I’ve been teaching every day this week (a bit of a shock to the system I can tell you!) and yesterday I was doing a reading lesson with a group of about fifteen Year 5s (9 – 10 yr olds). We were reading a book call Thief! by Malorie Blackman (first published in 1995). In the book a young girl, who is wrongly accused at school of being a thief, finds herself in the future where things have not gone well for her family. After some nail-biting happenings, in which she gathers some important information about the real thief, she manages to get back to her own time and tries to right the wrong and expose the true thief.
We were coming to the end of the book (which the children had been reading for several weeks), when the girl is back in her own time, and there was a paragraph where one of the characters presses the ‘Play’ button on the VCR. “What’s a VCR?” I asked the group. A sea of blank faces met my expectant gaze. I re-read the sentence where the ‘Play’ button is pressed, emphasising the word play, and one of the boys in the group decided he might venture a suggestion. “Is it a thing where you can put this thing like a black rectangle into it and you can watch a film or something?”. As he spoke he was describing with his hands the size of this ‘black rectangle thing’, but couldn’t remember what you actually called it. When I said “Do you mean a video?” “Yes” he said “That’s it”. I think one other child looked as though this was something he might have heard of, but the rest of the group just continued to look blank.
I went on to describe what a VCR was, and a video tape – I explained how we used to use them, how we had to set the timer for the start time and end time of a TV programme, and how we would rewind the tape to the start when we had watched it and record something else on top. They listened intently, fascinated, with looks of wonder on their faces. I felt as though I was describing something like the very first sewing machine, or record player – something that even I would consider ‘olden days’ technology. Of course these children are all used to the digital age – digital cameras, all singing all dancing phones, flat screen TVs with the ability to pause live TV or record a series of programmes with the touch of a button.
It’s amazing just how quickly technology has moved on, and that something that seems to me as though it was ‘new technology’ relatively recently is suddenly very old hat!