Trouble at school

Trouble at school

Teacher: “Thank you for joining me today. I know our students’ guardians lead very busy lives.”

Guardian: “Certainly. I apologize that I only have twenty minutes before I have to be somewhere else…I have a meeting with a client in Lunarville.”

Teacher: “Something exciting?”

Guardian: “Not really…routine atmosphere sweetening contract. Appearing on the moon always sounds glamorous, but for me, it’s just business.”

Teacher: “Well, this shouldn’t take too long. I wanted to talk to you about your child, Beck.”

Guardian: “Well, yes. Not to be obvious, but we wouldn’t have that much else to talk about.”

Teacher: “Ha, ha, right you are. I guess I’m just a little uncomfortable broaching the subject. It’s something I don’t see very much.”

Guardian: “What is it? Grades are good, and I can assure you there has been no cheating. Something behavioral? I haven’t seen anything from guardians of other students in Beck’s grade at your school…at least, not about Beck.”

Teacher: “It’s not something like that, fighting or sexing or something. It’s more…personal. I think I caught Beck…reading.”

Guardian: “I see. Um…what made you think that?”

Teacher: “We were watching a required video. All of the other students were reacting as expected. As you know, our school test scores on communal laughing and sadness are in the top ten percent in the country. The only student who wasn’t responding like everyone else was Beck.”

Guardian: “Well. Perhaps…perhaps there was some technical problem? Couldn’t see or hear the projection?”

Teacher: “No, I checked that seat myself…everything was good. I thought perhaps it was something more benign, like a seizure or something. I had a student once with untreated epilepsy. Can you believe that? What’s next, the Black Plague or polio? Anyway, I checked the medscan data, though…nothing like that, but there was a braingraphic I didn’t recognize. I asked the room system to identify it, and it said that it was indicative of someone reading.”

Guardian: “Did the other students hear that?”

Teacher: “Oh, no, I was very discreet. I waited until everybody else’s consciousness was somewhere else.”

Guardian: “Thank you. I wouldn’t want other students to get the wrong impression and then communicate it to their guardians.”

Teacher: “No, you definitely wouldn’t. This city doesn’t take kindly to cerebral isolationists.”

Guardian: “I’m well aware of that. We were warned about that thoroughly when we first moved here.”

Teacher: “Oh, that’s right. You are immies from one of the colonies…did you know that some of them still allow reading?”

Guardian: “I’ve heard about that, yes. I suppose…I suppose that’s just a matter of culture.”

Teacher: “Hardly. Culture by definition is a shared experience. One of the greatest discoveries of the modern era was when scientists proved that reading, by nature of it being an individual experience, is inherently anti-cultural. If you don’t share your experiences with others, you can’t really be part of a society. People in the old days suspected that…they called cerebral isolationists ‘bookworms’, like tapeworms or roundworms. People who read, and you’ll pardon my use of the word, but I feel it’s necessary in this context, ‘books’, are parasites. They feed off of the experiences of a society, but they don’t participate in building new experiences.”

Guardian: “People who read didn’t read all the time…they did other things, too.”

Teacher: “Only because they were forced to do that. Have you been to the city museum yet? They have a room dedicated to artifacts where ‘bookworms’ would say how they would rather be reading than doing anything else, and ‘too many books, too little time’, claptrap like that. It’s absolutely chilling, and proof of how they were selfishly wrapped up in their own worlds…not in ours.”

Guardian: “We’ll plan a trip. Listen, I’m going to have to run. Is it possible the sensors were in error?”

Teacher: “Not likely.”

Guardian: “Hacked? Another student playing a joke?”

Teacher: “It would not be a very funny joke, but I’ll have IT run a forensic diagno if you like. However, remember that I first noticed the behavior physically. Have you spoken with Beck about reading before?”

Guardian: “Yes, that’s been a topic of conversation in our house…even before we moved here.”

Teacher: “I think it would be worth another discussion. If I see the behavior again, I may have to turn Beck over for counseling.”

Guardian: “Naturally.”

Teacher: “One last question, then I’ll let you go.”

Guardian: “What is it?”

Teacher: “I looked up the name ‘Beck’ on a Birthsite, and it suggested that it came from a classical musician named Beck Hansen.”

Guardian: “That’s right…very popular in the colony where we met.”

Teacher: “But when I asked our students to come up with an old-fashioned password using their first names and three numbers, your child wanted space for twelve letters, not seven. I thought that was odd.”

Guardian: “Beck probably misunderstood the exercise. From everything you are telling me, perhaps we will do some home cognition testing.”

Teacher: “That’s probably a good idea. I wouldn’t worry too much, though. We had just watched a movie the day before, and part of the name of the movie was in the password.”

Guardian: “What did you see?”

Teacher: “Frankenstein, Independent. It’s a fabulous story about how this ancient doctor ignores conformity and thinks differently from everybody else, and then gets justice. It’s quite inspirational and can really have an impact on students. That’s probably where Beck got that nonsense word for the password…Steinbeck123. I mean, ‘Steinbeck’ couldn’t be somebody’s name, right?”

Guardian: “Sounds unlikely.”

Teacher: “A child is going to know their own name…as you say, probably misunderstood what we were all doing. Well, thank you again for your time. I’ll keep an eye on things for you.”

