The Lab That Isn’t A Lab

Originally published way back in 2012 when I had the comp-tech department land on me with 3 days notice!  https://temkblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-lab-that-isnt-lab.html

I’m teaching Computer Engineering in a school computer lab.   It’s the nicest lab in the school, and I don’t want it any more.

I recently described it to my principal as, “trying to teach auto mechanics in a new car show room where you can’t touch anything.”

Computer engineering in school underlines everything I don’t like about school computer labs (and that list is long).  I don’t think school computer labs teach students anything helpful about computers.  In fact, I think they are specifically designed to be out of date, glitchy, inaccessible and frustrating – hardly the mindset you want to put students in when you’re teaching them how to learn effective operation of an extremely powerful learning tool.

Essentially, what we try to do in school computer labs is teach students how to ride a bicycle by having a professional bike rider come in when they aren’t there, maintain and ride an old bike, then leave it there for them.  We then tell the students to get on it and ride with no hands on experience, practice, training or intent.  We then get angry with them when they fall off and damage the bike, or ride it pointlessly in circles.

Whether it’s media arts labs, or school computer labs in general, I’m not a fan.  The fact that they haven’t changed significantly in form or function since I graduated from high school in 1989 should bother people, but the real bee in my bonnet is the lack of ownership in our understanding of technology.

If you want to use technology in your classroom (and in 2012 you’d have to bury your head pretty deep in the sand to not want to), then you the teacher need to understand how it works, and you need to teach this to your students.  The willful ignorance I meet in staff is sometimes good for my ego, but never productive in developing technical literacy in our students.

With our old tech, people are familiar enough to know what they are doing:

… but not so much with our new technology.  We need to address that.  Until we’re all familiar enough with the digital tools we’re expected to be literate in that their use is second nature, we need to spend time, especially in the classroom, learning what they are, and you can’t do that in a school board IT straight jacket.

I’m not advocating for a ground up build your own computer when you want to type out an English paper (that’s what computer engineering is for), but I am advocating for an open, author-able, stable, up to date system that allows teachers and students to become familiar with the options and customization available on this equipment (something impossible in our board, locked down, forget-everything-when-you-log-off terminals).

Back to the lab that isn’t a lab.

When I was doing my AQ for computer engineering in the summer, our instructor showed us his new classroom in his new school.  It was fantastic.  Work benches filled it, fabrication tools and a few tables for the odd sit down talk.  It looked like a room where making happened.  There wasn’t a single board computer in there.

Later in the summer, when I was picking up computers from a school in Guelph (a teacher, working in the summer?  Evidently), I saw their lab and it was the same idea: workbenches and stacks and stacks of parts; a room where hands-on learning happens.

I’m not entirely sure why we feel that computer engineering should be happening in a computer lab at my school.  My seniors don’t use the school computers at all, and my juniors are only on them because they are there.  I’d much rather they be hands on with machines, except there isn’t enough room in a lab full of school computers to make another network.

What do I want?  One of the de-labbed classrooms where there are plenty of electrical drops.  I’d be willing to evacuate the much in demand lab if I could get a room that let me store my equipment and set it up as I need; a room that was truly a lab where experimentation and hands-on discovery happens.

Motorcycle Photography







Some recent photos that caught my eye from the digital motorcycle magazine and book realm.

Adventure Bike Rider is pretty ace with the off the beaten path photos.  BIKE magazine does the business as well.

One of ABR’s more extreme trips: Germans riding in Oman

Riding in Borneo

 

Ducati Scrambler… vroom vroom!

How rim size matters… courtesy of  Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques….
so far an accessible and in depth look at all aspects of motorcycle riding and vehicle dynamics

ABR does nice photography!

Kawasaki’s 600cc supercharged maybe

Riding the Alps

BIKE magazine at the Bol D’Or, 2015

The new Ninja

Riding in Nepal

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.

ECOO 2013 Presentation: Harness your nerdist ways

Still thinking about ECOO in a couple of weeks.  I’ve already taken a run at it on Dusty World once.  There is a lot in this, I’m still curious to see how it will unfold.

http://lanyrd.com/2013/ecoo13/schpzd/

We live in a time of profound change. The very definition of who and where we are is constantly changing. Never before in history have people been as connected to so many different people and places as they are now. Trends suggest it will only intensify. Are we doomed to a half existence in many places, constantly distracted, unable to complete a thought? Or will the person on the other side of this technological adolescence be multi-dimensional in ways we can’t currently imagine?

