ICT - When new turns to old

20th January 2012 at 00:00
Technology's role in the future is a discussion for the present

If you once spent hours typing code into a BBC Basic, or recall when shopping for computer games involved browsing through cassette tapes, you will know how technology has progressed in the past 25 years. When I was 12, lessons in workplace technology would have involved understanding the mechanics of a typewriter and instructions on how to open a bottle of Tipp-Ex.

So, when I am teaching pupils how to use today's software and hardware, I wonder if they will look back with nostalgic humour.

In response to "What's the point of ICT, Sir?", I explain just how integral a part of their life technology is and how that will only increase. But how best to prepare them for this? Should we make an educated guess about what future technology will look, sound and feel like? We ask students to spell correctly when they type, but in future they may dictate communications to their office technology, in which case their keyboard and mouse will become obsolete. We teach them paper document design, while being aware at the same time that the rise of digital tablets may also render this body of knowledge pointless.

Should we discuss with them the possibility that, within their lifetime, technology may become "aware", that Kurzweil's "technological singularity" may be reached and the rights of "artificial intelligences" may need to be considered? And by not talking about the possibility, are we creating the same level of ignorance that caused so many problems in earlier times?

The problem is that students are unable - understandably - to comprehend technology beyond their own time. I juxtaposed a cine film camera from the early 1970s (the size of a shoebox, with 10 minutes' recording time) against my smartphone (hours of recording time, the size of, er, a smartphone). The students laughed and asked whether the old camera was used to film dinosaurs. But equally, they cannot imagine the technological possibilities of the future or how they may be affected by them.

All we can do is raise awareness of what may change and work with what we have. After all, we do not have a crystal ball either. If the technology of the future outstrips their understanding, they will have to follow the example of so many of today's adults - by asking a nine-year-old.

Matt Tipton teaches secondary ICT at Madeley Academy in Telford

What else?

See what other schools are doing to define an ICT vision of the

Future on Teachers TV.

As early as the 1920s, writers of literature imagined a future world sustained by robotic technology. Experiment with robots in the classroom by using Irobyn's Bee-Bot lesson plan and activities or QCDA_Resources' collection of floor-turtle tasks.

The days of bulky BBC Basic are but a distant memory. For a fun coding activity using Scratch, try kevinbertman's tutorial.

In the forums

Teachers share ideas for generating games. One teacher asks for examples of Scratch projects, so why not share yours?

Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources018.

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