they’re on order.  It’s nice to have a forced day off.

If you’re ever rebuilding carbs on a ZG1000, and the airbox on it is more than ten years old, it’s a good idea to get some airbox ducts (that connect the airbox to the carbs).  Supple, soft rubber is important when connecting these up.  I tried for a frustrating couple of hours to get them to join properly.  This is especially difficult when the inner boots are rock hard, even when warmed up.  Steve suggests new carb boots to cut down on swearing, he ain’t kidding:


Sixty bucks and should be here by
Wednesday.

I contacted my local dealer and they can have boots here by Wednesday.  They’re charging less than they are going for on ebay or online retailers.  Score one for my local.  Sixty bucks means less swearing and an easy install.  Wayne, the Yoda-like parts guy at Two Wheel, says you’re lucky to get two decades out of a set as they harden over time and eventually split.

With the weather going sideways again, there won’t be much of a chance to ride any time soon.  Hopefully this means I can get this odyssey finished and the bike back on the road by the time the weather clears again.

The airbox ducts/boots that need replacing – the old ones are not only beaten up, but they’ve gone hard.
Even putting heat on them doesn’t soften them up.  Note the flat spots up by the airbox that show you which
way to turn the boots.
Heating up the airbox boots – but they’re too old!
A big empty where the airbox and carbs usually go





This ordeal has me rethinking things.  My wife suggested I unload everything except the old XS1100 and buy a regular motorbike that is more dependable.  When I started riding I got a dependable bike that just needed some cosmetic work.  It was so dependable it was tedious.  Since then I’ve gone back in time and enjoyed the world of carburetion and two decade old rubber, perhaps a bit more than I wanted to.

I genuinely enjoy mechanics, but never when there is a time demand on it.  I’ve already missed three riding opportunities because of the stuttering Concours, and this irks me.  The idea of wiping the slate clean and moving forward appeals.  I started riding late and moving through a number of bikes seems like a way to catch up on my lack of experience.  Maybe it is time to put sentiment down and move on.  I didn’t start riding to watch the few lovely days we have in a too-short riding season pass me by.

A Tiger?  In my garage?


The little Yamaha and the KLX are gone now, netting me about $3000.  As it happens, a 2003 Triumph Tiger is available just over an hour away for about that much.  Come the end of the week I might be able to say, “a tiger?  In my garage?  Must have escaped from a zoo!”



Academic Dishonesty: listening to Sunday Edition

I’m sitting here listening to CBC’s Sunday Edition doing an interview with an ethics adviser for a California university. Her description of cheating isn’t one of deceit and intent, it’s one of accidental opportunism. She argues that students often don’t even realize they are cheating.

In another section of the interview a university student says that it isn’t the student’s fault, they are victims of the ease of technology. These two ideas are closely linked; accidental cheating and technological access to information. In both cases, ethical choice is removed from the ‘victim’. This is a pretty weak ethical argument. Because something is easy and readily available, it should be done? If you see a person put an ipad on a park bench and then get distracted for a few minutes, do you walk off with it? According the this victim mentality you would have no choice. The fact that all of your friends have stolen ipads from the park only makes it more acceptable.

When I think about my own university experience, it didn’t even occur to me to cheat, because of my sheer awesomeness. My arrogance ensured that I would never even consider putting in someone else’s work for my own, but then I was there to develop my own thinking. I’d walked away from a lucrative career in order to push my limits. Most of the kids I was in university with (typically 4-5 years younger than I was, many of whom dropped out) were there because they couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. You didn’t get a clear sense of who the real learning disciples were until third or forth year.

Later in the same episode, they mention that the vast majority of students in university now are there because they want a higher standard of income, they’re there for the payoff at the end. If university is really all about the money, then perhaps their victim mentality is simply the best way to morally justify taking everything you can while doing as little as possible. University should, perhaps, follow SNL’s angle from so long ago and simply accept what it is becoming.

Drivetest: Everything That’s Wrong with Ontario

When I think back to the late ’80s (the last time I had to involve myself in driver testing), I recall reasonable wait times, full time employees invested in what they were doing and a general sense of competence.  I left with my driver’s license feeling like my time wasn’t wasted and the people there knew what they were doing.

The lost souls trapped in the beige, fluorescent lit hell that
is Ontario’s Drivetest Centre.  I got in trouble for taking
this picture, I hope you like it.

