Sunday, 27 May 2012

paper teachers

This is another go at the Tyranny of Paper, with a sprinkling of teacher psychology...


Ecology

Trying to balance photocopy budgets.
I recently got my photocopying costs for the computer department for the first half of the spring semester.  Every class we teach in computers has a 1:1 student:computer ratio.  You'd think there wouldn't be any photocopying costs.

The one teacher we have teaching computers full time did $273 in photocopying from February to April this semester.  I happen to be teaching an English so I get to see their copying costs too.  The most expansive copier in English where they have to kill to get computer access and have to actually teach letters on paper?  $217.  Most of the others were less than  half that.

This made me angry.  If you have computers in front of every student, why in heaven's name wouldn't you use them to communicate with your students?  How would teaching computer programming be easier on paper?  With a limited budget that requires very specific (and expensive) hardware and software, why would I want to spend 1/5 of my budget so a single teacher can produce thousands of sheets of paper?

A recent analysis of photocopying costs (one of the single largest costs in our school and I imagine most others), was that a typical student collects an entire tree worth of handouts in their k-12 career...
each...
student...

The ecological costs are staggering.  Billions a year and entire forests are consumed so students around the world can get handouts.  I'm not convinced the return on investment balances the educational advantages with the ecological costs, but education is a conservative beast, and getting it to change industrial era habits isn't easy.

Psychology


Teacher preparing for class
The ecological disaster aside, I've always been curious about this photocopying habit in teachers.  In teacher's college I asked myself why I was lining up for photocopiers all the time.  When you're new, you are terrified that what you're doing will not take the whole period, so you structure it on a photocopy to slow students from tearing through the work.  It also takes the attention off you and puts it on the desk, so you don't feel like you're madly tap dancing for the whole lesson.  It also means you've done much of the organization for students who seem increasingly incapable of organizing themselves.  Lastly, it allows you face the students while giving them information, something a new teacher is conscious of every time they turn their back to write on the board.

After using the photocopier crutch for the first couple of years I put an end to it.  I use the board if I need to display visually or help students organize information.  I trust in my ears and the relationship I've developed with my class (which can often involve a Snape like, direct approach to inappropriate action early in the semester) when it comes to helping them learn with my back turned.  Watching some of our senior teachers, I get the sense that they never put the photocopying crutch away, in fact, they've developed their entire career around it.

I also had the benefit of not being particularly beholden to 20th Century habits around institutional teaching, and leapt at the opportunity to get into elearning and digitally based education early on, further removing me from the pulp and paper teachers.  One of the big cultural divides in our school is between the paper teacher and the digital teacher.

Media Arts Course webpage (NING)
I still occasionally have to make copies, typically for tests and such, but I try and minimize that too.  When compared to department averages, I typically produce about 1/10th the copies.  When I'm given a computer lab, I typically produce no copies at all.  Course webpages, wikis and shared documents are the means of information transmission.  In media arts I've had students submitting shared docs (google or skydrive) and prezis when they need to show a presentation.  The entire course takes place on a private social network (Ning).

The past couple of months we've had a Canadian copyright foundation watchdog asking people to write down what they're copying to ensure fair distribution of copyright funds.  How very 20th Century of them, but I guess a modern high school is just the place to monitor people still doing what they were doing twenty years ago.



hiding behind photocopies
paper teacher
copies of a copy

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sacrificial Laptops

Personalizing of technology will one day reach education (hope, hope)
I went to my principal last year and suggested we try the mini-lab idea, wherein a technology curious/experienced teacher collects a class set of digital tools around themselves in order to develop some digitized pedagogy.  Alas, we couldn't go all in.  The idea of a teacher directly selecting diverse technology and then going off the school/board controlled and organized IT system was more than even our forward thinking principal could take.


The end result was a laptop cart of netbooks, one for each of our three floors.  The idea of the mini-lab is a constellation of differentiated technology orbiting a specific teacher. The variation in technology encourages wider digital fluency, and the single teacher focus produces a strong sense of ownership that helps reduce neglect and misuse.

Acer Netbook  http://www.acer.ca/ac/en/CA/content/model/LU.SGA0D.064   
It was great to get these machines unhobbled by board IT.  The last time the board issued a cart of netbooks, they'd erased the manufacturer's fresh Windows 7 and installed the board's ten year old Windows XP package complete with numerous driver problems (companies don't make a new laptop then spend a lot of time building drivers for an operating system no one has used in three years).  The results were disastrous.  These new netbooks are no slouches (dual processor, decent memory, the latest software), they worked right out of the box, but they didn't have anything to do with the antiquated board network.

