Are Universities still needed?

When I was growing up, it was just expected that I would go to University. Today, you can’t even get a job interview without a degree. However, as a teacher, I can honestly say the idea of university has never made less sense to me.

Not personalized/relevant

Thinking back to my own experience, many of the mandatory courses  were just areas of study for my professors, meaning we learned them because our professors had an interest in them. Basically, I paid a lot of money to learn something which had no interest or relevance to my own personal journey.

No vocation training

If the purpose of education is to get a job, and you don’t learn about jobs in elementary school or high school (not part of any curriculum), then at what point should this become a priority? At the very least, Universities should be providing relevant skills and information about possible professions in the area of study.  No?!  At least some fields have co-op, but if you don’t like your experience, where do you go from there? Change majors? To me, this is the primary failing of all universities today. Students should learn in first year studies what types of jobs they can get with this particular major and provide basic vocational skills.

Lacking in practical skills

My friend, who quit university to go to college, said that his favourite course was a communications course where he learned, among other things, basic skills like how to properly compose an email. It sounds silly, but in a world where text is king, many students are not, in fact, very good at communication in a professional manner. There are also many basic programs my friend learned that businesses used, whereas I had none of this in university. I would like to think that all first year programs should include some sort of basic tech and communication training. Bonus if they offered personal finance courses where they learned how to save, budget and pay for, say, university or possibly a house! How credit cards and interest works!


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame professors who are undoubtedly doing the best they can within the system, but the system is old and in need of a major makeover. In a world where knowledge is available, at all times, at one’s fingertips, universities need to focus far less on the acquisition of knowledge and more on practical skills and basic vocation training. Otherwise students are wasting vast sums of money, years lost when they could have been working and earning money.How would the world look if everyone started earning money 4-5 years earlier? People would likely have kids at a younger age, own homes at a younger age,…Something to think about at least!

Perhaps companies should recruit out of high school.

As they say, hire character, train skill.


How to make school more useful

What is the purpose of school?

Seriously? Have you ever stopped to think what school is supposed to prepare us for? We’re so used to jumping through its hoops that few of us ever stop to look for the connections between school and life.

Most say, “to get a job,” but few can think of any instance where anyone learned about the types of jobs available to them, what they earn, or if they are suited to their personalities and strengths. If this is the main purpose of education, how come it literally is not part of any education curriculum?! The purpose of school is to get a job, but we don’t study jobs at all? Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Second, people will say school is to prepare us for life. It gives us the tools to solve our own problems. Well, let’s brainstorm a few things that adults need to know how to do…


  • Financial literacy: Trigonometry is mandatory but not personal finances? How about learning about types of bank accounts, interest, credit cards, learn how to pay for school, buy a house, get a job, save, invest, donate, pay taxes, balance budget, learn wants from needs, etc…
  • Have a family: learning how to maintain relationships, raise children, work through conflict, stay calm, learn how to de-stress, learn mindfulness….
  • Be healthy! Ah, but school teaches a health class, no? Yes, but when do students learn how to balance personal and professional lives? Go grocery shopping. Cook a meal. Yes, we learn about puberty and the Canadian food guide, but learning about health is much different from living it. And if you say students should learn this from their parents, well, look at your students’ lunches. We’re all on convenience mode – quick and easy. It’s hard to learn from someone who never learned it themselves. Learning about health and living it are 2 separate skills. Let’s try having daily phys-ed to start. Like, every single day! Even better, get teachers participating too! It also helps lift one’s mood and concentration. Let’s learn how to cook a meal! How does an oven work? No seriously, can someone teach me? I never learned this skill.
  • Politics: How about learning how the government works, what different parties stand for and the importance of voting
  • Capitalism: The means of production!

DUP2v_UU0AANbFiAll human knowledge is at our finger tips (i.e., the internet).  Why not learn about the soft skills.


For more inspiration, check out the School of Life’s video below:

Politics & Philosophy / Capitalism vs. Socialism

I teach this as part of a “Shark Tank” learning cycle. It is really good at bringing in politics and philosophy into the classroom.

Note, the videos contain some “classic art” pieces in the background, two of which contain partially clothed people. I say, “pretend you are in a museum.”

Watch the History of Capitalism and make a t-chart of the pros and cons of it: 

    • Efficient as there is a much higher level of specialization, so there can be a much higher level of production
    • Higher specialization means people have a narrow, alienating focus on life
    • People at the bottom are exploited
    • good business is good for business
    • Value based on monetary worth and not necessarily on the things that make us happy.

Watch a video on Marxism which does a good job and looking at the ills of capitalism and shows the ideals and shortcomings/impracticality of socialism :

Problems identified with capitalism include

  • modern work is alienating
  • modern work is insecure
  • big gap between rich and poor
  • capitalism is unstable (lots of peaks and crashes)
  • capitalism is bad for capitalists (wealth doesn’t equal happiness or fulfilling lives)
  • Ends with the quote, “Philosophers, until now, have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.”

How can kids change it? Learn about politics and voting. 

List the political parties in North American and have students try to plot them from left to right.

