Ray Bradbury's imagined future is happening now, in 2012, in my school, and more especially in my Year 10 classroom. Last week, Guy Montag and his crew of firemen would have had to burn just four paperback copies of Bradbury's book. Irony.
Recently, every Victorian student in years 9 and 10 was issued with a small notebook computer. They all had their computers in class that morning, but do you think they could manage to bring the set text, Fahrenheit 451? Why did I even expect they would?
I had repeatedly reminded them to bring the text, all to no avail. Just about every kid in the class has got a mobile phone. Many of them have new iPhones. Most have the white headphones, plugged into at least one ear under a wadge of hair, or swinging around their necks. But many of them still haven't acquired, so they say, this book-listed text.
If I want to chat to them about The Shire, or Masterchef or their mums reading about sex in Fifty Shades of Grey, I'm on. But trying to get them to engage with something that uses figurative language - huh? - or complex ideas? Apologies to the writer of Fifty Shades if he/she uses figurative language. Don't know. Haven't read it. I'm currently getting my gratuitous sex courtesy of Boardwalk Empire. (BTW, the teacher's aide was keeping quite a poker face as she read Fifty Shades during Year 8 sustained silent reading recently.)
Re those free issue computers: Good that I'm getting lots of typed essays handed in - takes me twice as long to assess on line so I'm not going there again. Bad that plagiarism's on the increase. You have to be really limited to hand in something brilliant and not think the teacher is going to do a Google search. Tip to sad plagiarist students: at least put it into your own words. You never know, you might learn something.
And another thing. Students who've never done any work before are now eagerly flipping open their computers and concentrating furiously and quietly while I try to teach them the finer points of using language to persuade. Must be making tons of notes; all those intense, furrowed brows. As if. They're checking their uploaded weekend photos or browsing pictures of 'muscle cars' on line. And the rest.
So, taxpayers' hard-earned money at work. Well, at least in my class.
Yes, I know, I know. Computers are here to stay and I certainly love my gadgets and social media. These kids were born into this world and I'm an immigrant.
The task is for me to get the kids to use their computers to do some complex learning. I'm working on it.
Suggestions gratefully received.