I had real trepidation about how to administer these carts.  The massive job of unpacking and setting up 70 odd netbooks seemed overwhelming, but a couple of pizzas and some helping hands later it got done over lunches; then came the putting them into operation part.

At the staff meeting I showed everyone the cart and explained that these are not board issued laptops.  This involved answering a number of questions around what that means.  No, the school server with it's piddling 10 megs of memory per student isn't available, but Googledocs is with 8 gigs, or Microsoft's Skydrive is waiting for you to use for free with 25 gigs.  No, you can't print to school printers, they're all on a closed network, but if you had to print, you could always have students email you work, or, you know, don't print it and just look at it on the screen.

I also stressed that these are our computer carts.  The board isn't going to maintain them, so benign neglect isn't an option.  If you're booking a lab so you can ignore your students for the period while you mark, these are a poor choice.  Tech-keen teachers on each floor were given the happy job of looking after the carts.  In many cases this allowed them to make use of the carts, which they have done eagerly.  Adoption by other teachers has been slow, but it has steadily improved, which worries me.

The first problem resolved around poor student privacy habits.  When a class ends the vast majority of students simply shut the lid and walk away, leaving themselves logged into Facebook (which they are inevitably running in the background), and saving whatever they are working on to the desktop.  Soon Macbeth papers, history essays, moderns translations and other digital flotsam, all named document1, document2, etc, bloomed on the desktops.  The inevitable Facebook spamming ensued, which greatly upset the students too lazy or clueless (or both) to bother logging off before putting the machines away.

Concern has arisen around plagiarism (taking essays found on a laptop and handing them in because an essay left by someone on a desktop called document3 HAS to be worth copying), and the opportunity for digital bullying with the not logging off the social network they're not supposed to be on anyway.

Today I got my first broken hardware issue.  Apparently a key 'popped off' the keyboard.  Those things are like popcorn, sometimes they just come flying off by themselves.

We're getting out of the initial roll-out phase of the off board IT netbook experiment.  The novelty is wearing off and teachers who wouldn't otherwise use them are starting to book them for periods they aren't actually in the school so the kids can play online (yes, we made a rule about that, but some teachers can be remarkably lackadaisical about rules when it means they have to be there to enforce them).

The digital coaches I'd envisioned in the mini-lab are still competently using the carts regularly, but as the carts find their way into the hinterlands of our school, teachers who don't understand (or care to understand) how to use digital devices in class to actually, you know, teach, will book out the carts and return them in a steadily deteriorating state.

We've done well with the initial portion of the roll out, putting the laptops together and having digital coach types making good use of them early, now comes the mediocrity.  One of the things we strive for is equal access to technology in education.  Unfortunately, we don't encourage development of digital competency in teachers and the end result is a lot of extra work for the few educators who are interested in making education meaningful and relevant to a new, digital millennium.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Simulation: the ideal summative

I've been a RPG (role playing game) player since I wandered into the original Dungeons & Dragons at eleven years old.  My adolescence revolved around marathon games when I wasn't working.  My first non-family road trip was a drive from Toronto to Milwaukee in 1988 for GENCON, the original D&D and RPG convention.  For the next four years that trip became a staple of our August holiday, though the first time in a barely functioning Chevy Chevette stuffed with four of us was by far the most epic (and least likely to succeed).

I quickly found myself in the Dungeon Master's chair when playing.  I had a talent for creating consistent, exciting worlds that balanced on a knife edge, often determined by the roll of a dice.  I was a  natural at paracosmic world building without realizing it.  When others took the chair they tried to force the story back on to their planned narrative if the dice didn't cooperate, which made the entire experience fall apart.  Random influences were vital for the game to become alive, a bad DM would break the forth wall when they tried to force the story back onto a planned track.

I recall one game where I'd planned out the evening in more detail than normal.  The beginning of the game was supposed to start with the players mocking Death (as in the grim reaper), and getting killed as a result.  The story would then continue in the after life.  But telling players they are just dead goes against everything the game is about, the dice have to decide, so I gave the last standing player a 1 in 20 chance of successfully assassinating death, assuming it would never happen, but it did.  I had to change direction and start laying track down in front of them in a new an unexpected direction.  I've seen a lot of classroom teachers stubbornly try to force a class not in the right mental space in the same fashion.

