A little while back, David Hopkins asked a group of educationalists to contribute to a book he was writing on the enabling role that technology plays in our lives. David’s book is now published – click or tap here to get yourself a copy – and, with his permission, reproduced below is my contribution.
Given my manifest interest in educational technology, folks often expect me to own lots of gadgets and to be always up-to-date with the latest smartphone, laptop or what have you. Or perhaps they assume I’m forever ‘staring into’ a screen. In reality, I am the humble owner a single smartphone and that’s about it. I do use a laptop and also a tablet for work, but these are provided by my employer – though I do bring them home almost always. Whether owned by me or by my employer, below is a little run down of the technology I rely on most frequently:
I generally avoid wearables. I am not philosophically opposed to them, I just find that electronic devices can, if their use is left unmonitored, reverse the roles and become our masters, rather than the other way around.
For this reason, the only technology I wear – aside from a wedding band and a leather bracelet that my children presented to me – is my glasses or contact lenses that I use to correct the myopia I developed partly due to some suspect genes and partly due to ‘staring into’ books lots during childhood.
I wear no watch – smart or otherwise – nor do I use fitness trackers. If I need to know the time, and depending on where I am, I just check my smartphone, my laptop’s taskbar or look up at the radio-controlled clock in my classroom.
In my pockets
My clothes have pockets. These allow me to carry a variety of useful tools that allow me to do the things I consider normal in my life. The contents of my pockets are constantly changing, but there are three items that are ever present:
Keyring: On it hang a variety of keys and electronic fobs that allow me entry to my home, car, office and the classrooms where I teach.
Wallet: As well as few coins and the occasional ten-pound note, my wallet stores a selection of contactless smart cards that allow me to travel and shop without having to carry cash with me. Even though I love my brown leather wallet and its understated elegance, I look forward to the day when technology allows me to travel and shop even without it and the cards it carries.
Smartphone: It’s an iPhone 6S Plus. It’s not too big, despite what you might think. It’s perfect. Since I hardly ever make or receive phone calls on it, its size is ideal to carry around in my pockets and communicate with others – via email or social media – or comfortably read books, magazines and newspapers on the go. I even use it to regulate my central heating! I also take most of my photos using it, which are of excellent quality, so I don’t need a separate compact camera. I also use my smartphone as a portable music player, so I don’t own a separate one of those either.
In my briefcase/bag
An elegant tan leather satchel-style briefcase allows me to carry the tools of my trade in comfort. Its contents vary depending on the day or occasion, but the things you will always find there are:
Laptop: My three-year-old MacBook Air 13 inch is the perfect laptop as far as I am concerned. It’s thin, it’s light, it’s powerful and it simply will not run out of juice, even after being put through its paces all day planning lessons, writing or editing media. This means that I don’t have to carry a cable charger with me. Laptop range anxiety is thankfully a thing of the past.
Tablet: My iPad Pro 9 inch is a simply fantastic multipurpose device that I use constantly as my teacher planner, calendar and notebook. With it I read, write, watch, listen and generally learn stuff. It’s my portable interactive whiteboard, camera, e-book reader (thank heavens for the Kindle app) and general repository of teaching and learning resources.
Bits of paper: Exercise books, textbooks, crumpled half-marked essays, post-it notes whose stickiness has long been emasculated by dust and fluff and numerous receipts printed on creased thermal paper faded by the passing of time and forgetfulness to fill in the requisite expenses form. Though I recognise I use less of it these days, I love paper. It’s still the best tool for the job on many occasions. Long may it last.
Green pens: Yes, I mark using green. Bite me!
The combination of reliable fast broadband and an Apple TV means that TV watching is more and more an a-la-carte affair. My children don’t remember a world before on-demand TV and to them the confines and limitations of scheduled live TV are as quaint as recording your music on shiny silver discs.
In terms of future tech, I can’t wait to get rid of my smoke-belching, diesel- chugging dad-taxi and replace it with a nice, clean hybrid or fully electric car. That’s what middle class does to you.
As a keen but rather average photographer, I also own a Canon DSLR camera that I take on holidays, day trips and walks. It does only one job and it’s excellent at it. There’s much to be said for that.