Obligatory devices in schools give priority to technology over the joys of creating or discovering cool stuff.

No more listicles. I just read a listicle about 12 things to get yourself through hard times. First suggestion: "Google state parks and see which ones hire canoes." Oh, do sod right off, pal.

Instead I went shopping with our 10-year-old daughter. I bought Formidable and Audacious (makeup). "Mamaaa, how much longer?" I have an irrational fear of garden centres; our daughter has a pathological aversion to cosmetic counters.

Then again, she is deputy of Thunderclan on her Warriors Minecraft server realm which means when the leader Emberstar dies, she gets to be leader. Unfortunately Emberstar has nine lives so that could take a while.

Then I took her out to buy a new computer that she apparently needs for school so she can do better animation. This is the first year of BYD (bring your own devices) at her school and to be honest, the whole thing makes me want to tear out my hair extensions. I wish it was BYO rather than BYD.


Obviously I am not against computers, per se. I am writing this on a Macbook Air. It's handy. I take it to a cafe to do some work. This week I sat next to two St Cuthbert's mothers. "Maddy used to do jazz ballet but really, it was one step up from Candy Lane dancers!"

I tuned out when they started talking about ponies. Computers are just, well, computers. And apart from the helpfulness of having a daughter who is a walking helpdesk, I am not sure about the way they are used at schools.

There seems to be far too much about the computers themselves and far too little about creating cool stuff or learning cool stuff. Making blogs: won't blogging be like Atari or pet rocks soon?

Haven't we already reached Peak Power Point? Writing documents on the computer instead of writing them by hand seems to be a useful development especially for people with dyslexia. I can type 120wpm but so what?

And I can't help wondering how much time in the class seems to be spent toggling about with the technology, fixing technical problems, with less time to learn about Greek myths, axolotls, the Mars project or the Impressionists.

They are too busy learning about technology rather than learning about topics. Computers in themselves are not creative. Don't get seduced by the science; what Karl Popper called the art of systematic over-simplification.

As far as I can see our kids are learning the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit, rather than how to code to be the next Larry Ellison.

Ironically, the most creative stuff our kids do with computers seems to be done at home. Our daughter made a whole replica school on Minecraft; she wouldn't have been allowed to do that at school.


I also worry that superb teachers who want to inspire passion in their students now may feel they are turning into walking helpdesks. I heard of one Decile 1 school desperately in need of more teacher aides, which instead got a classroom full of brand new iPads.

I suppose kids can use computers to learn how to research. But that does not involve putting "crusades" in Google and pressing enter - having managed a newsroom of journalists I know real research involves being the most annoying SOB, the tenacious prick who just won't take no for an answer.

Our son might one day be like that. He goes to a different sort of school. They pretty much don't have computers, at least not for kids his age. But they make a lot of stuff. There is a lot of art on the walls. There are books. Sometimes there's a kid sitting on the sofa (sofas!) playing the guitar.

When I walked in I immediately thought: this is our tribe. Our son is suddenly interested in Antarctica. He still plays with computers when he is at home so I doubt he is missing out. Maybe instead of getting computers we should make our kids read Popper.

"If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories."

Our daughter also does an after- school maths thing called Kumon twice a week. The materials needed are two sharpened pencils, an eraser and a red pen for marking. Maybe I will have a look for a canoe to hire.