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Set the controls for video future

Let me tell you about my Christmas present. It was Echoes - the Best of Pink Floyd. "We don't need no education... we don't need no thought control."

Musically, I am catching up on my more "aware" friends from my teens who didn't mind listening through half an hour of sonar beeps and whale song, while I would rather have been careering around to Status Quo. I have to admit that, were I forced to pick one disc to lift my spirits on the desert island, it would still be Caroline (live at the NEC) before Shine on You Crazy Diamond.

But let me tell you about my main Christmas present - a miniature digital video camera. No tapes, just a memory card to record around two hours of VHS-quality (so, not as good as a proper camcorder) video. Digital video editing is something, like Pink Floyd, I have recently got "into".

It started when I found a large, rusting astronomical telescope in a field near Carluke. I nipped home and borrowed Mrs Steele's digital camera (Christmas 2003) to take a picture to e-mail to some physicist friends. I took a notion for my own digital camera and bought a cheapie on eBay. It happened to have a movie mode that I knew I'd never use. Aye, right. That would mean a total suppression of my "Mr Nerdy" side.

I tried it and was hooked. The rest of the family liked the short films I produced of our holidays. The idea of a proper camcorder was mooted, but when a pal at work turned up with his tapeless wonder, a third of the size and price of a conventional movie camera, I decided to get one, too.

Every school should buy a dozen. There are massive possibilities for the technology. Pupils who struggle to write can tell their stories to camera.

Groups can work together to make presentations on any subject you could name. Motion can be recorded and analysed in physics and PE. As for English and modern languages - where do we start?

I have seen quite a few technological dead ends in schools in my time.

Remember the appraisal training package on laser-disc? How many hundreds of thousands were wasted on that? But I don't think investment in digital video would be squandering resources. It would engage some of the not-yet-engaged, and as such would be worth its modest cost. Try it for yourself.

Your school probably has a digital stills camera with an optional movie mode that won't be as good as mine, but you'll get the idea. Here's a suggestion to get you started - make your own rock video. I can lend you some CDs.

Gregor Steele bought his wife a bass guitar outfit for her Christmas, but she has yet to learn any Quo songs.

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