P&J Column for 27.5.13

These days, phones are ‘smart’. Unfortunately, people are still idiots.

JONATHAN M LEWIS, local head teacher

Several parents have expressed concern about the possibility of mobile phones becoming “de rigueur” in classrooms here at Garioch Academy.  Ironically, the children of those same parents declared a day of celebration at the very thought of it.  Once again, I want to take great pains to reassure parents that it was our neighbouring Local Authority, Aberdeen City, which was considering the controversial proposal to provide all pupils with the latest handsets. 

Of course, here at Garioch, we have blazed something of a trail in the field of mobile technology supporting learning.  Many parents will recall our recent successful pilot of the “fone zone”, when for one week we suspended our usual policies in connection with such devices and positively encouraged pupils to access their phones in class.  Cynics will focus on the minority who engaged their peers in a bit of harmless joshing and banter – or ‘cyber-bullying’ as the police report and subsequent expose in the local press referred to it – but I ask you, shouldn’t every child with poor personal hygiene be made aware of the fact?  And is there a good way to find out? In education, we must always be looking to the future, and being made the subject of a co-ordinated Internet hate campaign is so much more 21st Century than having the words “Dwayne Anderson smells” daubed on a bike-shed wall.

At Garioch, we prefer to focus on positives.  The “fone zone” provided yet another vehicle for our pupils to demonstrate their ingenuity, creativity and IT skills.  Several Wikipedia pages were barely recognisable once our talented young people had finished with them.  Who’d have thought that “Gangham Style” was the national anthemn of South Korea, that the winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Picture Oscar was ‘Fast and Furious Six’ and that the world’s tallest building was Alex Salmond’s pantry?  And by the end of the week MI5, The Pentagon, and the Chinese Government have all been in touch to say how interested they were in the work being done here.

But perhaps the most encouraging outcome of the “fone zone” was in its impact on academic achievement.  It seems that simply by giving our young people the opportunity to use their smartphones in class as they do in every day life we were able to raise self-confidence levels and remove much of the performance-related stress which so often impedes our pupils from realising their full potential. The upswing in results has been truly remarkable. During the experiment pupils not only aced the Geography test on capital cities, but also produced English Literature essay work that had all the hallmarks of being written by students at University level, and even managed a faultless performance in a classical music listening challenge.  As the pupils say when triumphant – Shazaam! 

STRUAN METCALFE, MSP for Aberdeenshire North and surrounding Nether regions

It is with deep regret – and as the result of a special request from Super Dave  – that I must most humbly apologise for my most recent foray into the fraught world of social media, a medium I am afraid to say I am still getting “my arms around” (to use the middle-management vernacular to which I have become all too accustomed). So, what was my bally old slip up this time?

Well, in the words of the Tory Whip – to err once, Struan, is human. To err twice, so spectacularly, is illegal. And he was correct. It turns out the High Court have interpreted my latest tweet as being of a libellous nature, a contempt of court and, I shouldn’t wonder a contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights. For that reason the message in question has been redacted to protect the guilty.

I apologise unreservedly for the following Tweet which was sent by “someone” from my smartphone:

“So, why is the name **** **** trending? And featuring on airport security watch lists and the next edition of Crimewatch? It must be because he’s got a temper like raging bull and a left hook to match! *innocent face”.

So, to avoid an out of court settlement so hefty that it would involve me selling off not just the family silver but also my youngest son (Struan III) there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that I was referring to recently and repeatedly disgraced MP Eric Joyce who is something of a pugilist and banned from all the bars in Westminster. “*innocent face*”

But my heart goes out to Eric. He gets a terrible press, just because of all those previous occasions on which he has been charged with crimes of violence. And that one time when he plead guilty, of course. But which of us, when faced with the petty bureaucracy of airport so called ‘security’ can honestly say that we have not shouted, sworn and resisted the police who’ve been called to attend? I know I have.  I was at Dyce last week when they had that power cut, by which time I was the wrong side of five stiff G&T’s and let me tell you it was carnage in the Executive lounge. Jolly good job for me it was too dark for anyone to recognise the old Metcalfe fizzog!

Some say Eric is no longer suitable to represent the people of Falkirk. Well, to them I say ‘You’ve obviously never been to Falkirk’.