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30th January 2009 at 00:00
Let's Bring back the board rubber

I appreciate the perks of the cyber-revolution in teaching, but I have experienced one clear drawback: the amount of stuff that can now go wrong in lessons. In days of yore, when teachers were armed with their chalk, board rubber and extensive subject knowledge, little could deter them from imparting wisdom.

Now, with an increasing pressure to incorporate ICT in the classroom, every lesson becomes a potential minefield for disaster. Can you access your email? Will PowerPoint open? Does the disk-drive work properly? Why won't the speakers work? I can't find the pen for the interactive whiteboard.

The most annoying thing is that it is nigh-on impossible to anticipate these hazards and head them off. They can even sneak up on an unsuspecting teacher in the middle of the lesson, after cunningly lulling them into a false sense of security. The cyber-wizard pupils can smell technophobia. Incapacity and panic tickles them. Any disruption is fun, but especially when a teacher swears under their breath and pulls hopelessly at the wires.

Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that some teachers are reluctant to embrace ICT with open arms. This is especially true if they do not have the luxury of their own classroom. When I was in this position, it got so ridiculous at one point that I had to note down what was wrong in every room I taught in so that I catered for any malfunctions in my planning. It became almost like a game, albeit a rubbish one.

The cherry on the cake came when I was teaching in a computer room next to the ICT support room. Inevitably something went wrong and I popped my head in for some support (funnily enough). I explained that I was next door and needed a hand with the network. Without looking up, the technician replied: "Yeah, you'll have to email us about that." I was fuming, absolutely fuming.

Liz McMahon is an English teacher in London.

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