Cambridge UK. September 2020. Lucy Jordan, aged eight, is starting her first day at iSchool – the Cambridge School of Science & Technology Engineering to be precise.She has just graduated with honours from iLearn – the Government’s Clicks ’n Bricks nursery.
Since the age of five she has attended supervised social skills sessions with other children for two hours each weekday morning. After going home for lunch she has worked on her iLearn brief for three hours each afternoon online.
Her parents, both business people and one of whom is paid by the Government to stay at home under the Parental Responsibilities Act, have not had to sell the family jewels to pay for Lucy’s extensive technology toolkit.
The cost of the Amazon Kindle e-Reader, Raspberry Pi micro-computer, Apple iPhone to aid communication skills, Apple iPads and other tablets – was met out of the Government’s innovative EdTech tax relief programme.
Through iLearn, Lucy has mastered basic literacy and numeracy skills and a smattering of all the world’s major languages. She has gained an elementary knowledge of a whole range of subjects under her tutors Miss Wiki, Mr Google, Professor Hologram and Drs YouTube, DVD and Video.
David Attenborough’s BBC-Disney ‘Life on Earth’ series had made a brilliant geography ‘teacher.’ The best communicators in the world in their fields – via video and related technologies – had given her a grounding in medicine, nature, science, engineering and the Humanities.
Apple iTunes and YouTube got her through the Arts, Music and Drama requirements of her programme.
And under the Government’s ‘FaithBuddies’ religious tolerance programme, Lucy has had regular online contact with children of the same age in other countries and creeds so she understands that people are people whether they are Muslims, Buddhists or Judaists.
iLearn had abolished the ‘curricula-exam’ treadmill amid widespread relief in 2015. Lucy had satisfied a panel of online invigilators, appointed by the Government, in an annual assessment where she fielded certain basic questions and looked up the answers on the internet.
So here she sits, three years older and very much wiser, a new pupil at the Cambridge School of Science & Technology Engineering. In reality she is at home in her study. Virtually she is anywhere and everywhere.
Lucy links to the Government’s new Heri-tech Centre – an archive of heritage technology – where Tim Berners-Lee gives a passionate dissertation about the birth of the internet and how the World Wide Web has created a global village.
In one dizzy hour she sees a reconstruction of Egyptians building the Great Pyramid of Giza; of Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon; and the Americans completing construction of the Panama Canal with 40,000 workers moving enough dirt to bury the entire island of Manhattan 12 feet deep.
She sits mesmerised as Stephen Hawking unpicks the secrets of the Universe and admits to being a little scared watching The Large Hadron Collider – housed in a 17-mile-long circular tunnel buried some 570 feet under the French and Swiss Alps – a gigantic enormous scientific experiment designed to observe minuscule subatomic particles by recreating the terrifying conditions that existed right after the Big Bang.
Chills turns to thrills as she watches engineers build the Qingzang-Tibet Railway – the world's highest railroad. She sways in her chair to the rhythm of a train rattling along a top-of-the world slide through Himalayan peaks and over rugged tundra on a 1,200-mile path, at one point crossing 16,640-foot Tanggula pass.
She could have done without seeing the historic world-first human heart transplant performed by Christiaan Barnard so close to her elevenses, followed by nature red in tooth and claw on the Serengeti as a lion shreds a wildebeest.
But she could recover her equilibrium by studying hummingbirds flying backwards or the bar-headed goose flapping to heights of 21,120 feet on its migration over the Himalayas.
Tomorrow she would learn how clever people in Providence, Rhode Island, had uncovered rivers that had been buried under paved bridges. She might tune in to the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or follow more modest lines of thought by revisiting the production of Acorn’s famous BBC Micro computer – right here in Cambridge with that nice Mr Hauser giving some user-friendly commentary.
Lucy decides she likes this ‘look, listen and learn’ approach to what the old fuddy-duddies used to call education. And she has no doubt what she wants to be when she is older. Those scientists and engineers – creating everything from computers to canals – have all the fun. And they make such a difference.
Lucy couldn’t wait to share these wonders with mum and dad and brother Billy – a bright little four-year-old who in just a year’s time would start off on the same magical journey of discovery.