Why the future really is orange

WHENEVER I am hit by an unanticipated repair bill I try to salvage something by writing an article about it. Unfortunately my attempt to weave a tortuous analogy between my recently-

deceased P166 computer, a new science course, my new AMD K6 midi-tower system and 5-14 environmental studies has failed. As did my patience after reinstalling Windows 98 for the fourth time.

Computers are now a classroom essential, and anyone who has not found a way to enhance an aspect of their teaching using ICT simply hasn't looked.

Having said that, beware the next major pain in the posterior. Remember the people who produced fancy multi-size, multi-font-text handouts when Apple Macs hit schools? A triumph of style over readability, if you ask me. Well, these same guys and dolls have a new toy and if you haven't come across it yet, you soon will.

"It" is the Powerpoint presentation. Powerpoint is a computer package that lets you, the user, create PC slide shows. If you have access to one of those smart projectors that hooks up to a laptop, so much the better. You can then point powerfully at a much larger audience.

This is the future: every class will have such equipment. Overhead projectors, video machines and tape players are on their way out. Multimedia lessons, once prsented, may be stored or e-mailed home to pupils to be gone over again. A revolution is beginning and there will be genuine benefits.

In the meantime, beware the enthusiastic amateur with more technical ability than taste. If you thought that a handout with 16 different typefaces in assorted sizes and styles was head-nipping, then look away now. The Powerpoint presentation has all this and more. We're talking full colour with animation. Brightly-hued text drops from the top of the screen, or races in from the side.

I am sure that fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Sixties LSD dabblers will feel right at home.

Everyone else should bring shades to their next in-service day and set aside time for a wee lie down with the curtains drawn.

Or you could do what I did and be there, too. So far I've made up three presentations. Though to me they are exemplary in their taste and restraint, to captive audiences they may well be eyeball-busting. It's the same old story of teacher teach thyself.

Learning the technicalities of a computer package is possible, if not easy, for most. Aesthetics (in cerise against a lime green thatch background) is less so (yellow, sliding in from top right).

Gregor Steele's first presentation featured a rude joke about a cat.

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