Streaming: the new education policies made visible?

Department for Education home page, 25 May 2010
Department for Education home page on 25 May 2010: streamed from right to left

Not much happening on the new Department for Education website; they must all be too busy setting up free schools, abolishing quangos and the like. Their home page (which still, nearly two weeks into the new government, has the temporary feel that I commented on earlier) prompted my next article for NATE’s English Drama Media magazine. Not published yet – and members only: another reason to join NATE! There is a Twitter feed, to show they’re modern, though (bearing in mind the Prime Minister’s comments on ‘too many twits’, there aren’t many tweets so far and those are anodyne).

The photograph on this page becomes increasingly unsettling the more I look at it. Children are reading books – to resort to the demotic: what’s not to like? Look closer, though, and you see Tory streaming policy in action: right wing girl reads one book, commandeers another (it’s the Matthew Effect). Move left and the girls begin to close their books (closed minds). Left-wing boy can’t read, just suck his thumb – must be destined to be a hewer of wood or drawer of water – no doubt there’s some vocational training that an outsourcing company can devise to keep him busy.

One quango that they have abolished is Becta, the education technology agency. Whilst many classroom teachers might not know much about it, some of us will regret its passing. A keen young teacher wrote to NATE: ‘I’m disgusted by this frankly. If there’s one thing a country of this size and waning political influence needs, it’s surely the wider dimension of learning possibilities that ICT offers the common classroom teacher and pupil. What use is the structural investment without sharing the good practice?’ Another commentator with many years experience as a key player in the application of ICT to English added: ‘The worry is that this actually reveals a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of ICT in schools in general.’ Let us hope not. As the Guardian leader commented: ‘Even if the staff now facing the chop at the Becta agency, which promotes technology in schools, are not deployed as effectively as they might be, they are more useful than they will be if they end up in the dole queue.’

Margaret Atwood loves Twitter

Yes, Margaret Atwood loves Twitter and writes elegantly about the process. Which is the least you’d expect – and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this article first appeared on the New York Review of Books blog, where you can see a photograph of her ‘tweeting aboard the Queen Mary’. She writes how Twitter users are merciless about typos, but also ‘sent me many interesting items pertaining to artificially-grown pig flesh, unusual slugs, and the like. (They deduce my interests.)’

So what’s it all about, this Twitter? Is it signalling, like telegraphs? Is it Zen poetry? Is it jokes scribbled on the washroom wall? Is it John Hearts Mary carved on a tree? Let’s just say it’s communication, and communication is something human beings like to do.

You can follow Margaret Atwood on Twitter yourself if you wish. And you can follow Literary Connections there too!


Twitter updates posted on the Literary Connections blog

I thought it was about time to play with this toy, so now Twitter provides a Word of the Day feed each word can be seen on the new Word of the Day page on this blog.

Judging by the ‘followers’ whose own updates stop after a few entries, it may soon wear off. However, I may be underestimating my ability to twitter on about nothing….