Their smartphones do everything, but can teenagers master old tech and life skills – from reading a map to setting an alarm clock?
Three 15-year-old school children are on the phone, in class. No, it’s OK, they’re supposed to be; they’ve been told to, by me, with permission from their teacher. And they’re not actually on the phone, because they don’t know how to use it. It’s an old-fashioned rotary telephone, finger-in-the-dial variety. They’re tapping it, prodding at the holes. Hahahaha – they haven’t got a clue.
Loxford is an academy in Ilford, east London. I’ve come here with a suitcase stuffed full of the past, tech from my own childhood, mostly borrowed from nostalgic hoarder colleagues. Everything in the case is obsolete: it’s all been shrunk to fit into the smartphones today’s 15-year-olds almost all have. It’s a kind of social experiment, about different generations, lost skills, changing technology – what Loxford media studies teacher Mr Rushworth calls “convergence”. OK, and it’s also about having a laugh; and getting my generation’s own back for those times we’ve had to go crawling to a teenager for technical assistance, such as asking how to make the video on WhatsApp work.