E-mail viruses ate my essay;Opinion

30th April 1999 at 01:00
A COUPLE of weeks ago I made some disparaging comments about the Internet. That was before I had been on it. Since then I've been on once, but haven't done anything remotely educational. Thus I cannot report on whether my views were justified or not.

What I did was to try a couple of searches. First, I tried "Triumph Herald" and got on to my car club's website. Then, rather more egotistically, I put in "Gregor Steele". Unfamiliar with search methods, I soon discovered that any websites where Gregor or Steele figured were listed as a result of this query.

There were 2,000. Perhaps one of them had something to do with me. I gave up after number 17 looked like it was going to be an online dirty bookshop.

Egomania was satisfied by going to The TES Scotland page, clicking on "archive" and browsing through some of my old articles. This was the electronic equivalent of flicking through the piles of photo albums containing cuttings, known in my family - as I think I've said before, but feel free to surf and prove it - as "big heid books".

Many years ago, the Xerox photocopier company, anticipating the paperless office, did a lot of work on computer operating systems that would be easy to use. Their engineers used babies as their inspiration, realising that the simplest way a human could request something was to point at it. Thus the windows, icons, menus and pointers (WIMP) operating system was born. The paperless office has yet to happen. Maybe it never will.

I doubt if we will have a paperless learning environment in the near to middle-distant future. When we do, and all homework is e-mailed to teachers, a whole new range of excuses will have to be dreamed up for its non-appearance.

"I was at my gran's for the weekend and her modem's broke"; "It got eaten by a virus"; "My baby brother saved a paintfile over it"; "My Psion series 25 was in my trackie-bottoms pocket and my mother washed them."

How will pupils do punishment exercises? Lines are out as every decent word-processor has a replication or cut and paste feature. Reprobates will be able to choose from a massive library of standard essays on topics such as "Why I should not interrupt the teacher when she is online".

You think this is far-fetched? Archived somewhere is a piece I did predicting problems with pupils who brought mobile phones to school. Look it up and see if I got that right.

Gregor Steele would like to set up a Phil Harrass web page.

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