Those DMing experiences greatly influence how I teach in the classroom.  I keep the big ideas in mind, but try and lay down track in which ever direction students in the class seem intent on going.  One of the ways to feel like I'm not standing there with no pants on is to put them in a transparent simulation.

Simulation is an edu-speak friendly word for what many of these students spend vast amounts of their free time doing.  World of Warcraft?  A massively-multi-player simulation (it often feels like a D&D table with a hundred people sitting at it).  Even online shooters reach into the RPG bag of tricks to introduce team based game play in a consistent simulation  that people find very engaging.

A simulation in class can often work to the big ideas you're going after, while giving students the power to get there themselves.  As I often say in class, "I could show you how to do it, but then you'd know how to ask me how to do it.  If you figure it out for yourself, you're much less likely to forget it."  The sim lets students know the goal (so it's very backward planning friendly), but doesn't goose-step them through a process to get there.  By the time you're doing a summative, you need them to find their own way through a forest they are now familiar with.

If learning is about developing a new way of getting something done, then simulation is the ideal last step in summative assessment.  Before a sim you'd do the basics around concepts, language, skills development and make sure all students are in the ZPD.  Once the foundation is laid, it's time for them to show what they can do, it's time for a simulation.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Reclaiming Educational Computing For Learning

Sources for this year's ECOO:
The mini-lab: mobilizing and differentiating the school computer lab
Dreaming of a new media lab: differentiating technology to prevent passive media consumption


I just threw my hat into the ring for ECOO12 proposals.  Last year I did a philosophical look at what the digital future holds with Dancing in the Datasphere.  There was a small but interested group who were honestly curious (and more than a little worried) about where digitized humanity is going.  I enjoyed the talk and got a lot out of it.  


Having become the Computer/IT head at my school this year, I'm constantly bombarded by how inadequate the typical school model is around information technology.  While businesses have mobilized and personalized digital access, education still clings to 20th Century ideas around centralized control.  I think I've found my focus for this year's ECOO: educators reclaiming educational computing for learning.


One problem with this is that many of the digital immigrants at ECOO tend to be platform dependent - they know how to do specific things on specific devices.  This is a great first step, and certainly puts them ahead of anti-tech Luddites or digital natives who barely understand what they are doing, but it shouldn't be the end of their journey.  There are many tools, both software and hardware, that can lead you to a  technologically fluid, collaborative learning place.  Making students access digital learning through limited hardware and software is ultimately self serving to the teacher and damaging to the technical literacy of the student.


My vision for effective computer implementation in education depends on a platform agnostic approach, preferably with a strong open source component.  Information longs to be free, and it won't be as long as you believe a single means of delivery or a single app is the only viable solution.


I write this on a Win7 laptop (that dual boots into Ubuntu too), use an Android phone and have an ipad.  At home I use a Win7/Win8/Linux multiboot PC and an imac, I'm not picky and just enjoy good design, whether it's from Cupertino or Taiwan.  The large, full spectrum display on the Mac makes working on photos a beautiful (and colour accurate) experience.  When I'm doing heavy processor work like video editing I go to the PC with a pile of cores and twelve gigs of memory.  Using the best tool for the task at hand only makes sense.


In the past year I've overseen installs on a class set of Kindles, a DD class set of ipads and 3 carts of Windows 7 notebooks, I've also beaten up several old laptops and installed Linux on them, giving them another year or two of usefulness.  The days of static, centrally controlled, singly formatted computers in shared labs are soon to be over.  Instead of the bureaucratic organization of information technology into a department of non-teacher IT experts, education will finally gain control of its own information technology.  Pedagogy, rather than convenience, will become the focus of that new paradigm.


My goal at ECOO?  To point the way towards a freer educational computing paradigm where students and teachers are free to experiment and try a variety of technology in order to  get the tightest fit with their needs and proclivities; a truly technologically differentiated pedagogy.


As Ira Socol says so well, "I'm not 'Platform Agnostic' because I'm a crazed techie, I'm 'Platform Agnostic' because I work in education, and education is about helping students prepare for any possible future, not my particular vision of a future."  


Words to teach by.

Friday, 11 May 2012

I Just Wish They Could Finish A Thought

At the ICT conference I attended yesterday we did an industry panel discussion.  The thirty year old VP of  a major printer company passionately responded to a teacher question: "What can we do to prepare students for the workplace."