Come with me on an examination of recent history and future trends. How can we integrate or separate technology to better facilitate learning? How can we prepare students for the strange world they are about to graduate into? How can we survive and thrive in these times of profound change ourselves?

What started this line of thinking was a post in Dusty World in the spring called Digital House of Mirrors.  In that post I was trying to describe how digital technology is changing our sense of self:
.

“Our selves are being stretched and amplified in ways they never have before.  Nick Carr’s The Shallows puts us on a pretty stark trajectory towards idiocy with what is happening to us.  The digitization of the self stretches us flat, making continuity of thought impossible and turning us all into distracted, simplistic cogs in a consumerist machine designed to turn us all into the lowest common denominator; none of us any smarter than our smartphones.”

http://www.robinsloan.com/epic/
Way back in 2006 a student showed me the video above.  That it was made so long ago is quite prescient.  They didn’t have the future exactly right, but they come surprisingly close in many ways.  The part that stuck with me the most is this quote:
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“At it’s best, edited for the most savvy readers, EPIC is a summary of the world, deeper, broader, and more nuanced than anything ever available before. But at it’s worst, and for too many, EPIC is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow, and sensational.”

If that doesn’t describe the experience of most ‘digital natives’ online, then I don’t know what does.  This is exactly the kind of habitual ignorance I find in technology use.  Children who have been immersed in digital technology have only learned to do what pleases them and know nothing about the technology itself, they aren’t generally literate.  They are like self-taught readers who have memorized a single comic book.
Whereas digital immigrant ignorance arises out of fear or pride, though they do still have some sense of what they don’t know.  The digital native is blissfully ignorant of what they don’t know, though they spend most of their lives now in that virtual world they know nothing about.

That technology could retard our ability to think is a dangerous consideration that a number of people are concerned about.  I don’t doubt that digital tools can enhance us as human beings, I’m writing this and you’re able to read it entirely due to digital technology.  Digital tech lets people work around authoritarian governments and democratize media.

I occasionally see people who are able to harness technology as a personal amplifier, but for far too many it is a source of distraction, habitual time wasting and a net loss for them.

A book I half read a while back was The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick.  I wasn’t able to get through the self help bit at the back, but the first half was an interesting autobiography of a guy immersed in technology to such a degree that it derailed him.  His philosophical change allowed him to regain control of his career and put what he describes as his nerdist ways to productive use.   Rather than spending eight hours a day playing World of Warcraft, Chris chose to focus his nerdly powers of concentration on productive activities.  He describes a nerd as someone who is able to hyper focus on minutia that fascinates them.  He broke his habitual use of technology by demanding that his fixations serve him instead of the other way around.  If it can work for a nerd (and we’re all nerds according to that definition) then it’ll work for everyone.

Is always on exhausting or exhilerating?  Is it functionally better to be connected?  What is the golden ratio for communicating f2f or remotely?  How could technology itself assist us in optimizing our presence both physically and virtually?  How can we highlight ineffective use of technology, analyze it and resolve it?

I suspect this is going to become a timeline.  With a bit of perspective I might be able to make some reasonably accurate predictions about where we going, because this is one big weird rabbit hole we’re all going down together and a lot of people are getting lost in it.

The followup post analyzing the ECOO13 conference can be found HERE.

Rideback

I’ve been a Japanese animation fan since way back.  I’ve been casting around for motorcycle related animation and discovered Rideback.  If you’re a fan of science fiction based motorcycles and ingenues (in this case think Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed with Black Swan and Pacific Rim), this will definitely do it for you.

It’s 2020 in Japan and post-world war three.  The left over technology from the war is finding its way into civilian hands, the Rideback transformable motorcycle is one of those devices.

Rin, the main character, is a former ballet dancer who is one of the only people able to ride the machine without all the electronic supports in place.  I’m only a couple of episodes in, but the story is very coherent for a Japanese animation (they aren’t always).  The main character is already well developed and they aren’t shy about explaining the technology.

The story arc looks like it’s headed for a large political showdown with a despotic government, but ingenues on transformable motorcycles are just what you need in those circumstances.

The animation (if you’re into that sort of thing) is a modern mix of computer and cell and shows off some very complex physics as well as excellent detail.

If you like anime, you’ll enjoy this series.  If you like anime and motorbikes this one is a must see.




