A 'remote' control too far

3rd February 2012 at 00:00

Someone's hacked into my PayPal account. At first I ignored PayPal's emails because I thought they were a hoax but my son finally warned me they were real. It marks the start of the slippery slide into senility; today I'm confusing fact and phishing, tomorrow I'll be giving my life savings to a dodgy bloke from British Gas and buying tickets to see Michael Buble.

PayPal were anxious that I contact them. The first hurdle was how? Their email contained the usual disclaimer, "Please do not reply to this email because we are not monitoring this inbox". What were they doing with it? Planting it with pelargoniums? Three days later I still hadn't reached them. The only way to contact them was via my account. But I couldn't log on because Charlie the golden retriever had chewed up the bank card whose details were needed for the security check.

Thankfully, a colleague took pity on me. She went online, accessed her own PayPal account, found a helpline number, and forwarded it to me. It's at times like this you miss queuing in the post office, staring at shelves of brown paper. I finally got through to them and was instructed by a piece of voice-recognition software to state the nature of my problem. It struggled with my northern accent. "What is the reason for your call today?" "My account has been hacked." "Thank you. I heard, `I had a Greggs for breakfast and I'm peckish for a snack.' Say `yes' if this is correct."

Then it tried tricking me with a Kafkaesque twist. "Press one to return to the previous menu; press two to repeat the options." I retaliated by pressing the # key 17 times, putting it on speakerphone and doing a bit of hoovering. Eventually I was connected to a man from customer services who quickly sorted things out.

The whole episode just made me feel old. As soon as technology gets the better of you, it's time to pack up your board pens and go. In the past, my sixth-formers have helped me out by teaching me the latest lingo.

I can now talk about streaming and torrenting, trolling and LOLing but quite frankly I'd rather be at home cooking a nice ham shank. So the news that my school is about to move to "remote" lesson observations using a mobile camera fills me with a sense of dread. Soon a robotic camera - the love-child of R2-D2 and a Morphy Richards coffee machine - will be beaming evidence of our classroom management straight back to SMT.

Quite how we oldsters are supposed to manage this new technology will be interesting to watch. Those of us who grew up with Spam, Spangles and Noggin the Nog can't even clear a jam in paper tray one, so using an android camera is way beyond our ken. Besides which, our school's IT systems are too ancient to support it. It's the 2008 Interactive Whiteboard Disaster all over again. We loved our fancy new IWB, but our laptops were too slow to run it. It was like towing a caravan with an electric car, so we gave up and wrote on it with ink.

Worryingly, ICT in schools seems to be evolving at the same speed as our brain cells are decreasing. Last month's British Medical Journal found "robust evidence" of cognitive decline in the over-45s, which means that soon we won't remember our own names, let alone how to log on. And while we sit around waiting for a young IT technician, the children will be LMFAO and rolling on the floor.

Anne Thrope (Ms) is a secondary teacher in the north of England.

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