"I just wish they could finish a thought!  They can't close sales, they can't even perform basic customer service.  They get halfway through a sales pitch and forget what they're talking about, and they don't listen!  If a customer is telling them a problem, they respond by ignoring what the customer has just said.  If grads could just finish what they started, we could take care of the rest."

I've seldom heard the distracted digital native described in such (frustrated) clear terms.  If business can't use them because they can't actually finish anything, then this puts older people at a distinct advantage.

Another of the panel told the story of a friend's son who did an IT contract for him.  He started off great, but once the big install was done and he was in beta testing the system, he seemed to slack off.  About halfway through the contract he noticed the twenty something was on Facebook, so he made an account and befriended the kid.  His stream was full of comments like, "I'm doing nothing and getting paid for it!" and "another day on Facebook on company time."  This manager contacted HR, revised his contract (which still had over a month in it) and ended it two days later, that Friday.

That guy's inability to think through (complete a thought) about what he was doing (broadcasting his laziness), led to him being unemployed.  There is a direct correlation there that any thinking person would understand, why don't these digital natives?  Because they don't finish a thought.  Even cause and effect are magical happenings beyond their understanding.

This question came up again later from a senior federal government manager who couldn't understand how fractured the thinking of recent Ontario graduates appears to be.  I suggested that Mcguinty's in-school-till-18 program has resulted in a system wide lowering of expectations.  Rubrics start at level 1.  The implication there is that you pass if you do anything, anything at all.

Failing students has become almost impossible with student success and administration jumping in to offer alternatives (usually taught by teachers with no background in the subject).  A great example is a failed grade 11 English student who was taking our credit recovery program.  She got a B+ on her ISU paper, it had two grammar mistakes in the title alone and was marked by someone with no English background.  I had to wonder how much of it had been cut and pasted, but that wasn't looked into either.

The example that federal government manager gave was of a student who had missed dozens of classes at a community college and hadn't completed any work.  His argument?  "Can't you just pass me?" He was confused when the college prof said no, his high school teachers had.

Apparently we're graduating students who can't complete a thought and have systematized secondary education to minimize (if not remove entirely) cause and effect.  I wonder how long it takes before we see persistent and ongoing economic problems related to this.  That young VP's passionate plea for graduates who can finish a thought might just be the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hey Dalton, Surfed PISA lately?


The latest round of bankruptcy lawyers (the same ones who work with our bailed out banks) have shut down collective bargaining again in Ontario.  It looks like impending labour distress for any public service workers in Ontario because Dalton's Liberal government, that came to power with public employee support in the last election, has decided to go after populist, right wing, inaccurate US policy around public services.  Though the private sector caused a financial crisis, it appears that nurses, doctors, teachers, and emergency service workers will be paying for it.

Being a teacher, I'm most interested in how we're wasting money in education.  Fortunately, the UN offers all sorts of information on how Canada (led by Ontario - we have the largest population in the country) is performing world wide.

We are mid-pack on what we spend on education, but the results are world class.  We are outperforming everyone but Korea, Finland and China, and do it for less than Hong Kong, about what Finland pays and more than Korea pays.  Any country of similar background (Commonwealth, western democracy) offers an inferior, and often more expensive educational system.

The US, who Dalton seems determined to follow on educational 'reform', spends more and does less:

"The strongest performers among high-income countries and economies tend to invest more in teachers. For example, lower secondary teachers in Korea and the partner economy Hong Kong-china, two high-performing systems in the PisA reading tests, earn more than twice the per capita GDP in their respective countries. in general, the countries that perform well in PisA attract the best students into the teaching profession by offering them higher salaries and greater professional status."   http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/50/9/49685503.pdf


With our government intent on gutting teacher's contracts and diminishing both what they earn along with their status as valued members of society (those public employees are just leeches, they don't provide value to the economy like 'real' jobs in the private sector do), we seem destined to lose our place as a finalist in world education rankings.

It appears that in Dalton's Ontario, when you do your job exceptionally well for a reasonable cost, you're a failure.  Perhaps we should have pushed the teacher pension into funding sub-prime mortgages.  When that happens federal and provincial goverments leap to the aid of the poor, ailing, private corporations that need their help.

Only when the injury is self inflicted does the government consider supporting it.  If you spend your days teaching children, saving lives or protecting society from itself, you've obviously been wasting everyone's time and money, no matter how well you've been doing it.

Head over to OBAMA POSTER MAKER to have some fun...