Some Rideback links:

http://www.madman.com.au/series/home/16127/rideback
The Australian site (in English!)
http://www.mxtv.co.jp/rideback/
The Japanese TV site
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rideback
Rideback overview on wikipedia
http://www.funimation.com/shows/rideback
Funimation, the North American anime company that brought Rideback in

You can do what I did and get it on Amazon.  It’s also available on itunes or through the Funimation site.

Getting to know a very different motorbike

I took the Concours out for a brief ride in the sun this afternoon to get a feel for her.  She’s a very different machine than the Ninja.  The carbs are a bit touchy when warming up, but then work in a very satisfying and immediate mechanical way once the bike is at temperature.  It’s a much bigger bike too (over two hundred pounds heavier), but surprisingly lithe for its size.

Where the Ninja picks up nicely in lower RPM, the Concours pulls immediately with a much flatter torque curve; the word ‘meaty’ comes to mind.  The Concours was also surprisingly lively at higher RPMs, pulling hard to the redline.  Not like the Ninja does (which is more like a bull in a China shop), but it still gets you down the road right quick.  The lightness of the internal bits in the Ninja’s 649cc parallel twin make it spool up like a turbine.  You can feel the complexity and weight of the Connie’s in-line four cylinder as it builds RPM.  Where the Ninja screams like a banshee (and sounds lovely doing it), the Concours has a deeper, more sonorous song, though (and surprising to me because I really love the Ninja howl) equally enticing.  I can see why previous Concours owners have said they’ve had no trouble keeping up with sports bikes, this is an agile, athletic machine that belies its size.

In corners, especially at speed, the weight of the Connie seems to disappear and I can hit apexes in a similarly precise manner to the much lighter NInja.  With so much torque on hand, you don’t need to keep the engine revving hard to get immediate pull out of it.  The Connie will go quickly without appearing to, with the Ninja you’ve got to keep it on boil to get that astonishing acceleration (as opposed to merely shocking acceleration at lower revs).

Controls wise the Concours is a much more comfortable machine.  The seat is wider and softer, the bike feels more substantial and not so wasp wasted between my knees.  The fairings keep the wind at bay, especially around  your feet.  In the rain your feet are soaked through on the Ninja where they are hanging out in the elements.  Riding in cool weather means thick socks.  I kept bumping my toes against the Connie’s lower fairing until I got used to using less toe on the gear change.  Knee bend is still pretty bent, though not nearly as much as the Ninja and with the wider seat didn’t seem so intense.

The Connie’s gearing is much higher than the Ninja’s.   At 120km/hr on the highway you’re up around 6000rpm on the Ninja.  I’d guess the Connie would be doing under half that at the same speed.  A more relaxed bike that still has hidden reserves and is light of foot, I’m looking forward to getting to know Connie better.

As I was riding home we fell into a groove, like a horse extending its legs into a comfortable gallop and I realized just how far this bike could take me.  She’s been sitting too long and wants to put road behind her.  Instead of wondering when to stop on the Ninja, I’ll be wondering how much further I can go on the Concours.

Cycle-Ergo shows me the numbers…


Damned Statistics & Digital Meta-cognitive Opportunities

Tweeting my mouth off
Education would rather  focus on arbitrary and fabricated data, like graduation rates.  It’s easy to increase graduation rates, just lower standards.  It has been working for Ontario Education for years now.  You barely have to even attend a class now to get a credit, and if you fail? A teacher not even qualified in the subject area will pass you along; we call that student success.  The grade eleven university level English paper with no less than three grammar and punctuation errors IN THE TITLE was an example I saw of this.  It was given a 78% by the credit recovery teacher grading it.  That failing student will now go on to university thinking that they are an ‘A’ student (they went from failing badly to 80%!).
There is another way.  Rather than chasing our own tails by trying to improve statistics that we create ourselves, why not start harnessing data that is actually useful and relevant to students beyond the context of education?  Digital technology offers us a fantastic and under utilized avenue for collecting meaningful data on student learning; data that might actually help them beyond the walled garden of education.

Rather than addressing the distraction caused by digital devices, we ignore them, or try to ban them.  Even at our best we only tentatively use digital tools, and when we do we ignore the data they could be providing on student activity.  Digital devices could shine a powerful light on student learning, instead we call them a distraction and let students abuse them into uselessness.  Effectively harnessing educational technology could give us granular, specific data about student activity in the classroom, yet we choose to wallow in darkness.  Really useful data-driven learning is only a decision away from implementation.

