Sunday, 20 November 2011

a whiter shade of pale

Over recent years many students have been diagnosed with Scotopic Sensitivty or Irlen Syndrome as it now seems to be called.  This seems to be a perceptual disorder where readers have problems with tracking their reading. The white paper we've used in education for the last century and more, books, newspapers, magazines etc cause no end of distress to many people. It's a kind of dyslexia, evidently. This has meant that an empire has risen within education to help sufferers - evidently 12-15% of the population.

By empire, I mean that there are many 'specialists' in Special Needs Departments that test students and then devote a lot of time getting coloured overlays and special lenses in glasses. It would appear that The Promethean Trust based in Norwich are the main source of such lenses and overlays. The glasses cost around £90 which seems to me an awful lot of money.  Many of the sufferers are in the poorer sections of society,so nearly a ton for some glasses with plastic lenses in is presumably out of many people's reach.

There is, however, an alternative.  For reading a plastic filter is useful but when it comes to writing, that's obviously more difficult.  Bring on the coloured paper! We now have what seems like hundreds of different coloured paper booklets being sent around to the different departments for these kids to use.  These are sheets of coloured paper put through the photocopier to print lines onto. It's a bit like having a Dulux paint chart.  We've got Royal Blue, Cardinal Yellow or is that red? The problem now, though is that some of us poor old teachers who have to mark these booklets - and exams - can't actually read them very well.  I mean, dark red certainly isn't an easy colour to read scruffy writing on.  Every few days some new booklets come through into our pigeon holes (trays) and this week was no exception.  One of our pupils has been diagnosed as needing white paper.

That's right.  White paper.  Er, actually, isn't it white paper that causes the problem? Aren't all the normal exercise books we have actually white paper? Hmmm . . . something not quite right here.

There is, however, an alternative to all this.  Firstly, as a teacher I think it would be far better if students all had lenses in their glasses so that they can read on their prescription colour - and interactive whiteboards wouldn't need changing, either.  I mean, if three students are all in the same class and all need different coloured screens and non-Irlen students (the other 27 kids in the class) prefer white anyway, wouldn't lenses be the best solution?  Also they would then write into normal exercise books which would make our jobs easier for marking. It all seems so obvious.  However, it's the cost that seems to be the sticking point.

Now, as these prescription filters and lenses are only different coloured plastic sheets, I'm not fully sure why they are so expensive (empire building/making a killing on other people's suffering?) but here's my alternative.  Why don't we just use cardboard glasses with plastic lenses - just like the 3D ones people are being hoodwinked into wearing* now? I had about thirty sets last year when they were given away free by Sainsburys to tie in with some Royal celebration or other.  They put some programme on tv about Brenda in 3D.  I wish I'd kept them now.  I only got them because I was going to screen Coraline in 3D for my classes at Christmas until I discovered that not all 3D is the same.  They were useless so I threw them away.  Just think, I could replace the red and green lenses and glue in some different coloured ones.  Job done.

I wouldn't charge £90 each for them, I'd do them altruistically.

Ah well, I'm off to Hitchin Folk Club to see John Tams.  I know it's a two hundred mile round trip but if Spielberg's War Horse is as big a success as his normal films, I don't think Tam will need to work again too much.  He only needs a couple of songs in it and he'll earn a fortune, and I know that Spielberg is going to use some of them from the National Theatre production that Tam wrote the songs for.

* The only reason that so much money and hype has been put into 3D is because they can't can't pirate 3D films.  Yet. Read Mark Kermode's The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex. Well worth a read and very funny.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

the deserter

walking round in circles, holding up the sky
falling amongst thieves, laughing till I cry

It seems a long time ago now but about five years ago I broke my shoulder in two places. That's two breaks on my shoulder, I don't mean I carelessly broke it in Austria and then again when I got back to Blighty.  Yes, an argument with a small hump in the snow lead me to falling rather spectacularly in front of a beginner's group of skiers the very first time they were being brought down a "blue run", which was probably quite disconcerting for them.  They all managed to get down unscathed unlike the trip organiser, yours truly.

Anyway, whilst sitting around at home with a (possible) month off but unable to do much but watch tv, I decided that I was fed up with the appalling service the East Coast was getting from the various broadcasters. Freeserve, or whatever it was called,  wasn't an option then (still isn't). The only way, it seemed, to get a fairly decent reception was to get a satellite dish.  So, we had to take Murdoch's shilling.

We'd been looking into it and noticed that there was an offer for about £70 to have it all fitted etc. So, one day sitting watching some awful daytime rubbish as though through a snow storm, I called Sky.  Interestingly, when I phoned them they told me that it would be fitted free.  Free?  Blimey.

A few days later the men arrived.  Now, gentle readers, some of you may be aware that I live in a three story town house with a gap of about a rizla paper between our house and next door's. "Sorry, mate, we can't get the cable over the house.  We'll have to get the heavy mob in."

Ah, here we go . . . the catch.  "So, er, how much is this going to cost?" I enquired fearing the worst.

"Oh no, it won't cost any more because it's our problem.  See you next week." Off they went. No such thing as a free lunch, I thought.  Bound to be a wind-up.

Anyhow, the following week they came back with the "heavy mob" - or three men with a longer ladder as I perceived it.  And it was all fitted and off they went and I spent the last week in my incapacitated state watching Sky - lovely pictrure blah, blah, blah.  Except it was Sky.  Murdoch and all that.  We've put enough money his way with even the basic monthly package we have.

I've always been uncomfortable about it and especially recently with all the News of the World shennanigans going on. So, a change was needed.  Not being one to do things in too much of a hurry (my motto is why put off until tomorrow what you could put off until the next day?) I finally got around to contacting our local tv chappie.  He came round today to fit our spanking new Freesat+ box in (plus new satellite dish and double cable etc) and so, we have finally shed our allegiance to Murdoch's insidious empire. Mrs D is watching Strictly Come Dancing and we're now able to record programmes and series if we want to - don't ask about dvd recording.  It's a long sad story.  By now you'll have guessed that me a digital things are only on nodding terms.  Still, it all seems okay. Nice clear pictures and the smug feeling that RM isn't going to get any more money from me.