Back in the new routine

10th September 2004 at 01:00
Ray Fleming, and his familyare home at last - but their journey in ICT is far from over

In comparison with the past year, I'm now living a life of luxury. I've been in the same house for more than a week - and what's more, there's more than one room in it. After 12 months of seeing the world with our two children, we're back, we're healthy and we're desperate to settle down.

I have kept you up to date with how we used technology to support our children's learning while we were away. Now, technology is more important than ever for our family - not just for education but for communication and for fun.

Before we left, I'd started to see technology's downsides. Like the days when I'd get more email than I could read, or when software would start playing up. But in the past year we have relied on email to stay in touch with close friends when the telephone was too inconvenient or expensive. My wife Sarah resisted them at first, but is now a writer of long emails to friends. We came to look forward to the next visit to an internet cafe - just as we used to look forward to reaching a post restante in previous years. And both of our children have sent more emails to friends and relatives than they would ever have done by letter.

Our circumstances have made us latch on to technology - not just email but the detailed information available on the internet as well as our own website, which allowed us to tell everybody what we were up to. In fact, the site - which began as something for friends and family - soon turned into something bigger. We now get 20,000 hits a week and emails from all around the world, with families asking for advice about their own travel plans.

We've also discovered digital photography - and there's definitely no going back. We take many more pictures with our digital cameras than we ever did before - and just delete the bad ones. Heaven knows what our friends will think when they find out we've got 5,000 photos to threaten them with. Last time we backpacked, we took half that number in twice the time, but we didn't see even one until we came home and had them printed. How did we manage with that? We also discovered digital video-editing, which helped us turn some of our videos into little pieces for our website - and soon hundreds of copies were being downloaded.

For our children, it all came together one day in July when we visited Newton primary school in Chester. Staff there had read this column and emailed us to ask if Charlotte would exchange emails with the Year 3 pupils there. During May and June, as we travelled through Cambodia and Vietnam, we were replying to a stream of emails from children telling us about their lives and pets.

When we arrived at the school, Charlotte and Emily were treated like celebrities. In the classroom, a map with our route, various photos and diary entries were pinned to the wall. There were also emails we'd exchenged en route. We and the pupils watched our 15 minutes of fame on the BBC's Holiday Programme and some of the videos we'd made. It was such a great day that we've probably got the only two children in the country who couldn't wait to get back to school.

We began our journey thinking that technology would be an essential learning aid for our children. By the end, we had realised that it is an essential part of daily life for all of us.

You can check out our web diary at www.rfleming.net

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