Education, like so many other sectors, has become increasingly interested in data driven management.  I don’t have anything against that on principal, in fact, I’d rather be managed according to logic and fact than the usual management ethos (egomania and paranoia).  Where we go wrong with data driven educational reform is where human beings are involved.  Education, more than most fields, prefers not to reveal its inner workings.  The choices made on what data to collect and how to present it usually revolve around a sense of self preservation rather than a focus on student success.  The only data we collect is data we can control for our own ends.
The intent of the education factory is to reduce something as complex as human learning down to a percentage.  That in itself is about the biggest abstraction you could devise, what Twain would call a statistic in the truest sense.  Those numbers are ultimately useless in anything other than education.  The only time in your life your grade will ever matter is if you’re transferring from one educational institution to another.  No will ever ask what your marks were once you’re out of school.  They don’t even ask teachers what their marks were before hiring them; even educators realize how meaningless grades are.
Instead of spending all our energy fabricating meaningless statistics in the form of grades, imagine harnessing all the data that flows through education technology and presenting it in a radically transparent reporting system that connects students to their lives after they graduate. That system would provide students with a powerful tool for metacognitive review around their own learning, and their use of digital tools.  Instead of reductive grades and empty comment banks, why not offer an insightful statistical analysis of how a student uses digital tools as they learn?  The tools themselves are eager to share this data, it is only educators who are stopping it.

A student who is shown, in specific detail, why they failed a course (but watched oh so many fascinating youtube videos), is being shown their own poor choices in stark detail.  One of the great joys I have in elearning is showing students their analytics.   When I get the, “I don’t understand this!” line, I ask for specifics, which usually gets me a, “I don’t get any of it!”  I can then pull up an analysis of what lessons the student has attempted.  The student who didn’t bother to actually even try any of the lessons gets wonderfully sheepish at this point.

With meaningful data on hand about their poor choices, education’s arbitrariness instead becomes a metacognitive opportunity to adjust learning habits; something we seem loath to do on digital tools, even as we criticize how students use them.

Collecting meaningful student data would allow us to connect the abstract world of education with what students will face on the other side of graduation, especially if we continue to collect data after they move on.  Ever wondered what high school courses are actually useful (and I don’t mean in graduating, I mean in finding work, being useful, living a good life)?  How about a live stat attached to each showing employablity based on course choice?  Think you’ll move over to applied level English because your friends are in there and you don’t like doing homework? Welcome to a 14% higher unemployment rate, and a 6% higher criminality rate!  Imagine what parents and students could do if this kind of data were available.  Realizing that there are real world consequences to your educational choices would do much to remove apathy and a lack of engagement on the part of students.  Education has very real consequences beyond school but we seem intent on trying to remove any obvious connection between education and the rest of a student’s life.  With open learning data we’d have way fewer students who have missed the starting gun.
Last year my school talked about creating a cosmetology program.  This would be a hugely expensive undertaking requiring changing the face of the school.  That was OK though because the board was willing to throw tens of thousands of dollars at an increase in graduation rates for at risk girls.  What would they do with it once they were out?  It made me want to start up a video game program, not because it would do anything helpful, but because it would fill sections.  We subvert usefulness in a desperate attempt to game graduation statistics.
I couldn’t help but think of the college computer engineering program I’d been to see a few months before.  They had a 100% placement rate for grads with starting pay well above the Canadian average, but they couldn’t find enough people interested in the field to run a full course each year.  They didn’t have any females in the course at all, and were desperately trying to get more women interested.  I can’t find enough kids in my high school to run more than one combined senior computer engineering course… in a field that all but guarantees a good job when you graduate and is about as future proof as you could wish.  I don’t imagine cosmeticians are walking into that kind of employment certainty at high rates of pay, but a future out of school isn’t what we’re aiming students at, we’re just concerned with graduating them.
It sounds harsh, but one of the reasons students are so disengaged from school is because they recognize the cognitive dissonance between the world beyond school and the fabricated reality we keep them in until they turn eighteen.  If you want students to engage in their educations provide them with metacognitive data that actually helps them.  Education has gone to greater and greater lengths to try and protect students from themselves and the ‘real’ world, all to chase fictional statistics.

Digitization in the classroom offers us access to meaningful data on student learning behaviour that was impossible even ten years ago.  Instead of being ignored and treated as a distraction, we should be harnessing digital technology and communicating that data.  A student who spends less than 10% of class time working on their project before failing it?  If that data were included in assessment, a student would have a metacognitive opportunity to understand the mechanics of their own failure.  They might then also begin to harness digital tools rather than being distracted by them.  Digitization shouldn’t be an escape from accountability, it should amplify it.

