D.B. McCowan, P.Eng.
My long-standing interest in education, knowledge, the nature of change and continuous improvement have driven me to champion numerous community-based projects, only some of which are briefly described below.
Canada needs good leaders -- for the sake of social justice, sustainable economic growth, equitable law-making, technological innovation and environmental protection. The leaders of tomorrow are our students of today. Students today face an enormous challenge. They need to learn what will be most beneficial for society, in balance with a duty to themselves. But knowing what to learn (content) is not as important as knowing how to learn (using sound methodologies).
My greatest achievement will be to use my engineering, community building and other experience to teach tomorrow's leaders how to learn -- how to separate the noise from valid input data; how to interpret, analyze and process information; and then how to output (ie articulate or write) a more useful "set of instructions for progress". This is the foundation for sound decision-making that is so important in our leaders. Ultimately, making good decisions depends on recognizing and measuring key parameters and understanding how system performance is affected by changes in those parameters. My Methodology for Teaching Information Processing begins at www.beamccowan.com/subject.htm. It will be my pleasure to teach teens how to learn to understand the key relationships in this world that we all share.
One of my strengths is analysis. I break a system or process into component parts, subsets and relationships and then, using a variety of written, visual and hands-on methods, reveal both the "big picture" concepts and the relevant detail in appropriate layers. In a learner-centric manner, I will pass these techniques for understanding a system onto my students.
Above all, I want tomorrow's leaders to be enthusiastic about learning and to have good tools for life-long learning as well as the skills to use them. I am equipped and ready for this challenge. My strong technical foundation is clear -- six Grade 13 math and science courses (average 86%); second class Honours Engineering degree at Waterloo (overall average 73%); Computer Programming and Systems Analysis diploma (average 88%) and over 15 years' technical workplace experience. But this solid consistency in practical matters is not enough to train the leaders of tomorrow. In my spare time, I have explored and analyzed our socio-economic past using all of our heritage learning resources. I have written five 5 books and booklets and over twenty papers (www.beamccowan.com/potentia.htm). I have given over a dozen presentations to a variety of organizations -- from an ESL class to Queen's University Engineering Students (www.beamccowan.com/david.htm).
I have learned how to connect the practical science mind to a social science soul using the tools of language, mathematics and computerization. And I want to pass this wisdom along so that Canada's next generation of leaders can understand how their decisions will impact other sectors of society. I have long recognized that learning resources are all around us. One of my papers is "Learning from the Past: Engineers and the Heritage Learning Resources", published in "Engineering Dimensions", the journal of Professional Engineers Ontario, one of my affiliations. In this paper I illustrate how engineers can use archaeological, archival, artifactual, ethnological, architectural and natural data in their daily work.
A recurring theme in my professional career is Continuous Improvement, for both myself and the organization. Continuous improvement is key to any process, including learning. I want to be part of the team that will apply a carefully monitored continuous improvement model to our educational system.
I have been a motivated competitor and team leader -- in hockey I won the Most Valuable Player award 3 consecutive times and was Alternate Team Captain twice.
Interaction with Students
Taught Lessons in Toronto Schools
Mentored Students in the Workplace
I mentored 1st and 2nd year University of Waterloo engineering co-op students (average about 3 students per term). My role was to help the students learn how to contribute to a corporation and to understand that the goals of the employer and student can both be met within a framework of trust, communication and defined (but fluid) process. I learned how to respond to student questions, criticism and feedback on various technical and workplace matters. I learned that modest continuous improvement is key to any process, including learning. Learning about continuous improvement requires that the environment be learner-centric. In otherwords, people in various groups should contribute to the "discovery" of issues related to continuous improvement (or to any other subject at hand). As a teacher it is important to recognize and accept scope of activity yet keep an open mind for reasonable improvements in techniques and tools. For example graphical illustrations of a process are helpful tools for teaching and learning the process and for identifying weaknesses in the process. Similarly, mind maps are helpful for both learning and re-call.
I arranged for a student at Laurier Collegiate to interview a senior citizen and to write a very interesting paper on his farming experiences in Scarborough. I introduced the student to the process of historical research. Community history studies are a valuable aspect of education.
Speaker at the Queen's University CIRQUE+ '97 Conference on Industry and Resources
The title of my 45 minute talk was "Engineers and Standards in the Innovative Product Implementation Cycle". The theme at this conference was "Innovation: Engineering the Future". One of the goals of CIRQUE+ is "to educate students on current issues related to engineering and to provide students with a career insight." The use of engineering judgement is crucial in product innovation.
Presentation to High School Students at Cedarbrae Library
In this one hour discussion, "Scarborough in a World History Context", students discovered how the agricultural revolution in Scotland positively impacted Scarboroughs nineteenth century social and economic development. The agricultural revolution is a profound example of harnessing continuous improvement as a driving economic force. The fact that values that developed in a foreign land helped shape Canada for the better certainly still applies today.
I am trustee for the Robert McCowan Memorial Scholarship at R.H. King Academy. In 1986 I arranged for the descendants of Robert McCowan, Reeve of Scarborough 1923-25, to revive the annual Math and Physics award that he had started in 1931 (www.beamccowan.com/mccowan.htm). Awards such as the McCowan Scholarship encourage students to strive for excellence.
Nominated for a Community Award
(I received five nominations for the City of Scarborough Bicentennial Award of Merit.)
