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Chapter One : It always seems impossible.

This post represents my imaginings of a technology based future for secondary education in London. These ideas are based on my future predictions around digital technology most of which is already in existence but have not been adopted or marketed as yet.

My school day: London, 2035

Good morning, my name is Sky Ferguson I am 14 and it is Friday November 5th.

Outside my bedroom window the sky is grey and cloud filled. As usual the rain is falling viciously, this is the fifth day straight it has been raining, sometime over the last five years it seems to have got stuck on this as the default setting for the weather in this country.

I am showered, my uniform is on, teeth brushed, hair combed and breakfast eaten. I take one last, long look into the mirror, like a male model as he is about to go out on the runway for a fashion show. My dad swears that I must be border line OCD in the way that I do things in the exact same order at the exact same time each morning, I guess it’s just my way. It is 7.30am and I need to be at the bus stop in 10 minutes.

Thankfully, being a Friday I have no large bag to carry as it is not a games day, so I run at top speed (my top speed) down to the bus stop which is around 300 meters from my house.
Both my parents work from home and start their day doing virtual workouts on the enormous flat screen in the lounge along with other health freaks who choose to start their day in the same way.

When I get to the bus stop I am always out of breath, panting like a tired old dog on his last legs. I am warmed to see the usual collection of friends that share the same ride to school with me each day, their faces also red and cold from the rain.
I check with wet fingers that I have remembered to wear my smart watch, I have, that’s a relief. The digital sign says that our school bus is due in exactly 2 minutes, Paul likes to press the button for an exotic female voice to say the same thing, this helps the blind I guess. The problem is that now, I think Paul is in love with the voice.

Here it comes, right on time, an electric, driverless bus, designated to our school only. It is whisper quiet and odourless, decked in the same dark green as our uniforms. I see a few familiar faces peering from the cloudy windows on the top deck, straining to see who is about to get on.
You can only board if your face is recognised by the scanner at the door. I stare at the scanner for a second before an inner door slides aside to let me on. The others follow the same routine, the bus is programmed not to let people board if their face is not recognised for safety reasons. I was mugged three times in three years before they introduced these school buses. Each mugger was larger and uglier than the last, the area had been dubbed the wild wild west, because of the increasing frequency of hold-ups.

I usually sit nearest the door so I can make a quick getaway, the earlier we hit the playground the more time with have for a quick game of football before class.

Paul slumps down heavily next to me and a shower of raindrops hits the side of my face, ‘”easy man”` I protest.

He is anxious to show me this new one minute video he saw on the Internet last night, we tap our watches together and instantly the film is playing on the rectangle screen of my smart watch, OMG we really shouldn’t be watching stuff like that!. I glance up nervously at the security cameras placed strategically in the ceiling of the bus, conscious that we are constantly being monitored and quickly turn it off. Paul Laughs.

The bus meanders its way around the streets surrounding the school collecting more children at each stop. In an instant I am overcome with a sudden fear, did I remember to submit my home work last night. I quickly raise my watch to gain access to my virtual locker. A wave of relief envelopes me as I see that I did and that I am now thankfully up to date. I take the opportunity to check for any new messages from teachers and friends, there is a video message from Miss Green my humanities teacher. Excitedly, I press play and from the tiny speaker in my right ear I can hear her soft northern english accent informing me of a very special lesson today in the last period. Wow, Humanities being my favourite subject and Miss Green being my favourite teacher, this message fires my interest. “Did you get that message from Miss Green,” I leaned over and asked Paul quietly, “yeah I saw it last night,…. I think she wants me” he said with a sly smile.

The cacophony of teenage voices grow louder each time the bus makes a stop and more children join us. When we finally reach the school, I am keen to get off and feel the rain on my face again.
The school is modern and sleek, built mainly of white concrete, the designers made sure to use plenty of glass and wood giving it a warm, open and welcoming feel.

The short football game is half-hearted and disappointing, as we all skip timidly over puddles and try to dodge a wet ball spraying water everywhere.

I run down the corridor and at the last second slow up to walk into my class for registration. Again a facial recognition camera scans my face and immediately both my attendance and time of arrival are logged against my record for that year and for previous years. A small green point of light also appears on the smart watches of both my parents so they know I have arrived safely.

As I enter the class, the other students swarm around me keen to get to their desks the noise is deafening. The class is made up of thirty students, their desks placed in a horse shoe shape facing a large transparent screen. This is our class form room. We are based here for most of the day except when we have assemblies, breaks, physical education and lunch. It is far more efficient for the teachers to move between classes than have 500 kids navigating their way through the school at exactly the same time. That would be disaster.
I sit down at my familiar workstation, it consists of a simple chair moulded into a desk at the front via an adjustable arm on the left.
The desk at the front mainly consists of a large flat screen display and a light pen. The screen occupies perhaps 95% of the desk space, it is also adjustable as you can vary the angle of tilt towards you or away form as you are seated. The screen itself is ultra high-resolution and touch sensitive, it must be coated with some kind of special substance that makes it repel fingerprints and smudges as it somehow always remains clean and smear free.

