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Tyranny of the super printer

In the beginning was the Banda - the steam train of reprographics. We were all addicted to our Monday morning muscle flex fix.

The maths department used standard black carbons. The biology department was more ambitious - red for arteries and blue for veins. Some of us developed skilful techniques for adjustment of the pressure settings to achieve an envious run-off of a two-class supply of our latest handwritten worksheet.

Next there was a brief and alarming emergence of the power-operated Gestetner machine. You needed technical skill and obliviousness to the occasional lost digit to operate this one. It tended to be guarded jealously by the head of the metalwork department, who had somehow developed a stunning mastery of its myriad settings and intricately plumbed ink flow.

After aeons of time a mightier master of our reprographic world arrived.

Imagine life without the photocopier. How many of us have developed a sad addiction to it? Teachers need to be aware of the side-effects of this mesmerising machine.

Waiting in the queue behind a geography teacher can be highly stressful - the panic that ensues when this wonder of technology swallows up your neatly-typed master and refuses to regurgitate it. Yes, it is sad, but many of us are signing up for therapy.

So what is the latest challenge on the horizon? Heed the rise of the interactive whiteboard, connected to its dedicated printer.

You must not give them all the same worksheet. It is personalised learning time. The pupils need to make their own individualised worksheet.

Teachers of the future will need a PhD in printer technology. Your classroom, once a haven of controlled movement, now resembles King's Cross Station in the rush hour as pupils dash to retrieve their personalised copies.

Why should pupils come to school? Let them download their own chosen worksheet in the privacy of their bedrooms. Maybe we could take home our personalised laptop. Whatever are we doing here? Technology has moved on - but is it progress ?

Marlene Griffin Marlene Griffin is head of biology at Hitchin girls'school in Hertfordshire. Feeling aggrieved? Write us a 400-word Sounding Off and get paid as you grumble. Send it to

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