Sneak preview of a brighter future

7th December 2007 at 00:00
The wisdom of Henry Walpole.I'm in a good mood this week. I've been cheered up by my regular viewing of a future-gazing series on BBC4. Unlike most science programmes, which predict dystopian and environmental nightmares, this one tends towards the utopian.

After a long day at school, there is nothing better than hearing that within 20 years we will all live to 150, robots will do all the work and we will spend our time making nice documentary series (notwithstanding the mutterings of "Bullshit!" emerging from Mrs Walpole at the other end of the sofa).

So what have teachers got to look forward to? According to the Department for Children, Schools and Families, schools of the future "will provide flexible accommodation for different models of curriculum delivery and space that enable teachers to get the most out of the time they are guaranteed for preparation, planning and assessment". In other words, a load of new buildings with huge windows and more money wasted on interactive whiteboards. But I see a much brighter future.

Most news programmes have ditched in-depth news coverage in favour of dumbed-down interactive contributions from the public. "We've asked you to text in your views on the cultural hegemony of the US in the Middle East. Dave from Tottenham has texted in to say it's 'not gr8'. Thanks Dave. Next up: a seance with Edward Said's ghost to see what he thinks." Could this work for schools? Maybe lessons in the future will need no planning. Instead, children can text you what they want to learn about as they enter the room. It's all about promoting independent learning.

I can see a time when teachers access text analysis software to aid them with marking. Imagine: you could feed a pile of exercise books into a scanner, which the computer would read, compare with internet-linked databases, take a sample of genetic material from the page and use it to calculate age-adjusted, value-added relative to the child's DNA. Then it would print "Good effort" in wobbly red ink at the bottom of every page.

It has always been every primary teacher's boast to have eyes in the back of their head. Maybe with our future ability to manipulate genetic code, we could actually grow an extra set. Or how about a third arm so you could continue to drink coffee on break duty while the other two arms hold apart those two brawling Year 4 boys? Hell, I'm going on strike until I'm cybernetically modified with a pair of robot laser eyes to disintegrate unruly pupils.

Before I head off to work in my personal jetpack, I should warn you that there may be some downsides. School dinners may become colourless astronaut-style slop, squeezed unappealingly on to plastic trays. As part of my early contribution to an interactive future, please fill in your own punchline at ...

More from Henry in a fortnight.

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