Bum steer on the merits of the smartphone set
I have decided to get a smartphone. Aside from the fact that our 16-year- old daughter Margaret has grown ashamed of the tiny, internet-free mobile that has served me well for the simple purpose of calling - or occasionally texting - Gail to say I might be late home, I have become increasingly aware that my pupils are speaking a different language.
At the weekend, for example, I found it increasingly difficult to understand the essays I was marking for S3's National 5 folios (not that we're teaching them for N5 yet, of course, as far as school policy is concerned): they were replete with references to "4G streaming", whatever that is, not to mention "tagging photos" and "downloading a TV programme on sexually transmitted diseases", this latter in a discursive essay on the permissive society.
Frankly, I can't comprehend the thought of watching any TV programme on a phone, let alone one on STDs. But it's obviously time I joined the 21st century.
Gail came home from school with a fairly amusing tale concerning April Moore, her Primary 4 colleague.
"I was walking past the open door of her classroom," she said, "and they'd obviously been in the middle of doing project work on the Romans, because there were helmets and armour scattered around, plus drawings of forts and the like. But for some reason they were all kneeling down on the floor, completely static and silent, like a tableau from a mime show."
"Oh yes?" I raised an enquiring eyebrow as I tried to work the controls of my new phone, which is proving difficult to tame.
"And April was standing at the front of the class, fit to burst with laughter. I poked a head round the door to ask if everything was OK - at which point she snorted like a bull, waved me away, and said she'd tell me later."
"Oh yes?" I mused again as I tried to locate the text message facility on my infernally complicated machine.
"And it turned out that she'd been furious with Neil Dunn, that little shit of a boy who gave me so much trouble last year. He'd been trying to lift up Amanda Reece's skirt from behind with a cardboard sword, and she'd clocked him. So she shouted out his full name at the top of her voice - and they all did!"
"They all did what, dear?" I asked, still distracted.
"Oh put that bloody phone down, Morris!" she said. "They all knelt down. Because she shouted `NEIL DUNN!' at the top of her voice!"
"Oh, I see!" I laughed, suddenly catching on. "That's hilarious, Gail, it really is," I admitted before pausing to examine my phone once more.
"Margaret?" I shouted upstairs. "What's this `Bluetooth' all about?"
Kevin Muir went to an SQA seminar last night on the progress of N5 qualifications; he came back, alas, little the wiser on certain points, as he admitted during informal staffroom feedback.
"No, I'm sorry, Frank," he admitted to our head of social subjects: "They won't have sample examination papers out until February next year, but that shouldn't matter," he reminded him archly, "as you're not teaching N5 until next August. Are you?" he asked pointedly.
Frank bit his lip and held his own counsel, but couldn't keep quiet for long, as Kevin outlined the new vocabulary that seems to have crept into SQA-speak: "They gave us details of how they'd scoped out the new assessment framework," he explained - at which point Frank guffawed - "and went on to explain how we'd discover that delving into each set of course specifications would be like `unpeeling an onion'."
"Too bloody right!" Frank concurred. "Except the N5 course specifications make you cry more than an onion does!"
I'm on Facebook. I must say I'm finding all this social media interaction very exciting, sharing holiday photos (some of which have already got 10 "likes") with friends, and I've even had welcome messages from pupils, many of whom have asked to be "fb friends". I wasn't sure about that at first, but have restricted my privacy settings to "family only" for most things, so have accepted a few of our more diligent students to begin with.
Meanwhile, Gail reports further jollity from Rockston Primary, where a letter to explain a child's absence explained that "Ryan was off school yesterday because of nuts trouble", a malady that his teacher felt to be a little early in appearance for a 10-year-old boy.
It turned out that he'd had an anaphylactic reaction to a Snickers bar, and was off to hospital for immediate tests.
I have taken down my Facebook profile. It had become a hive of innuendo from pupils unknown. It was Margaret who drew my attention to the fact that my privacy settings hadn't been quite as stringent as I'd intended.
"Dad," she mentioned just before she went out to an "under-age club", her usual Friday-night haunt these days: "It looks like someone's managed to update your FB status, and I don't think it was you."
"Oh? Why not?" I queried.
"Well it says that one of your favourite hobbies is - and I quote - `bumming men'. And I don't think it is, is it?"
My jaw dropped as I opened up my phone to discover the truth of her report - and more appalling filth besides.
Bloody technology. Bloody kids.