2020 Vision

23 Feb

It’s just over 11 years since October 1997 when we (me and my 2 littlies at that time) got ourselves connected with our first dial-up modem. There’s 10 years between Sprog1 and Sprog 3. It’s another 11 years til 2020, which seems to be a popular year in technology and education chatterspeak to pin a “vision” on. So here and now I’m fairly well placed, chronologically anyway, to ponder this half-way stage.

1997 was a fine year, Microsoft saved Apple, Intel released the Pentium II, Deep Blue beat Kasparov and on September 15th the domain google.com was registered. We weren’t quite “in on the ground” me and mine, but the kids were just 2 and a half and 10 months old when I unpacked my shiny new Packard Bell so it’s fair to say they’ve grown up with access to an online PC and it illicits no awe from them whatsoever… unlike me. Despite years working in IT I’m still constantly awed by it all, for me the only thing that beats the smell of new PC is new baby.

When I started working in 1986 we had one PC for our whole department of 50 people. I was one of the few willing to use it and it doubled my workload, as well as filing and indexing on card I had to index onto a database. By 1991 I’d mastered the wee PS/2 beastie, dropped out of university and got myself a place on the IT Graduate training scheme in the same company. This was actually a backwards step as I embarked on a COBOL career. By the time I’d had my first two kids and returned to work in 1997 everyone in the building had a PC on their desk and I was working in PC support. 1997 was also the year it became affordable for me (single parent – part-time worker – mortgage – car – love of wine)  to own a home PC. Moore’s Law and my disposable income finally coincided.

By the time Sprog 1 and 2 reached school age they were proficient with the mouse from playing matching games, could open, close and minimise applications and were sadly, way too familair with the Microsoft red box of death. They videoconferenced with and emailed their grandparents in Canada, recorded MIDI files of themselves singing and created digital art with CorelDraw. I had high hopes that this, let’s be honest here, cheap technology would be abundant in schools and my children would be the first generation of digital natives. They’d be the ones for who technology would be so commonplace they’d see all this wonderful “stuff” for what it really is – just a tool.  You can imagine my disappointment when they were amongst the children singled out as undeserving of PC time as they had access to one at home. My older two’s experience of technology in their primary education amounted to the replacement of black boards with white boards, 2 lessons on how to use Powerpoint and one on how to use Excel. There were over 1200 people in my office and by 1997 they all had a PC, another 10 years on there were, at most, 2 or 3 in each class of 30 children. Now in 2009 my son in S1 estimates he has access to a PC for around 90 minutes a week. Half of that is his computing class, half his English class, I think we can discount his English experience as atypical because MrW is the poor boy‘s teacher (or poor MrW is the boy’s teacher – depends who’s in a mood).

laptopSprog 3 will probably be sucked into the education system this year. Not only can he use a mouse he can check his online status, navigate his own bookmarks, logon to Club Penguin and UpToTen, start Word and type his name. He can load, logon and play several games on various platforms, PS3, PSP, DS and Wii, use the digital camera and navigate the Sky remote which is no mean feat as it’s got no numbers on it. He can make, and end, a Skype call. The only things eluding him at the moment are the iPods and mobile phones. The primary school still has only 2 or 3 PCs per room… it’s going to be even more marked for this one as he’s positively surrounded by the stuff.wii

The realisation that my direct involvement, as a parent, with primary and secondary education (they are on their own for tertiary) is going to run for 24 years from 1999 to 2023 is downright scary. But even more scary is the thought that it won’t change one damn bit more in the the next 11 years than it has in the last 11 years.

I’ve got way too more say on all this but at least I have 11 years to do it in. Maybe my grandchildren will be the natives? Maybe not. I’m taking it upon myself now to teach them Pascal, if Powerpoint is still hanging on in there…. Education 2020.


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