Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How history matters

This is my contribution to the "One Day in History" campaign. Organised by History Matters, the idea is to get as many people as possible to write about how history influenced their day today. These blogs will be stored by the British Library so that people in the future can see what life was like on the 17th October 2006.

Interestingly enough, one of the first things I looked at today was a piece of history. One of the subscribers to my newsletter, Dr John Cuthell (that's the name of the subscriber, not the newsletter), who runs the Virtual Learning website, recently sent me a copy of an article he'd had published in the Times Educational Supplement back in 1996. It's entitled "Teachers lag behind their students", and talks about the skills gap between teachers and their students (with the latter ahead, of course), and wondering what to do in school with the multi-tasking students who have better equipment at home than in school. So, if I hadn't mentioned the date, would you have even realised it was a historical document?

I was also due to go to Liverpool this evening for a conference tomorrow. I had been invited to attend free of charge by the local ICT Adviser, Paul Bradshaw, whom I met at Alan November's Building Online Communities in Boston in 2005. The conference features keynotes by Will Richardson, whom I met at the same conference and at NECC a couple of months ago; Ruth Hammond, for whom I worked as a consultant on Becta's "Safeguarding Children in a Digital World" document; and Mike Rumble, who works for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (for which I also worked about 5 year ago), and who I've known for ages anyway, through the subject association called Naace, of which I am now Chair. And oh yes: I myself attended the University of Liverpool to read for my Bachelor's degree. (I have to say that, until I just wrote all that, I hadn't consciously realised just how entwined our personal histories can be.)

As it happens, I had cancelled my attendance at the conference because I wanted to allow time to discuss issues following a meeting I had booked today with Jim Knight, a Member of Parliament and recently appointed as the Schools Minister. The historical connection there, I think, is that had it not been for people like Oliver Cromwell, who challenged the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, no member of Parliament would have wished to meet with anyone to discuss computers in education. He had to cancel at the last minute, though, and so the meeting has had to be rescheduled.

So, a fair amount of today related to my own "history", and a little of it was related to my country's history. However, I also feel part of the creation of a new history. Today I spoke, courtesy of Skype and some pretty inexpensive technology, to Barbara Sawhill, who is ne of the contributors to the 2nd edition of "Coming of Age: An Introduction to the NEW Worldwide Web". While I was talking to her, Miles Berry, who contributed to the original edition, came online and wanted to have a conversation. And then, a few minutes later, Steve Dembo, yet another contributor, appeared. International conversations by voice and text, a book created by over 40 people in several countries -- this would have been virtually impossible even 5 years ago, if not technically then financially.

However, I have to say that to some extent things are unreliable. Today my main email provider, Easynet, had a major power outage for the first time since I started using them, around 11 or 12 years ago, with the result that I have had a relatively email-free day. I suppose that, being so rare, both the power outage and the cessation of the relentless flood of emails are historical events in their own right!

I should imagine that anyone reading this on the 17th October 2206, the date mentioned in the Daily Telegraph today, will wonder how we manage to cope with such crude technology -- much in the same way that I marvel that people 200 years ago thought they were doing well if they managed to travel 20 miles in a single day. All I can say is this: you might have all the gizmos under the sun coming out of your ears (or more likely embedded in your ears), but just remember: we were the pioneers!

This blog will also be posted on my own website, http://www.ictineducation.org.

1 comment:

Will said...

Sorry you missed it Terry...was looking forward to seeing you.