  • Left = high taxes and high services
  • Right = low taxes and low services

Talk about the differences between Canada and the USA. What are the biggest differences? E.g., health care (impact of no health insurance (heart attack or premature babies = huge bills) , cost of education and the impact of higher tuition costs, the distribution of wealth, and opportunity.

The American Dream? The Canadian Dream? What should our dream be?

Tell students to ask their parents who they vote for and why.




What are the potential pros and cons of the minimum wage increase?

The Museum – Maker Space Challenges

Students will learn by doing through experimentation, exploration and by ‘failing’ forward in unique 75 minute workshops delivered in our one-of-a-kind MakerSpace. Take part in projects across one of seven core program streams: 3D Modeling, Computer Programming, Circuitry & Soldering, Woodworking, Screenprinting, Textiles, or Deconstruction. Each program is linked to Ontario Curriculum expectations with an emphasis on inquiry-based learning and developing critical thinking skills.

It All Starts Here.


Through proper use of hand and power tools for woodworking, students will cut, drill and fasten materials to measured specifications for the design of a tool box.


Students will create digital circuits that carry out a specific task while considering electrical principles such as voltage, current and resistance. Students will complete the workshop by soldering a circuit together as a take home badge.


Students will learn about the engineering design process to consider a simple challenge by deconstructing found objects using tools and methods provided. They will then be tasked with assembling a unique object that fulfills an imagined function.


Introduce your students to computer programming in a visual environment using the Scratch platform. Interpret how different logical statements change how a system behaves and experiment with different sensory commands to see what programs are capable of doing.


Challenge your students to create a program using the Arduino platform that causes lights to blink. Students will learn about the relationship between hardware and software by wiring systems together. Finally, students will decode a message in ASCII with the help from our robot Nali!


Using traditional screen printing methods, students will create and cut a custom design from heat transfer vinyl and transfer their design onto fabric.


The Museum – Theme Weeks


November 6 – November 10, 2017
Challenge your students to a day of interactive S.T.E.M activities and workshops. Make, tinker, build, and connect with professionals from Waterloo Region’s tech sector to showcase the potential of pursuing S.T.E.M based careers!

It all starts here.


March 26 – March 29, 2018
Stories unite us. They come from traditions of the wampum weavers and oral storytellers sharing tales of Turtle Island. But they are also being explored by emerging Aboriginal artists. Students have a unique opportunity to learn about storytelling, traditions, and the rich culture of Canadian First Nations communities.

MEDIEVAL WEEK – Grade 4 Social Studies

April 30 – May 3, 2018
Hear ye! Hear ye! Students will be immersed in unique hands-on medieval activities and workshops as we travel back to medieval times. Students will participate in a variety of workshops to experience the challenges, intrigue and excitement of living during Medieval times – all led by in-character facilitators!


Get the Math – Math Challenges


The Challenges

Get the Math Challenges



The Setup

This video introduces professionals who will pose real-world math challenges to the teams.

Math in Music: Introduction

DobleFlo talks about using math in music production and presents an algebra challenge related to one of their new singles.

Math in Music: Take the challenge

Match the electronic beat to the instrumental sample by calculating the correct tempo in beats per minute.

Math in Music: Try other music challenges

Choose from different instrumental samples and electronic drum tracks to create a new track and figure out the correct tempo in beats per minute.

Math in Fashion: Introduction

Chloe Dao explains how she uses math as a fashion designer and sets up a math challenge involving one of her designs.

Math in Fashion: Take the challenge

Modify Chloe Dao’s design from the video to meet the target retail price of $35 or less.

Math in Fashion: Try other fashion challenges

After solving Chloe’s challenge, use the same skills to modify three more complicated garment designs.

Math in Videogames: Introduction

Julia Detar describes how she uses math to create videogames and presents a math challenge.

Math in Videogames: Take the challenge

Plot a linear path for the spaceship to avoid crashing into the asteroid.

Math in Videogames: Try other videogame challenges

After saving the spaceship, try a more challenging submarine game to test your skills with coordinate graphing and linear equations.


Chef Sue Torres challenges the teams to use algebra to recommend a price for guacamole.

Math in Restaurants: Take the challenge

Choose one of two strategies to make your prediction for avocado prices in the coming year. Then, use Sue’s rule of thumb to come up with a recommended menu price for guacamole.

Math in Restaurants: Try other restaurant challenges

After solving Sue’s guacamole challenge, try additional challenges involving three menu items with different main ingredients: chicken, shrimp, and beef.

Math in Basketball: Introduction

Basketball player Elton Brand presents a challenge about the math behind free throw shots.

Math in Basketball: Take the challenge

Use the three key variables and Elton Brand’s stats to figure out the maximum height the basketball reaches when Elton shoots a free throw.

Math in Basketball: Try other basketball challenges

Choose new sets of stats and sharpen your skills with additional challenges around the math behind free throw shooting.

Math in Special Effects: Introduction

Jeremy Chernick from J&M Special Effects sets up a challenge about lighting for high-speed effects.

Math in Special Effects: Take the challenge

Use light probe readings to figure out the mathematical relationship between intensity and distance.

Math in Special Effects: Try other special effects challenges

Learn how a setting called an f-stop affects the amount of light coming through a camera lens.