Why can't technology be my best friend?

28th September 2007 at 01:00

Baljinder Mahal is ICT co-ordinator at a Derby primary school.

It seems there is a long-standing joke that ICT has come to mean "I can't teach". But, with some competency in this area, I have concluded that this joke is rubbish and so, frankly, is its teaching in some schools.

I'll make it clear that while I have tried my best to become friends with the subject, it has an unerring tendency to be contrary. Sometimes it tells me I'm doing something illegal; more often it chooses to freeze. I call this "ICT harassment". But I am grateful for small mercies. I count myself lucky that I haven't yet drowned in a puddle of tears. Other teachers, however, have not proved so fortunate.

The following are accounts of harassment from members of an anonymous group. Names have been changed to protect their identities: Mrs Would: primary teacher: "It all began when my pre-loaded web page on speech marks crashed the network. Even after six minutes of saying, `Children, keep your fingers crossed,' I was forced to resort to using a marker and wipe-board as a teaching aid. My children were horrified and I felt incompetent for a long time! My ICT anonymous group has put me right, though, and says technology in schools can and does go wrong!"

Mrs Falaffel: secondary teacher: "I've complained to my headteacher about my printer obstructing speedy workflow. I wouldn't mind so much but at times of extreme urgency when we staff have to hand in assessment hard copies, the printer deliberately goes slower." She is convinced her printer is trying to get her into trouble.

We use computers to make learning and teaching more effective, but when they turn against us the consequences are saddening. The Government is highlighting concerns with its technology agency, Becta. Its survey on what is provided in schools reveals that the trouble with technology is technology itself the lack of technicians, funding and accessibility.

This is little consolation to Mr Apathy, a Year 1 primary teacher scarred not only by repeated software training but also accusations of murdering the logo turtles. Last year, when Mr Apathy realised that a turtle had died in the middle of a three-point turn, he braved logging the complaint in an incident book. Now being considered as the prime suspect for the murder, he has lost all faith in ICT, co-ordinators, technicians, equipment. "We have other things to do apart from make ICT malfunction, you know!" he cries.

Members of the anonymous group implore educators to make a stand against harassment if not for their own sake, then for the pupils'. If things don't change, they warn, the blackboard and chalk will have to be summoned. If you feel you have been the victim of harassment, you are not alone. Talk to someone but preferably not the ICT co-ordinator!

Baljinder Mahal is author of The Queen's Hinglish: How To Speak Pukka (Collins)

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