About The Author.
IMy name is Ian Hutchinson and I have been teaching for twenty years after having trained at Nottingham University, English and Drama P.G.C.E. ( Any of my group reading this please get in touch.) I taught in three schools in Sussex before moving to Nottinghamshire in 1993.
When I first started, I spent many frustrating and yet strangely happy hours, struggling to master the BBC Micro, covered with dust on its own little trolley in the corner of the classroom. We had a collection of floppy discs which included some stunning spelling games and a word processing programme that students couldn't be bothered to learn ( no change there then). Printing something off required fiddling with the back of the printer to alter a series of dip switches with the aid of a pencil, in order to print out different fonts and formats. To someone who had spent hours at college working on multi-coloured bandas in order to impress his course tutor, this rudimentary technology was fascinating. Yes, I did say banda machine and yes it was in this decade.The most impressive piece of software however was called "Bomb", or something like that, and involved a simulation of a press room on a day when an I.R.A. bomb had exploded in Hyde Park and students had to work as a team to produce the day's headline and frontpage. The computer controlled when the time delayed press statements spewed forth from the printer and even now I can see the excitement with which each new bulletin was ripped off the printer and handed out to the expectant teams. I would go so far as to say that this was only possible through using a computer. It gave the whole exercise a tension and dynamism that would be missing if I had managed the whole exercise. By the way, if anyone knows of this programme and has details of a modern copy that will run on Win95 then I would be eternally grateful and would be willing to swap my entire catalogue of material
Only a year later I was introduced to an Amstrad Word Processor. Again I spent many hours sat puzzling over why the printer wasn't working properly or how to stop the machine having a sudden fit and not formatting my worksheet properly. A very complicated and yet flexible D.T.P. package allowed me to design my own worksheets, complete with images, and churn them off on a dot-matrix printer.What made the frustration all worthwhile was that I could by pass the office and design my own materials with a degree of professionalism. It was about this time that I began to notice that it was becoming increasingly rare for a teacher to hand write a letter to a parent!
Over the next few years I wandered from the path of techno-enlightenment, becoming a Head Of Drama and struggling to get to grips with the complexities of lighting rigs and videos was more than enough. I actually became very cynical for quite a time as the shine put on in college wore off and the government proceeded to knock us about at every opportunity.
The advent of Windows 95 however meant that I realised that things had become a lot more uniform and the computer industry was standardised enough to give some measure of certainty ( all thanks to Bill ! ) So I took the plunge and invested in a 386 running Win 3.11. Stop laughing ! Yes I know!
After trying to squeeze Win95 on to it and realising that upgrading it to a 486 was not possible, I got to grips with the computers at school and the rest is where I am now!
When it came to working with ICT in the classroom, I realised that I had to take the plunge at some point. Yes, things are changing very fast, but there is a measure of consistency that means that provided you make sure the equipment can do the job that you expect it to, then it will be fine for a number of years and you don't have to worry about obsolescence. Another thing to consider is that today's wonder kit will still be fantastic in a year's time, and as it becomes superseeded by better equipment, it becomes much cheaper. Put these two elements together and it seems time to buy a computer. I think it's also worth working closely with your IT Co-ordinators to try for one "state of the art" machine which is used by the whole school and can be upgraded as a sort of example of the ideal. If you are willing to put in the time and effort and lead the drive for innovation ,you will find that many are happy to let you get on with it, and the Creative Arts end up leading the way for innovative use of ICT. For further info on this see Using Technology In The Drama Classroom.
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