Environmental What Now?

A few weeks, possibly even a month ago, I was approached by my friend Amanda who just so happens to work with me in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph. She approached me about speaking to the Toronto District School Board near the end of August. As I understand it, the board gathers every year for several days so that teachers might take courses or hear stories about pedagogy, classroom strategies, etc.

My first thought was Why me?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I wasn’t flattered/honoured to be asked. But really, why would the Toronto District School Board want to hear from me?

Turns out, the board is very much interested in learning what Computer Scientists do1, and moreover, how they might use computers more effectively in their classroom. Specifically, they are asking us to present to them on three major topics: Environmental Stewardship2, Problem Solving, and Application Development. 

Anyway, today I sat down with Amanda and the Director of the School to discuss the specifics of our presentation. To be honest, I’m very happy that we did because I think we all have a much better vision of what we need to do. Based on our conversation, we’ve decided that our presentation will include (but not be limited to) a description of one of the simpler models that I use to do environmental risk assessment. From there, we will build different scenarios to develop specific problem solving techniques, and ultimately a simple application that can be used in the classroom.

Truly, the meeting was so productive it barely rated on the Nb scale of annoyance3. Amazing!

Of course, now that I know what we need to do I’ve been overloaded with potential ideas of how to do what we need to do. I’m sure this will include Prezi – the presentation software tool that I primarily use for talks – but I’m also considering various methods for data visualization. And classroom materials. And code. And risk metrics. And stochastic models. And…

Okay. I should stop before I hurt myself.

Needless to say, after last week’s soul-sucking marathon of meetings, today’s meeting appears to have been just the thing I needed to get my creative juices flowing again. And I couldn’t be more stoked about that.

Now if only I could translate that to my NSERC grant application.


1 Wait a tick – I thought you were a Statistician? Excellent observation. I am. However, for the sake of argument we are going to pretend for now that I’m a Computer Scientist.

2 This is one of the areas where I fit in, since my research includes environmental risk assessment, population modelling for managing and sustaining wildlife populations, public health assessment, scenario modelling, and climate change.

3 It had the potential to be a 0 Nb meeting, but it was sadly devoid of beer, or chocolate, or coffee. Any of these would have improved the meeting substantially.


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