Innovate in schools or die of boredom

I have discovered that I have a shorter attention span and lower boredom threshold than even my students. I blame the Internet for this as, via the Web, I can sate my curiosity and learn as much as I want to about a subject incredibly quickly and easily.

The effect of this has been to speed up my learning while at the same time leaving me anxious for the next novelty fix in shorter and shorter periods. I am sure many of you out there are in a similar position.

Worst affected has been my attitude to computer-related innovations. For example take smartphones. Yes I am grateful for the technology that brought me wireless communication whether it be voice or text or web and I like a screen big enough to read anything from.

But does anyone over the age of 12 really get excited about the latest phone or tablet? Thinner, thicker, 5” 7”,” 10”, marketed like dildos they all do the same and work the same... as the patent wars testify.

In this state of mind I was casting around for something novel in educational computing to write about. I peeked at Edugeek for inspiration but even there, dedicated old stalwart Grumlbledook was struggling to get going on Internet filtering for schools.

In desperation I went to the shops to look at the Linux magazines which once I avidly bought but eventually tired of reading about Ubuntu’s browness. They were featuring the Nexus 7 ... a 7” Android tablet which will no doubt be up against a 7” Apple tablet ... yawn.

But yonder is that Maplins? I’ll just pop in and have a look.

And then I hit ‘paydirt’ as our US cousins may have said once. So in the modern argot ‘I threw the dog into the pond’ and started typing - full of motivation. OMG! What you will be able to buy soon kids ... it’s brilliant

A Makerbot Replicator 2.0 for only £1340 and a ‘all you need’ Raspberry Pi for £69.99!

Taking the above in reverse order you may ask why the sudden enthusiasm for a low cost Linux computer? The answer is simple. When it was touted as the saviour of school ICT it was as risible as school ICT itself. But I was missing the point, it is kids not schools that will pick up this toy and run with it.

I realised this from the superb Pi coding articles in the Linux mag I bought from the first shop. All you need is a subscription, a Pi a bedroom and the night beckons; gaming, apping, hacking, whatever you want.

It’s a tried and tested model for youthful geekdom. Go to the shops buy a really, really cheap computer and a user mag and off you go.

But it needs a case.

So to the first item, schools really should buy one of these for the Design and Tech ... the Makerbot Replicator. It prints at 100 micron resolution in plastic 3D ... and we can afford one. This is as exciting as the first colour bubble jet printer and 300dpi scanner were all those years ago. The potential for printing in 3D is staggering. It would certainly give twist to the hackneyed school photo as well as case for the naked Pi. In 1989 I paid more for my Laser Jet 4.

What a relief. I will go to January’s BETT 2013 show full of enthusiasm. I will sail past the stands marketing better tracking of students and staff via their browser history or toilet-mounted webcams. I will skip past the biometric advances in school dinner micro-payments and software to catch teachers dodging out at 3pm.

I will not see RM’s massive stand selling Apple Slates (so cool) and 20 yr. old PCs with equal irony stood on their side as ‘cutting edge’ education; I will not hear Microsoft’s headsetted droids blethering on about something that is ‘game-changing in the edusphere’ and I won’t even notice the cretins flogging expensively-lit whiteboards.

Instead I will go and join the crowd in the Open Source area buying discounted Linux and Android Pi’s for £50 and bankrupting themselves with 3D printers whilst a large poster of a benevolent Linus looks down on them.

… and then I woke up to hear Nick Clegg singing ‘I’m so sorry..’ from my radio. I must have been ‘sleep-typing’ again.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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