Championed New Learning Opportunities
I was organizer and leader of 4 two-hour Historic Walking Tours. Average attendance including teenagers was about 35. The most recent Historic Walk was a fundraiser for Washington United Church. Two of the visited sites are among the "250 Lost Sites of Toronto". Why did I organize these Walks? Earlier I had contributed Scarborough data to the "Toronto's Lost Sites" project of the Toronto Historical Association (THA) and Toronto Planning Department. I learned about the importance of initiative, creativity and partnership in learning. Every learning opportunity needs a champion -- someone to recognize that where there is information there is wisdom; someone to craft the information and translate the wisdom into an enjoyable and beneficial experience; someone to take ownership of a cause. I took the action to deliver these four learning experiences. I observed that it is important that there be a strong expression of what can be done in the context of planning and developing Toronto that continues the good works represented in the Toronto Lost Sites report -- historic plaques, parks, interpretive educational programs, walking tours, publications, easements for significant sites, reproduction construction and public art. These modest but important 'development opportunities' are all also marvellous learning opportunities. By being creative, we can show how prehistoric cultures survived in the forest and how buildings stood rigid before the age of the steel I-beam. I also learned that partnering with diverse groups (such as THA) is a key element in some learning opportunities. (www.beamccowan.com/walking.htm)
Organized Scarborough Fare Fair -- Celebrating Life-Long Learning
This two-evening event was a celebration and exploration of the past, present and future nutritional needs and expectations of the family, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Scarborough Agricultural Society. The purpose of this Society was to foster continuous improvement in farming. Lifelong learning was absolutely fundamental to Scarborough's agricultural community. About 30 non-profit groups and agricultural organizations participated in this event. I learned how to bring together a broad group of interests for a common cause. (www.beamccowan.com/scarboro1.htm)
Classroom and Learning Resources
Exploring Scarboro Heights
I edited, produced and distributed "Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights" (140 pages). My role as editor was to present a variety of primary source input data along with sufficient contextual background information for students to analyze, interpret and re-present in a more interesting or useful output form. For this purpose, I included exercises in each chapter. The Principal of H.A. Halbert Public School was involved in this project. I understand that R.H. King Academy has used some of the material in class. I learned that teaching in any field can borrow techniques from other fields. For instance, the scientific method can be used as a process to learn about society's changing values. I learned that a teacher should not just present "facts" and other content for students to remember. A teacher must be a facilitator and guide in the learning process. But just as the table of contents is a roadmap for the book, good organization and planning are necessary in any learning experience -- knowing when to challenge, when to summarize, when to bring in new concepts, when to examine relationships with other subject areas. Under the guidance of the teacher, the student should be the research analyst and information processor. As a result of book reviews (www.beamccowan.com/reviews.htm) and other comments, I have learned that course material should be fluid and subject to improvement through feedback. Consequently, I also periodically improve my supplementary on-line educational resource and information processing program at www.beamccowan.com/subject.htm.
Another Oral History Project
I co-authored "The Scots Kirk: An Oral History of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Scarborough" (170 pages).
This was truly a team effort, as dozens contributed to this project. Collaborative projects such as this are always a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
Engineers and Heritage Learning Resources
I wrote "Learning from the Past: Engineers and the Heritage Learning Resources", published in "Engineering Dimensions", July/Aug 1994. (See above.) Everyone uses history -- whether they realize it or not.
Other Lesson Plans
Immigrant Values: Building A Nation
One way for me to demonstrate my respect for Canada's diversity is to identify some of my projects. "We must study the Scot, the German, the Italian, the blacksmith, the factory worker, the Torontonian and the person living in Uxbridge if we ever hope to answer the question, 'What is a Canadian?'" (in "Fairs and Frolics: Scottish Communities at Work and Play" and on www.beamccowan.com/canadian.htm). One of my current projects is this collection of lesson plans, "Immigrant Values: Building a Country", on www.beamccowan.com/lesson.htm. "This lesson plan for history will help students appreciate that Canada's heritage is the sum of the histories of Canada's diverse native and immigrant peoples." As a teacher it will be my duty to demonstrate the truth of my previous statement. I will be creative in how I bring this message to my students -- I will present input data that was generated by people from many cultures. In math, science and technology classes I will present information about great mathematicians, scientists and engineers from various countries and how they each contributed to our knowledge base. I will help students of all backgrounds understand that we all learn from each other.
Canadas First Nations
I worked with Toronto Public Library staff to create an exhibition of aboriginal artifacts at the Toronto Reference Library and at Cedarbrae Library (www.beamccowan.com/10,000.htm). The exhibition has been visited by many school classes.
My oral history interview project "Immigration to Toronto" is on www.beamccowan.com/immigrat1.htm. I have interviewed several people from the former colonies of Britain. Oral history is one of the most under-used of our learning resources. It is shameful that so much wisdom is lost every day because we dont talk to those who have had valuable experiences. Some of my other Oral History Interview Projects are under www.beamccowan.com/oral.htm. I will arrange for occasional visits from senior citizens so that my students will have the benefit of their knowledge of successful technologies.
Speaker: ESL Class
I spoke to an ESL class at Berner Trail School on the subject of Scottish immigration 170 years ago. I invited the ESL students to send me their own immigration stories for publication under www.beamccowan.com/esl.htm. Their immigration stories are oral history too. In collecting these stories from ESL students I learned more about other parts of the world and about the difficulties experienced by newcomers in Canada.
I Have Put Scarborough on the World Stage
The greatest award that a web site (www.scarboroughrecord.com) could possibly win is the serious attention of a major media organization half a world away. BBC Radio Scotland sent a crew of three to Canada to interview me for their three-part series "The Lowland Clearances" (www.beamccowan.com/lowland.htm). When approached with a broader perspective, family and local history can enhance our understanding of a peoples evolution. Similarly, localized information that may seem trivial on its own, can be very powerful in another context. In the classroom, I will help my students recognize, use and mold useful information into truly valuable knowledge.
Continuous Improvement in the Workplace
References as to the above projects will be made available upon request.
My Resume as of August 2005 is at www.beamccowan.com/david.htm.
David Bruce McCowan, P.Eng., August
Visitors Since Dec. 26 2004