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The Retro Tech Revolution

The Internet, Smartphones, Ipads and social media are all beneficial but can cause a distraction too. In her first blog, Theresa found how she could write without being tempted to wander.

Connectivity is wonderful. Today, we can connect with other people all around the world at the click of a button or swipe of a screen. We can do our shopping online, buying whatever we want whenever we want. We can even have it delivered in record time, all without very much effort at all on our part. Technology has transformed my job as a teacher, making it easier to connect and share experiences, pedagogy and resources. Technology can be transformative in the classroom too, providing learners with experiences that they would not have been able to access in the pre-technology era.
Technology does however, have its drawbacks. Given the level of convenience afforded by the internet, it could be argued that we risk becoming lazy, impatient and easily distracted. It could also be argued that we are risking losing touch with reality with many people being unable to distinguish between real and fake news. Even more worryingly, a recent report from the National Literacy Trust claims that only 2% of children can actually tell if a news story is real or fake (1).

As educators, we are all aware of pupils who are often left to their own devices online by well-meaning parents and, in the process, find themselves exposed to a variety of unsuitable material. Too often, vulnerable young people are exposed to the dark side of the Internet and risk damage to their mental health and/or physical wellbeing. The ubiquitous mobile phone has brought parental peace of mind alongside unfortunate issues such as online bullying via communication apps and, of course, the constant presence of a tempting distraction – the Internet. We have all seen the clips of people checking their mobile phones and walking into lamp posts (2)!

In a bold move against such diversions and dangers, some schools are beginning to rethink their use of technology: Michaela Community School in London has encouraged parents to reconsider giving their children smart phones and instead purchase old-style ‘brick phones’ (3). And an Australian school has recently hit the news by ‘dumping their Ipads’ and replacing them with textbooks (4) . Whilst these may be controversial moves, a quick Internet search will bring up plenty of research papers and articles which suggest that good old fashioned paper may be better than screens after all (5).

I can say from personal experience that resisting the presence of the Internet is a challenge that I am yet to overcome. I can’t count the times that I have sat at the computer screen to complete a school related task and found myself watching yet another episode of Supernatural – those Winchesters! Which brings me to my ‘new’ technology purchase (nothing to do with the Winchesters – unfortunately). I have intended to write, and submit, a blog for some time but I keep finding myself browsing Ebay (other Internet auction sites are available), looking at books which I could purchase to add to my already towering ‘To Be Read Pile’ or watching the aforementioned Winchesters. The distractions are too many and too easily accessible.

Recently, after yet another unproductive hour of distraction, I decided that there must be a better way! Ironically, in an idle moment, whilst I was attempting to write a blog or plan a lesson or some such, I came across astrohaus’ Freewrite (6).

THIS, I thought is the answer. What a marvel! I could sit and write and, as long as I left my smartphone in the other room, I would be free from the tyranny of the Internet. My mind ran through the uses it would have in school for both myself and my pupils. Distraction-free, less-is-more, what an idea! Sadly, however, this beautifully designed tool is way out of my price range. Then I discovered the Alphasmart range. The Alphasmart 2000, 3000, Dana, Neo and Neo2, all offer a distraction-free writing experience and, as the technology is not new, at a very affordable price. I tracked one down and ordered it pdq.

Within thirty minutes of the arrival of my Alphasmart 3000, I had produced this blog in draft form. I had not looked at any online shopping sites or book sellers nor had I watched any Supernatural. I had simply typed. The screen shows only four lines of text at once, it offers a simple spell check, basic formatting and not an awful lot else. Once your text is finished, you do have to brave the lure of the internet and upload it into Word (or similar) but, as the bulk of the work has been done at this point, the lure of the internet seems less strong somehow!

Whilst I would not part with my smart phone, my laptop, PC nor smart TV, there are plenty of occasions when I really do need to concentrate on one task and having a piece of technology that enables me to do so is fantastic. I can foresee a retro revolution in the very near future and, while we wait for it to arrive, I am off to watch Supernatural.

  1. (Accessed April 2019)
  2. (Accessed April 2019)
  3. (Accessed April 2019)
  4. (Accessed April 2019)
  5. (Accessed April 2019)

6. (Accessed April 2019)

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The author

Theresa has been teaching for twenty years and has experience of teaching in both Key Stages 1 and 2. Currently, Theresa teaches Years 5 & 6 (which are her favourite year groups to teach), alongside being joint Deputy Head and studying for a Master’s degree in Education. In her spare time, what little there is of it, she likes to read books (made of paper), follow interesting people on Twitter and chill with her pets. Theresa is a graduate of the Open University and is committed to life-long learning. She has a particular interest in curriculum design; social justice in education and evidence-based practice. Theresa would love to engage in dialogue with fellow educators via Twitter.

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