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Teacher trapped in playback time

Digital age brings exciting technology into schools, but staff should beware of the pitfalls. Michael Shaw reports

TEACHERS need to be careful about what they say in the classroom because their pupils could be recording every word using the latest electronic gadgetry.

This was one of several pitfalls of new technology raised by Doug Brown, manager of the Department for Education and Skills' ICT division, at a conference on education in the digital age.

Mr Brown said he had recently been told about a secondary school boy who recorded lessons using a handheld computer. It is not illegal to record a teacher's lesson, though it might be against a school's rules.

"The pupil went to see the headteacher and told him that Mr X, the maths teacher, had 'lost it' in the last lesson and swore," he said. "The pupil then asked if the head would like him to play it back."

Mr Brown said that other problems teachers needed to consider included how much free time they wanted to spend answering their pupils' emails.

He said he was pleased that children increasingly wanted to email their teachers with questions about homework, but that teachers needed to be prepared for pupils who expected instant replies on a Sunday night.

The Digital Childhoods conference in Cambridge was organised by Nesta Futurelab, a research unit funded by the DfES and the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts.

Keri Facer, head of learning research at Futurelab, said schools needed to rethink what constituted cheating at homework, because they were deterring students from revealing the extensive research they were doing on the internet.

She added that her research showed brighter pupils were becoming increasingly disaffected by schools, even dropping out, because they can find information faster at home using a computer.

The cheeriest image of the future came from the pupils themselves. Video clips were shown from DfES interviews last month in which children were asked their opinions on technology in schools.

One 10-year-old student from Hunwick primary school in County Durham said that teachers were no longer needed in the classroom.

"The teachers could be sunbathing on a beach somewhere, talking into a camera," he said. "And the picture would come out of the projector in the classroom and tell us what we had do to."

As an after-thought, he added: "We might need some classroom assistants though."

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