Educational Snake Oil

I've recently cut most of the 'educational consultants' from my twitter feed.  I found the tweets, blogs and emails I was getting from them had a funny, self interested smell.  If I have to pay for entry into their private realm of secret ideas about how to become a super teacher, then what am I really paying for?  It reminds me of other groups that want to get me on a pyramid and get themselves another believer (with cash).

Can I not do this with any PLN?  Ask a colleague, it's cheaper, and more honest
I realize that Educational Consultants have to make a living, but the constant up-sell I've been getting on work email, and the secretive approach to building closed groups who will 'show you the way' that can only be entered through joining the club to learn insider information gives me the willies.

I don't even feel comfortable when public educational computing leans heavily on private companies to run their computers.  Our own board has a strange affiliation with MDG, Microsoft and Wordperfect that defies logical description (as well as expensive, foreign, consultant/keynotes when we have locally relevant talent available).  When open source, free, democratically (and transparently) developed not-for-profit operating systems and software are available for educational use, why would we be in tightly worded, long term contracts with for profit companies like these?  There might be a situation where a private option is the only one, but it appears to operate the other way around; the private option is the only option.  Ed-consultants seem to work under the same logic.

Given a choice, I think I like my professional development on an open source model; freely shared with people who, you know, actually teach, instead of just talking about it (from a country that has gutted its own public education system).  I know it's exciting to get some big money, charismatic cult-sultant up from the States (because evidently they like to export their poorly performing educational system world wide), and many senior educational administrators feel that this is real value, but after tasting the freedom of unconferences, ed-camps and keynotes from professors who are working to understand the complexities of change in 21st Century education, I'm wondering why we keep going back to the (expensive) snake oil.

It worries me to think that even educators would rather be told what to think than try and work it out for themselves.  It doesn't bode well for a 21st Century classroom when we ourselves aren't willing to be the experimental, freely collaborative learners we expect our students to be.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Behold! The Essay-inator!

In this corner, weighing in as the inevitable future, I give you: the writing algorithm!
... and in this corner, weighing in as a lazy, nineteenth century habit that no one can shake: tedious, overly structured High School English writing!


The trick is going to be creating an algorithm that plagiarism checkers won't catch.  That shouldn't be too hard as they tend to look for matching text, and any good algorithm would put the pieces together in varying ways depending on the variables given.


With a proscribed structure similar to sports stories or financial reports, it should be fairly easy to get Narrative Science to modify their writing engine to accept key points and put together a five paragraph essay that perfectly follows the tediously exact, point-proof-explanation requirements of high school essay writing.


The process should go something like this:
  • student logs in to the website and enters brainstorming ideas based on a cursory reading on the subject matter (Macbeth should be covered in 20 minutes, tops)
  • thesis (an arguable statement) is generated based on ideas given (or offered, depending on how much you want to put into this)
  • supporting points are suggested.  The algorithm places them in order of importance based on the number of hits and positive previous reviews, student picks the ones that grab them
  • the algorithm finds quotes from the play and lit crit that relate to each supporting point
  • body paragraphs are constructed following point/proof/explanation around chosen quotes
  • introduction and conclusion are generated based on body paragraphs
  • student reviews the paper for vocabulary or wording that doesn't suit their style
  • if too complicated a word is used, the student can right click and get a list of synonyms
  • the completed paper, using variable data, is unique, and presented in the vicinity of the student's knowledge of the subject matter, working vocabulary and writing style
Behold my essay-inator!
The point and click essay is finally here!

The efficiencies here should be obvious.  A typical paper requires hours of reading, then re-reading looking for quotes, then formulation of ideas, then organization... hours and hours!  This process could have a student sit down with a Shakespearean play they've never seen before, and have a finished essay completed in under an hour, on their smartphone!

They are still the authors, we've just taken the tedium and soulless nature of high school writing and given it to a machine, which only seems fair.

***

This is written facetiously, but it does raise a couple of interesting questions.  If high school writing requires such heavy duty plagiarism checking and tends to be about the same subjects using the same formats, and marked with the same rubrics year after year, what is the point?

If these guys have come up with an algorithm that can write data driven, structurally sound pieces this well, how long will it be before someone has put together a five paragraph essay-inator?  The only thing more soulless and formulaic than financial writing or sports reporting is high school English writing.  Time to let the computers do what they do best and take this repetitive, tedious work and do it more efficiently!

Up next, mechanized marking of essays: time to take the tedium out of being an English teacher!

If this works out well, we'll be able to have students 'write' essays, and have them 'marked' in a matter of seconds!

