The history of school technology: Part 1

Dave Forshaw

Dave is the head teacher of Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School, Sports College. Latest Ofsted report rated Cardinal Heenan's curriculum as "outstanding". Dave regulary talks at educational conferences, sharing his experiences, war stories and humour with like-minded school leaders.

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As I sit here in my office, the head of a large all boys comprehensive, it’s easy to look back at the days free from National Curriculum, massive testing, APP’s, league tables and Ofsted and think how stress free those days were and how free I was to prepare my lessons in any way I saw fit.

Oh yes, walking into school knowing that my imaginative English lessons could be a riot of inventiveness that delighted the students into obedience. And then I hit the text book, filled with pages and pages defining nouns, adjectives and adverbs in dull, black print. Chapters from stories that no-one had heard of and, least of all, of any interest to inner city, Liverpool boys who had never been fox-hunting or to Corfu. Worst of all, you moved from boring text book level one to rigor mortis text book level 5 with nothing else really available until……… along came the banda machine, a revolutionary device designed to liven up any lesson. And what was this technological breakthrough? Well, its main components were: a large drum with a handle; a compartment into which you poured ink; large sheets of paper covered with film which was attached to carbon paper. You filled the drum, attached your sheets of hand-written, innovative lesson planning to the drum, then turned the handle and, miraculously, you had thirty copied sheets of hand-written lesson which you handed out to the awe-struck students individually. There were, however, a couple of drawbacks: the ink, if still fresh, would smudge the sheets into illegibility and cover the students, and your, hands; the success of the sheet depended entirely on the legibility of your handwriting and, if you were very brave and typed your sheet, you could never be sure that the carbon sheet would align with the top sheet, so you had a hand-out that was at 45 degrees.

Next, we had the overhead projector. It was a frightening invention because you needed  electricity to use it. You had to plug it in and the bulb lit. Then you placed further hand-written acetate sheets onto its surface and the writing or drawings were beamed onto a screen or wall to the delight of the students and you. But for some this was too much technology and far too risky. What was wrong with text books? Why was the purity of the profession being diluted by this new fangled device? Until one day the penny dropped, you could actually put what was in the text books on to the overhead projector. You could copy or type swathes of pages from the text books and beam them on to a screen or onto the banda sheets. Joy abounded.


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