I think most people would acknowledge that the pace of change in schools has been – and continues to be – for the most part, glacially slow. Computers, which have revolutionised the way businesses run for the better part of 40 years, are now only just beginning to make their presence felt. Strangely, there is still debate about whether they have a place in schools – or whether there are educational benefits from them. Leaving aside that particular bone of contention, I think that schools are slowly beginning to reflect the broader world around them – and not the world of 100 years ago.
With that thought in mind, I was struck by the irony of something that happened recently. At schools I’ve worked at, lockers and school bags have always been something of an issue. Parents are often concerned about the weight of the bags that students have to carry – especially the smaller year 7s. The weight comes from the textbooks that they have in their bags – and conscientious year 7s often carry every single thing they need, so there are genuine concerns in this regard. The traditional solution is, of course, to provide students with lockers – that way, they only carry what they need.
But let’s stop for a minute. What do people take to a business meeting in this day and age? Very rarely do people take more than a notebook and a tablet device. Now, I acknowledge that schools are not like businesses, and lessons are not like meetings, but I think the metaphor holds true. If students had a tablet device, like an iPad, what else would they possibly need? Think about it: on that device, they could carry every single thing they require. Notebooks? Check. Textbooks? Check. Diary? Check. Schedule? Check. Internet capable device? Check.
Well, what about things like art books and musical instruments? I’m not an artist or a musician (far from it, to be honest), but I do know there is a range of tools out there that, even if they don’t completely replace these things, they will certainly support them. One need only look at the incredible way that Paper or Sketchbook or iPhoto or Garageband works to realise that they have a role to play.
I haven’t worked out how to replace the need to carry around a PE uniform yet, but even the hardest cynic would agree that carrying a bag with an iPad and a PE uniform in it is a lot different to carrying a bag with all of that plus textbooks, notebooks and lots more besides.
And then there are additional benefits to getting rid of lockers. Lockers are often sights of bullying and litter – get rid of the lockers and you are quite literally designing away the opportunities for these things to occur.