Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Facebook nostalgia

I'm starting to see photos on Facebook of other people's classrooms as my students find other places to go. I recognise the phonological charts, and the work on the walls and the writing on the whiteboard look familiar, but I'm actually not sure which of the people in the picture apart from my old student is the teacher. In my case, at my age, it would be obvious.

I was at Hardacre Collage a long time. When I arrived there was one computer in our workroom, an Amstrad. In the language lab, which was some cassette players and  a reel-to-reel console at the teacher's desk, there was a BBC Micro B. You fed a big floppy disk into it, bolted a stable door, and after certain arcane operations, you could play 'language games' on it that tended to go ponk-ponk when you put the right word in. The language lab was much more fun for everyone because you could listen in to your students doing drills and then give correction through their headphones. Tape: lovely day - tag question. Student: laflee day no? You: Lovely day, isn't it? Student: Agh! You: Sorry! Student: laflee day sorry?

I was there when they 'rolled out the network'. It was piecemeal and patchwork, and certain corridors got it much later than others. Consequently I was there when my manager was greeted from the door by the Vice Principal, who was holding a sheaf of papers. "Good morning. These are your emails," he said. At about the same time I learned something called Wordstar. This was not a spacecraft for language teachers, sadly, but a wordprocessing editor. Much later I had a computer on my desk which brought me imperious commands and strange new bureaucracies. The desktop was no longer a dark green screen, it had a picture from the holidays, and you could use the Marquee screensaver to tell everyone in red letters what you thought of the fact that it was Friday. Now everyone's desktop carries the same corporate image that you can't personalise.

I was there when Estates and Maintenance got walkie-talkies. Now they hardly seem to use them except to say 'yep OK' into when someone squawks. What fun they had at first though. They said things like 'roger' and 'copy' and 'come back'. I always wanted someone called Roger to be sent to Reprographics and then to return. I did witness two people talking to each other so intently in correct walkie-talkyese that they nearly bumped into each other. On one occasion John's mate wanted to know where he was. It went like this. John's mate: Squawk squawk squawk John? John: I'm on my way to Health and Beauty. John's mate: Hurr hurr squawk squawk hurr hurr! John Speak for yourself.

Then it came thick and fast: data projectors, calling your late students on their mobiles (amusing for their classmates when you said "Sorry, did I wake you up?") Then there was using the internet to show people what a gooseberry was. And thank God for YouTube. No more laboriously transcribing Bob Dylan, Alicia Keyes could be there with you in the room, the words scrolling around her. No longer did we all have to be content with telling each other what we did at the weekend, we could show each other our video clips.

So perhaps it's just as well that, now they have closed us down, we can see pictures of each other on Facebook - those of us that can write, use a computer and get hold of one, and have the time.

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