The classroom panopticon effect

This was supposed to be a response to the best and worst of educational technology, But ended up a ramble.

In 1999 I was in my 3rd year at a high school that despite having a couple of tennis courts, swimming pools and various state of the art drama/music rooms somehow only managed to fund a single computing suite with machines running Windows 3.1.   In your 3rd year at high school your parents are called in by different tutors to discuss how you are doing in their class and the possibilities of you picking it as a subject for GCSE . Despite the school refusing to believe that computers had a place in the future, that Windows versions past 3.1 were clearly unnecessary and there actually being no I.T options to pick, I was dreading my parents seeing my I.T tutor.

All I remember from the I.T classes at this the school at been to “press the B button in word to make the writing ‘blacker'”, and so, finding myself already using the ‘blackest’ of colours available very early in the lesson, I spent most of the class doing things outside of classroom activities. The activity I remember most is using an old program I discovered called Crocodile Clips, I could design and simulate circuits and it usually ended up with me working out how many batteries I needed to blow up 45 bulbs. I also remember poking the filesystem somewhat, my first introduction to SMB sharing support also gave my an insight to security as I found various files and directory that, according to the filenames, I shouldn’t have access to.

I did lots of things on those machines, most of which I may have forgotten, but I guess they still laid the foundations for future hobbies, education and eventually career. I always made sure that the tutor never caught me, I sat at the back and would switch to a word processing program whenever he came over, the mouse hovering over the bold button. When parents evening came and he saw my parents my fears were realised, Sir has spotted me doing things out of the set activities. To my surprise he was very impressed, he said I spent all my time exploring the system, pushing it as far as I could without doing any damage. He told my parents that they were upgrading to a better operating system and I wouldn’t be able to poke around the files anymore.

I was surprised to have been caught, I was so careful! I was even more surprised I didn’t get in trouble. I don’t know how I was caught, but knowing the eyes could be there, I never poked about again. Though that new operating system looked really fun..