In such an environment, assessment might become something more than a damned statistic.

***

I didn’t even get into how this data could serve employment after school.  Detailed data on how students tackle work would be of great interest to employers.  Even the basics like attendance and ability to focus on work would be of more interest to employers than any grade.

Imagine an Ontario Student Record that offered employers an automated resume that included attendance and other useful details like ability to complete work in a timely fashion, group/team skills, communications and approach to new challenges.  Instead of hiding education behind a curtain of graduation, we could begin to make it immediately and obviously connected to future success.

Future Bike

WIRED recently did some articles based on the Tokyo International Motor Show.  I spent a couple of years in Japan paying off all the debts I accumulated living in North America.  I’ve got a soft spot for Japan and the tech they produce.

Kawasaki’s neon green ode to anime bikes scratches that anime itch, though it is fairly ridiculous.

Of more interest from an engineering point of view is Yamaha’s ultralight bike.  Since watching McGregor and Boorman trying to right seven hundred pound BMWs in the Long Way Round, I’ve wondered why bikes aren’t lighter than they are.  Why aren’t we getting more horsepower out of smaller engines and saving weight that way?  Why aren’t we using our modern engineering prowess to build bikes with smarter materials?

Case in point, as a high school student I thought the Honda Interceptor was awesome. It weighed 443lbs ready to go.  The current 500CBR is a modern equivalent, wet weight? 428lbs.  In thirty odd years of materials research and development a company as forward thinking as Honda has managed to shave 15 pounds off a bike’s gross weight?

How about Triumph’s last year of the original Bonneville?  A 750cc bike, 441lbs.  The new one?  496lbs.  It’s a bigger engine, but it would need it to lug that fat ass around.  Even Triumph’s brilliant and athletic naked Street Triple still tips the scales at over four hundred pounds.

Motorcycles are, by their nature, minimalist forms of transportation, but instead of finding ways to make them even lighter and more efficient we’re SUVing them just like we did with four wheelers.  Bikes like KTM’s new 390 Duke give me some hope though.  At 300lbs I bet 390cc has never felt so powerful.

I can’t help but feel that alternate building methods and advanced materials haven’t been explored by conservative

motorcycle manufacturers.  Yamaha asks a good question when it asks, where are the two hundred pound motorbikes?

McLaren could put together the three seater 200mph+ V8 F1 super car twenty years ago with a curb weight of only 1062kgs (about 2340lbs).  We’ve got massive cruisers tipping the scales at 900lbs, meanwhile Mercedes-Benz is putting together Smartcars that weigh only 1600lbs.  Even a back to basic bike like the KLR650 with only a single cylinder and basic bodywork still weighs in at 432lbs.

A bike frame in one hand? It’s possible,
but bike manufacturers aren’t
considering it?

I’m still not a fan of electrical bikes as long as we’re stuck with medieval chemical batteries.  With lousy storage and even worse disposal characteristics, rushing into electric bikes right now isn’t the way to go, though one day I hope to see an unlimited charge bio-tech battery that recharges off the buried kinetic/flywheel battery under my house.

Our issue with electricity isn’t the making of it, it is the storage and transmission of it.  One day I hope to be able to unplug my bike from my locally generated and stored electrical system and get a thousand kilometres out of it before I have to plug it in again.

There are levels of efficiency we still need to move through in order to get to that place and the conservatism and marketing focus I’m seeing in bike manufacturer aren’t moving us in that direction.  A little less focus on building to marketing niches and a bit more focus on advancing engineering would help us toward a necessary evolution in motorcycling.

While Formula One develops energy recovery systems that also act as full on torque turbo-chargers, perhaps it isn’t too much to ask bike manufacturers to go after other areas of efficiency such as weight improvements in chassis and drive-trains.  I’d very much like a 400cc bike that weighs only 200lbs.  From an efficiency point of view it would be unbeatable as a means of transport and something that would get many more people interested in riding on two wheels.

Living in an Information Rich World

The other day I had a senior high school student who has been conditioned to be helpless say, “How am I supposed to know what aperture is?  You’re supposed to teach us!”  Aside from the fact that this student has evidently won photo competitions and got an 81% in grade 11 photography, I suggested that we have this thing now called the internet that has all sorts of information on it.  I was genuinely frustrated at her unwillingness to resolve her own ignorance.

I may have been a bit curt, but this is an essential truth of our age: information is at hand.  If you think education is about imparting information you’re about to become quite redundant.  Education isn’t redundant, it’s more important than ever to prepare students for information that is no longer vetted by the forth estate for them.  Unfortunately this isn’t a focus in education where bells still signal the start of shifts, um, classes, and teachers can still be found talking the whole period long.