Guardian: “You may not have to do that. We are considering moving.”

Teacher: “Really? Beck hasn’t said anything about it. Somewhere else in the city?”

Guardian: “My job may take us back to the colonies. It’s all come up rather suddenly.”

Teacher: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that! It would certainly be a step backwards.”

Guardian: “Yes…a step backwards. Sometimes, that’s the only possible solution…”

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6 Responses to “Trouble at school”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Nicely conceived!

    Only tangentially related — I spent most of yesterday covering Microsoft’s Windows 10 event.

    The biggest news (or at least the most buzz) was about a H/W product: the hololens, and a S/W ecosystem to support it called holographics. This is similar to virtual reality, but actually MS (and most commentators) are calling it augmented reality.

    MS had some demos including one in conjunction with JPL/NASA using data from the Opportunity rover that lets you walk around on Mars!

    But there were many other suppositions and demos as to how this could be used to support remote learning and help. Also someone postulated a real estate agent that could let a customer walk around properties without leaving the office.

    It’s important to emphasize that the holograms are superimposed over reality, but this got me to thinking how this could be the next step in online retail. Amazon could provide product holograms that you could superimpose on your own dwelling space to see how (whether) they would fit. Think paintings, furniture, electronics, etc, etc.

    Then this post got me to thinking how this could work in education. They already talked about things related to medical training (think surgery training without cadavers; think pathology without autopsies).

    The human visual system has the highest bandwidth and is probably the best way of conveying information to us. Reading takes advantage of this, but learning to read is hard (in some languages like Japanese, and Chinese extremely hard — even for native speakers).

    I’ve often wondered if technology might some day provide something superior to reading. Humans have been reading for thousands of years — perhaps the time is approaching for us to move on to something better?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      That was certainly one of the most interesting parts about the Windows 10 announcement!

      “Augmented reality” is not a new term or a new concept…or even, for that matter, a new experience. 🙂 I’ve had augmented reality apps on my phones for years. There are 224

      Augmented Reality apps in the Amazon Appstore (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

      Generally, though, they haven’t really interacted with the environment: they were just an overlay. For example, if I tag little flying robots, they don’t zip in at out around obstacles, like street lamps. They float in front of everything. Like many technological advances, it’s been more for gaming.

      An exception that I’ve had is Word Lens, which is now integrated into Google translate.

      I can look “through” my phone at something with printing on it, and the phone will display the printing in the same place in a different language. I can use it to translate English to Spanish, for example. That’s a practical use…street signs when you are on vacation, for instance.

      That’s not to minimize the promise of Hololens…it’s a whole different degree of what we’ve had. I could be wrong, but it seems to suggest that the system is aware of the actual environment and adjusts what you see. If you go to set a virtual vase on a real shelf, it sounds like it might know the location of the shelf and not float the vase halfway on and halfway under. Not sure about that, though.

      This is another one I plan to cover in my next Round up. 🙂 One other suggestion: you could have a blank paper book, for people who like the experience, and your Hololens could place the words of whatever book you have available on to the pages. As you turned the page, it would react by giving you more words.

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        A little more detail. The UI has some elements that reminded me of dynamic perspective from the Fire phone. The lens is always aware of what you are looking at. Menus of items can be holographically displayed in the environment. You look at something, then raise your forefinger in front of you and “air tap” to select it.

        As you say this goes way beyond just overlays. In a Minecraft demo if you blow a hole in a wall, you can see through the hole into a fantasy land out of which some birds come flying into the room. If the system knows a lot about the real environment, you can do things like move virtually a table that is really in the world, and see what’s underneath it. I could see builders recording images of houses as they build them in great detail. Then many years later, a plumber or electrician could come by, and with the lens see through the wall to where the pipes or wires actually are.

        The demo units were big and bulky with heavy battery packs on your belt, and a tether to bread-boarded electronics. The final version will be completely untethered, and self contained looking like large sunglasses. It will contain 3 processors: a normal PC (running W10 of course :grin), a GPU, and a new “holographic” processor about which not much was said.

        The more I think of this, the more use cases pop out at me.

        Most of the journalists at the event weren’t too excited during the formal announcement and videos — they were undoubtedly tired after the more than 90 minutes of W10 stuff that preceded the lens announcement. But all that I’ve listened to were blown away by the “reality” and quality of the hands on demos.

        It’s early days yet — the proof will be in the execution, developer buy-in, and pricing.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        Agreed. It needs to work, be affordable, and have the applications.

        If all three of those things are true, this has the potential to be as big as…well, I want to say cellphones, but that might be too much. I can also medical uses: imagine the MRI actually appearing on the patient as you are going to do surgery. You could have a dotted “cut here” line. 😉

  2. danny63 Says:

    Read this at least 3 times so far. Witty and wise. I was pleased to learn that I am a cerebral isolationist, a worthy stance. So much better than being a Distracted Geezer trying to remember if I need to go to the bathroom, or if I just did that.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Danny63!

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I like writing fiction like that, although I don’t think it’s one of the most popular features of the blog, so I don’t do it too much.

      I remember Ellen DeGeneres doing a routine about chat abbreviations for older people. My favorite one? WDIOTRD…”Why Did I Open The Refrigerator Door?” 😉

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