Since going back for my motorcycle license in 2013 I’ve had to attend Drivetest Centres several times and each one has been worse than the last.  The stone eyed ‘funployees’ of Drivetest struggle to handle massive wait times and angry citizens whose time doesn’t seem to matter at all.

While waiting for more than ninety minutes yesterday in an overcrowded holding area I looked up Drivetest and discovered a poster child for why Ontario is failing like it is.

Up until 2003 Driver training was handled by MoT employees.  These would have been unionized, government workers who make enough money to pay a mortgage and tended to stick around, meaning they have a vested interest in what they’re doing.  In 2003 Mike Harris (aka: ass-clown of the century) decided to privatize driver training in Ontario (because the mess they made giving away the 407 wasn’t enough).

In a matter of months hundreds of full time employees were laid off in the name of efficiency.  At the time the six week waiting list to get a license was considered proof of government incompetence and the private sector would come to our rescue!  The current backlog is over sixteen weeks.  Feeling that private efficiency yet?

At the Drivecentre yesterday I heard one of the employees say that they have a lot of people away on vacation so they are short handed at the busiest time of the year.  Another came back after taking only 10 minutes for lunch.  While reveling in this Kafkaesque corporate efficiency I thought I’d look up who we pay millions to now for driver testing.

Privatization seems to feed into globalization.  Just as he sold off the 407 for a fraction of what it’s worth to a Spanish company, so Harris sold off driver training to another overseas firm, in this case Serco, a billion dollar a year multi-national out of the UK.  Their spiel on the Drivetest website is exactly the sort of MBA drivel that makes me sick in my mouth:   

Positive change and continuous improvement! All’s good in corporate speak fun-land! Based globally? That sounds tricky.


Ah, the countless possibilities.  Fortunately, thanks to Serco’s crap-tastic personnel management I had a lot of time to consider countless possibilities.  The Ontario Government is supposed to oversee the efficiency of this subcontract, but like most privatization they simply turn away from what IS the role of government and takes no responsibility for what has been and continues to be an out and out disaster.

You’d think it would be fairly easy to make licensing a zero-sum game.  You charge for licenses whatever it takes to cover the cost of licensing and you keep that money in Ontario instead of shipping off millions of dollars overseas.  You then offer bonuses based on accident rates of new drivers and the wait times in Drivetest Centres.  The lower the rates and better the wait times, the better the bonus.  Or… you could just give it all away to an off-shore concern that couldn’t give a damn about Ontario citizens, their safety, or their time, but sure knows a lot about business.

Meanwhile, we’re all sitting here wondering why Ontario is in the biggest financial mess in its history.  Efficiency doesn’t mean off-loading responsibility and doing things cheaply unless you’re in the private sector, then that can be your reason for being.  Efficiency and cheapness are not the same thing, though the private sector and conservatives often confuse the two.

Get your finger out Ontario.  Stop off-loading important government services to incompetent multi-nationals and keep our money in-province!  Fix this!

LINKS

The Dark Side of Privatization
Who we’re paying to administer Ontario Driver Training
Serco quality
We should farm everything out to these guys!
Actually, just do a google-news search of Serco and revel in the excellence

The real costs of privatizing hydro
Privatization: generally a really bad idea
The 407The 407 again, The 407, it never ends, The 407, WTF?

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Once you’ve discovered riding a motorcycle, especially if you do it later in life as I have, you quickly come to realize that this isn’t something you’ll be able to do forever.  Motorcycling is physically and mentally demanding and you’d be crazy to do it without your faculties intact.  The thought of not being able to ride after discovering how freeing it is isn’t a comfortable one.  If you get so decrepit that you can’t do the things you love, what’s the point of being here?  Melissa Holbrook Pierson does a wonderful job of conveying that feeling in The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing.  If you’re looking for a pensive, profound motorcycle themed read, that one will do it for you.

***

The other day my buddy Jeff was finally able to make a deal for an old BMW R100RT that has been sitting in a shed in the woods for over a decade.  My son Max and I burned out of school on Friday afternoon and followed Jeff and his lovely wife up to their cottage on the shores of Lake Huron.

A neighbour five minutes down the road had purchased this BMW back in 1999 and had ridden it until 2005.  On a cool September day eleven years ago he rode back to Kincardine from a conference in Peterborough and parked the bike, it hasn’t run since.  Jeff discovered the bike a year ago while over there at a garage sale, but the old fellow didn’t want to part with it.  There was hope that he’d eventually get it out, clean it up and feel the wind in his beard again.  Jeff gently persisted, letting him know that if he ever did decide to sell it he had a buyer.

