My love affair with technology

6th June 2008 at 01:00
The computer arrived in school to almost total indifference more than 20 years ago, when I was a newly qualified teacher
The computer arrived in school to almost total indifference more than 20 years ago, when I was a newly qualified teacher. Everyone wondered what to do with it at first, a problem quickly and effectively solved by putting it in a cupboard and ignoring it. So languished this cutting-edge piece of technology until curiosity got the better of me and I took it home for a closer look.

Using the principle of "if I shove the wires into enough sockets and press the buttons enough times, it will eventually work", I was awash with heady excitement when eventually I typed in "loadgo" and it burst into life. It's hard to imagine now, but I played happily for hours finding the correct change from 10p for a balloon or a toy dog.

So began my love affair with technology. But I admit the quality of teaching wasn't great. When I launched the notion of "playing" on the computer with my hugely enthusiastic class of 10-year-olds, I quickly discovered that they knew more about it than I did.

It seems extraordinary now to recall that, some years ago, many schools were given loads of equipment by government or business communities, the cost of which would probably have wiped out third-world debt. However, it didn't always come with training, and many opportunities were wasted in those early days.

I realised how far we had come last week, when one of our newly qualified teachers came to chat to me about making a short film on citizenship, written and directed by the children. Wouldn't it be a good idea to show it on the website, they asked?

The journey to such technological advance hasn't all been plain sailing. Before buying classroom computers, we had the bright idea of turning cloakrooms into computer suites. Unfortunately, too much time was wasted walking there and back, and sometimes classes would find the computers or printers weren't working. It's still frustrating when there are technical problems, which always seem to occur just as the technician has left. And yes, whiteboards still give up at crucial moments.

But these problems pale into insignificance compared with the excitement of video conferencing, viewing children's short animations, reading their blogs, listening to podcasts, or seeing the projects they have researched on the internet.

We educate pupils in a world of rapid change. We prepare them for a future it is difficult to imagine, except that it is likely to continue to involve the speedy communication of masses of information. It is important, therefore, to enable children to learn the skills needed to access this world and foster the independent thinking needed to grow and develop within it.

As for me, I still find each new technological development as exciting as when I switched on my first computer.

Sue Robinson, Headteacher of Cherry Orchard School, Birmingham.

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