Digital access to information greatly emphasizes how out of touch the sage on the stage is nowadays.  The teacher who talks for an hour straight giving their students facts has failed to realize that we no longer live in an information poor world.  Instead of letting students access information pouring out of the technology that surrounds them, the sage teacher puts themselves in the middle of the class and drips information on them slowly, like water torture.

Assuming we have connectivity, something school boards aren’t very good at because they were never meant to be internet service providers (yet have taken on this task poorly), and assuming the people in the room have developed some degree of digital mastery, then information will fall to hand.  Waiting for it to drip, drip, drip out of a teacher’s mouth or out of a static, out of date textbook shows a startling lack of awareness in how the world works nowadays.

The opportunity to collaborate and support each other is continuously available and learning reverts to the self-directed and driven activity it was before we institutionalized it.  Questions of engagement quickly become irrelevant in a world where teachers aren’t vital because of facts they know.  Those sages are going to have to find other ways to pamper their egos.  If they aren’t expert learners themselves they will quickly find that they have no skill to share with students, and if you have no skills to teach you don’t serve much purpose in a world where any fact is a few keystrokes away.

There was a time when you needed a teacher to show you the way into hard to find information.  Nowadays a good high speed internet connection has that information at your fingertips, assuming you know how to use it.  Many teachers are still trying to be a font of information, even as the information revolution passes them by.  The real losers in this aren’t the teachers struggling to keep things the way they were, but the students we’re graduating who have no idea how different the world on the other side of school actually is.

Emotionally Fraught Vehicle Sales

The last time I was this emotional about selling a vehicle was when I sold the last car I ever owned as a single guy.  That Mercury Capri 5.0, 5 speed was a monster, the Millenium Falcon of cars.  It was the kind of thing that you could drive from Toronto to Montreal in 2 hours and 57 minutes!  Everything since that car has been a compromise, an appliance.

Seventeen years after that Capri was sold I found myself looking at a flat black 2007 Kawasaki Ninja in a cold garage in Fergus.  I didn’t have my license yet, but I went for it.  It was the first machine I’d owned in almost two decades that was a thrill rather than a necessity.  It was the first vehicle I’d owned in years that I took pictures of.

I’ve owned the Ninja for two seasons.  I’ve commuted on it, gone on long rides on it and learned how to ride with it.  On one of my first rides I realized it was able to do more for me than any car I’ve ever owned, maybe any car I would ever own; it made me fall in love with motorcycling.

Bikes tend to provoke a more emotional relationship no matter what the machine.  The two of you spend a lot of time exposed to the dangers of the road together.  The bike’s agility and power can get you out of any number of tricky situations when the distracted people in cages don’t see you.  Bikes reward competence with a wonderful feeling of empowerment.  I enjoy the exclusivity of biking as well, not everyone should do it.  The Ninja never failed to reward me for my efforts.

I went with the Ninja because it wasn’t tiny so I wouldn’t find it weak after getting the hang of riding.  That worked well, I’m not selling it now because it lacks in power, I’m just looking to expand my types of riding after having done the sport bike thing.  Since my son has taken to riding with me, a bike better suited to two up riding is what I’m transitioning to.  Happily, I’m as smitten with the Concours as I was with the Ninja, but that doesn’t make selling it any easier.

The Ninja’s 649cc engine was remarkably cheap to insure for a new rider and was phenomenally efficient, often getting more than 60mpg.  The bike has been a joy to operate, always dependable, always willing to teach me more as I got better.

I love riding, it’s a feeling of freedom like no other.  As a means of centering myself, motorbikes are a Zen mechanism that put you in the moment like no other machine (other than perhaps racing).  I’ll miss the Ninja, but selling it means I can diversify my biking.  The Concours will let me get some miles under my belt while still offering an athletic ride.  With the cash on hand from the Ninja I’ll be looking at a dual sport and getting a bit dirtier on two wheels.




BTW:  why $3900?  Because this!

After five people contacted me, the 3rd people to see the bike made an offer and I accepted.  The Ninja is sold within a week.  Now to consider how to expand my biking options…
Dual sport thoughts…



DR350?   I could get my Mondo on!






Here’s an interesting option: A Kawasaki KLX250 with a big bore kit up to 330cc.  Very light, stronger motor close to the Suzuki above in terms of power to weight ratio…