This is where most of our work is done, we are permanently connected to the school intranet where all of our class and home work is stored in virtual lockers in the cloud. A fingerprint sensor lets me access my locker and retrieve the work I have started in previous classes. Other icons on the desktop are the timetable app which allows me to view and interact with my specific timetable for the whole term. There is also a icon for an internal social media platform called the Bishop Thomas Grant (BTG) school-net. This allows communication with potentially every other student or teacher in the school. We are able to share class work images and films, obviously everything is monitored to prevent any cyber bullying or the sharing of material of an inappropriate nature. Breaking any of these rules means instant suspension.

There is a conversations app which enables us to do collaborative working using video conferencing and file sharing with schools all around the world. At the moment, we are in the middle of a project talking to students of our own age in São Paulo, Brazil. We use this in association with another app called Livesuntold.tv which lets us view short films of real children, so we can get a better understanding of their day to day lives and compare them to other children in other parts of the world and to our own.

There is the usual collection of text books accessible via the virtual library of interactive ebooks and literary classics, all vetted of course, before they can become part of any schools reading list.

I check the results of my home work from last week, OK I guess, I can see how our score as a class compare with the scores from the other classes. We are definitely mid table, with much room for improvement. I get a message from my personal mentor, who is two years my senior, “ I’ve seen your grades for your English lit home work, I think we need to talk”. I like his sarcastic style it fits well with his geek chic persona. ” I know, I know, I will message you later” I reply.

By the time Miss Green enters the room, I am bursting with eager expectation. She bounces into class wearing a diaphanous floral dress hugging her perfect petite frame, her emerald green eyes are electric and are contrasted by jet black shoulder length hair. My palms are moist with anticipation, at least I think it is anticipation.
She introduces what is to be a ground breaking lesson, using technology not used in a class setting before. I am taking in about 30% of what she is saying, I find my self lost in my own imagination seeing her and I sharing burgers and fries somewhere far away from any school.

At that very moment we are instructed to turn off our screens, which go out randomly until the horseshoe is completely black. The lights are dimmed except for a small light coming from the ceiling directly in front of the transparent board, which has also been turned off. We have no idea what is about to happen, and I sense excited murmuring coming from all around me.

“everyone be quiet,” Miss Green whispers. the room falls silent, as she presses a button on her tablet.

Suddenly the white light above our heads turns to electric blue, and our sea of blank faces are bathed in this new colour.

What happens next takes us all by complete surprise and we let out an collective “wow” in amazement as a figure of an old man gradually appears in the light.
He is a black man, perhaps six foot tall, around 70 years old, slightly hunched over, wearing a brightly coloured, heavily patterned shirt.
It is Nelson Mandela, a freedom fighter and elder statesman from South Africa, who died about twenty years ago.

He stepped forward and looked up and then around, seemingly taking in our our faces which were transfixed with wonder. Then he spoke. His words were as crisp and as clear as if he were actually standing in the room. You could have heard a pin drop. we didn’t even dare to breathe. Mr Mandela spoke about his South Africa, how it was during his early life and how it had changed. He spoke of a system called Apartheid, were people were divided on the basis of the colour of their skin and where black people in particular were deemed to be third class citizens in their own land, with little or no rights.

They were continually denied any kind of dignity for decades. I couldn’t decide which was harder to believe, the hologram which I was witnessing with my own eyes or the terrible stories of life under Apartheid. Apparently at that time, people would look for anything that could be used to divide a population, skin colour, race, religion, sexual preferences, anything, just so that one group could be deemed superior to another. I found this both upsetting and unbelievable. Had we not progressed beyond this?, I really hoped we had.

Nelson Mandela’s face was warm and friendly but his eyes looked sad and empty. As if to say that he had done all he could to change the world during his life time, and now the rest was down to us.

When the hologram finally disappeared there was a heavy silence that hung in the room like a thick Victorian fog, even Paul was speechless.

Miss Green allowed us time to gather our thoughts as what we had just witnessed was really overwhelming. “ Does anyone have anything to say?” she enquired tentatively, aware that our minds had just been blown. An emotional voice broke the silence in the room, “ I feel totally humbled and ashamed, we take so much of what we have for granted, we throw away food and clothes everyday” The voice came from the other side of the class. it was Sophie, one of the brightest in the year, a high achiever in all her subjects, the lead singer in the choir, oh and she was quite hot as well. Way out of my league. I saw her differently today, the way she spoke seemed to betray a deeper meaning to her words, maybe she had been touched more than most by what Nelson Mandela had said.

3.45pm, I was finally back onboard the school bus going home, staring at the quickly darkening sky. My thoughts went back to the final words we heard from Nelson Mandela in class today, “everything seems impossible…. until it is done”. I smiled to myself as I watched the first fireworks explode into colourful, elaborate patterns against the night sky, like the ideas that were now exploding in every part of my mind.

Sophie sat immediately behind me, tears welling up in her brown eyes.

 

 

Copyright: Dwayne Ferguson

 

June 6th:  The finished eBook is available now on Amazon Kindle platform, click here