One sunny day in July 1969 I filed into the curtained Big Hall with my classmates to sit cross legged on the parquet floor and gaze up at the Television on it’s tall stand. It was huge and shrouded with an unfolded glare screen to combat reflections which still interfered with the image even though the curtains reduced the ambient light to a stifled gloom. We were there to see a repeat of the first steps on the Moon. We listened spellbound to the commentary and I squinted at the screen but could make no sense of the haphazard pattern of light and dark that spread across the glass. I remember being furious that I couldn’t see Neil and Buzz especially as I was a space nut, saving my Campbell’s Soup labels to get the free set of full colour posters of the mission. I hated soup. I was grateful to my teacher Miss B. For trying and stared at the Moon that night awestruck that there were now footprints there. I don’t recall thinking of the irony that we didn’t have the technology to properly show my class the pinnacle of technological achievement; I should have; I thought a lot then.
Forty five years later, I was presented with the latest presentation technology for use with my pupils. A Television on a tall stand. No glare shied, the stand not quite tall enough, the screen a little wider but no taller (we seem to prefer letterbox view these days), the machine much flatter and with added wireless magic! It was intended to be the sole presentation device and provide a new dimension of interaction with students via their own personal mini Tablets. Tearing myself away from the temptation to be rude, dismissive or even sarcastic I spent five minutes trying it out: the text couldn’t be read from the back of the room, the flat screen reflected badly at certain angles and the wireless magic was intermittent and often needed the technological panacea of “Turningitoffandonagain”. The recommended software seemed to be part-time, and streaming live HD video wirelessly defeated even the “lightning fast Broadband”. I struggled for a week. Fortunately, I had kidnapped the old XGA PC Projector and had some free wall to fire it at; I was able to present visible, viewable material and the Bloody Technology was put to better use as an infinitely re-configurable poster in the corner.
So what’s the point?
I had a severe attack of Deja-Vu: instantly remembering not only my frustration from primary school but the last Bloody Technology the interactive whiteboard; the one you aren’t allowed to write on directly but must use software to make your writing more wobbly or chance the Russian roulette of the word recognition software. Five minutes of evaluation with a classroom teacher would have revealed the flaws, but those with the budget and the 21st Century vision of the “White Heat of Technology” know better; dissenters are Luddite heretics. Middle-Aged semi-teachers see demonstrations from experts sales people who once taught or taught once and “ooh! or ah!” thinking that Bloody Technology is “engaging” per-se and that it is an essential ingredient for “21st Century learners” they don’t make the distinction that the young are fascinated by the flappy bird, not the platform it is performing on. Still, there is one change: when it didn’t work we used to boot it, now we re-boot it!