Now that's progress!


Dairy of a Disenfranchised Coder

The first blog entry I ever wrote (about 18 months ago), spoke of risk aversion in students, but began with a brief 'why I never pursued computers'.  This one opens that up a a bit and looks at how childhood interests never seem to fade away.

In the 1980s, I became interested in computers because my father wouldn't buy me an Intellivision game console.  The Vic 20 we got instead became our gaming system, but it was much more.  I've carried a sense of intellectual superiority over game consoles ever since.  The Vic could plug in cartridges and play games, but where it really took off was with the datasette.  When we got our hands on that, we suddenly had the ability to save our work.  Before I knew it, I was begging my parents to drive to the only computer store in the area whenever a new COMPUTE! magazine came out so I could type out the basic programs in there.

None of this had anything to do with school.  Our junior high school had 3 Pets in the library, but it was typically a 2 week wait to get half an hour on one.  You had no chance of gaining any kind of familiarity with them.

It started all about video games, but quickly turned to coding.  Instead of buying the latest game (Cosmic Cruncher?), I was saving the paper route money for a 3k memory expander (I kept filling up the 3.5k of working RAM with code).  With more room to move, I began modifying those COMPUTE! programs, turning a road racing game into a Star Wars trench battle or the 8 key sound synthesizer into full keyboard synthesizer.

I'd shown friends what I was doing and soon Ataris and Apples began to appear in the neighborhood.  We'd dictate code while the fastest typer would hammer away at it, then we'd proof and run it.  Hours of speculation and experimentation about how changes might affect things followed.

There was no grade 9 computer course in high school, but I quickly leapt at the grade 10 one in 1985.  By then I had a Commodore 64 at home and we'd all discovered that if you had a good recording deck, you could sound record the cassettes that software came on.  There was a thriving pirating hub in high school with what looked like homemade mixed tapes.  A teacher once took one that was being passed in class and tried to listen to it, it wasn't pretty.

That grade 10 class used a card reader.  We laboriously spent hours penciling in our lines of code, and would receive a printout off a dot matrix printer (which sounded like a machine gun tearing through silk).  I lasted about a month at this before I became determined to get a printer of my own.  No one else in the school had one, and the only place to find one was half way across the city.  Four bus transfers and a long night of travel got me back home with the printer, only to discover it was defective.  Another six hours on the bus and I was home again with the only dot matrix printer anyone had.

I coded at home, printed out my results and got to bypass the agony of the card reader.  Others begged me for access.  It became a nice sideline and paid for itself in short order.

Our grade 10 computer teacher was a young guy who got the job because he was the only one who could maintain the card reader without it jamming up all the time, he didn't actually know much about coding (and why would he, he only had a card reader to figure it out on).  I did well in grade 10 intro to computers but was really excited to get into senior computer science.  The astronomer dream had been dashed in grade 10 physics when I discovered, to my horror, that physics was really just lots and lots of math, which I found tedious and unimaginative.  Anything that had only one way to a single solution seemed mind numbingly dull.  I was still hoping to find my niche in computer science though.

Finally able to get onto the senior computer science lab (first gen IBM x86s!), I was stunned to learn that our computer science teacher wanted us to program... math. I found the assignments linear and the teacher, who already knew the mathletes in the class, didn't have time for anyone else or anything other than mathematical certainty in coding; the opposite of my experimental, hacking approach to programming.  Five years of passionate self-driven learning dissipated in a cloud of frustration and disinterest over that semester.

My parents went to the teacher conference confused at how a kid who spent hours and hours of his free time coding could be such an epic failure in this class.  My weakness in maths was sighted as the problem.  I'd signed up for the grade 12 class in semester two, but withdrew immediately when it started.  The teacher seemed surprised that I'd signed up for consecutive semesters of comp-sci.  I was surprised that he remembered my name.  And so ended my love affair with coding computers.

Of course I maintained an interest in computers, mainly around gaming and hardware, and eventually went on to get some I.T. certifications and even worked in software implementation in a few places, but getting knocked out of the holy grail of computing, the place where you author how a machine thinks, put the idea of working fully in the field beyond reach, and created a sense of self doubt that a teen is only too willing to embrace.

I'm getting computer certified this summer as a teacher.  When I walk into that class in the fall I'm hoping that I can support as many different approaches to coding as there are students in the room.  The last thing I want to do is knock a keen, self directed learner out of a woefully underdeveloped field of study in secondary schools.