While over there getting the bike out of a shed hundreds of yards back in thick trees the owner told me, “I came to the realization that I’m not riding any bike, let alone this bike.  When that happened I finally decided to let it go.”  He’s still physically active even though that activity has landed him with metal pins where his bones used to be.  Struggling against old age is a pointless exercise, but I was right there with him – I’ll be him in thirty years if I’m here at all.  The real tragedy is that he’s as sharp as a whip; the mind is willing but the flesh is weak.

We were both enjoying the stories he was telling of how he went down to North Carolina to pick up the bike, and what it was like to bring it back across the border in the pre-internet age.  This guy had always wanted a BMW but when he was younger he couldn’t afford it; this was his dream machine but it has been sitting in a shed as the seasons spin by outside, alone but for the sound of creeping rust.  It turns out this Bimmer was Jeff’s dream machine as a young man as well, but you can’t buy a $3500 bike when you’re making six bucks an hour.  You can when you’re older and it’s under a decade of grime though.

We were both so excited going over there to get this bike out of the woods, but Jeff had said the owner was having a hard time doing it and our excitement quickly turned to ambivalence and then reflection as we heard the story of how it ended up parked under the trees.  While we struggled with conflicting feelings we were at least confident in the fact that we could bring this old machine back to the world.  Machines can sometimes offer this kind of immortality.

If you never take any risks and lead a sedentary life of caution, being old is just another day like any of the others in your tedious, careful life.  It makes me wonder what you hold up as your accomplishments if fear drives most of your decisions; I bet it’s nothing good.  However, if you get out there and take risks and live, perhaps the memories of that life well lived, the chances you’ve taken and the adventures you’ve had, will make easing into old age less onerous, and perhaps even rewarding.  To me motorcycles are a symbol of that belief in embracing risk.  I hope anyone who has ever looked at me with a disapproving frown when it comes to riding is very comfortable in their old age; I imagine it looks like any other day in their beige lives.

Knowing me I’m going to be very bad at old age if I get there at all, but I’m trying to take care of that now, on two wheels.

 

 If you’re looking at another clear eyed examination of death and our society’s inability to deal with it, check out:  https://temkblog.blogspot.com/2020/06/a-psychologicalmetaphysical-one-two.html

Media Arts Lab 2.0

Redesigning media arts to create, not consume

http://prezi.com/9ow8h2urx1va/dream-media-arts-lab/

The Macs in our media arts lab are getting old and plastic.  They can’t push the high-def video coming out of our latest cameras, so it’s time for a hardware upgrade, but it’s not just about the hardware.

One of the biggest problems we face in our static, desktop centred lab with ordered rows of imacs are the bad habits students fall back into.  Because our lab is like every other lab in the school (factory like rows of desktops in Pink Floyd The Wallesque rows of conformity),  students do what they usually do in a computer lab; they zone out and become passive media consumers.  Passive TV viewing has evolved into passive computer use.

In a media arts class where they are supposed to be in a creative, active mind-space, this is an ongoing class management headache.  Battling the Facebook zombies and youtube droolers becomes an ongoing headache in the typical computer lab, especially with the weakest students who tend to be the most non-experimental and habitual in their technology use.

I’ve looked at this from a typical school IT/lab point of view, advocating for a mini-lab concept that emphasizes diversified, mobile technology, but this is the media-arts angle.

Many of the ideas are similar, but the idea of mobile, adaptable media tools also spurred the realization that students in front of an online desktop act much the way that students in front of a television do; they become passive, unquestioning media consumers.  In a media arts lab this is an ongoing crisis.

There is the culture of entertainment that most digital natives subscribe to.  Computers with internet access are toys to be used for entertainment.  Their habitual use of computers at home and throughout their school careers have only enforced these bad habits.  Unfortunately, those habits extend to most educators too.  From PD days where the presenter assumes that if you’re on a computer you’re not paying attention, to teachers booking labs to have a period off, computers aren’t considered anything other than an entertaining distraction by just about everyone.

We then get them into media arts where they are creating large amounts of digital media, and most of them are trapped in their bad habits and social expectations of technology.  The fact that school related computer lab time is often unsupervised only adds to the problem.

Trying to break them out of that rut in a room with rows of desktops isn’t working.  Time to free up the tech, and break the passivity.