The Blue Desk

The bell sounds, and we all walk into the classroom and take our desks. I start tapping my Unique Pupil Number into the tablet, swipe my ID card, and log into my desk tablet. The teacher waits patiently, watching his screen, checking who has logged in as the register completes itself.

“We don’t have all day, Jackson.”

The boy at the back of the class is sitting aggressively across the desk, legs sprawled, snarling. He rolls his eyes, continues talking on his cellphone, and taps in his UPN.

The underlighting on the desk in front of me flashes red, then glows green. That usually means that someone who has registered for this class isn’t here – it flashes red – but they have clearance to be absent so the teacher knows not to report their absence – it glows green. I don’t recall who is missing. We have classes of up to 90, and it can be hard to keep track of people if they aren’t your close friends.

The teacher takes a deep breath and prepares to start the lesson. We all tap along on our desk-tablets, teacher showing us the class performance breakdown periodically. Desks flash amber where other students aren’t responding to enough questions. Jackson’s desk is glowing blue. He’s still talking on his cellphone. The blue glow means that he hasn’t answered anything and will need to have a performance management conversation with the headteacher.

I wouldn’t say I’m friends with Jackson, but you get to notice the people who regularly have blue desks.

Sometimes blue-deskers are the kids who are under so much pressure to perform that they just freeze up in class. When their Individual Performance Report from the lesson is uploaded to their Personal Development Blog on the part of the Virtual Learning Environment that their parents have access to, they have every aspect of their classroom performance analysed and critiqued by their parents. They start to worry too much about everything they do in the room until they break down. I know one kid like that, Jenny, who got sent to a boarding school where they didn’t use Integrated Learning Technology. Just pens and paper and stuff. Apparently it’s less stressful that way, but I really can’t imagine how that could be true.

Other times, blue-deskers are rebels, going through a phase, kids who just don’t care. I’m guessing Jackson falls in to this category. I heard him on his cellphone once calling the class “interactive quiz show bullshit” and complaining that he could do it all at home while playing virtual reality games.

I keep my head down and try to do well. I heard that if you have too many performance management conversations with the headteacher and you do not improve, you are encouraged to take concentration enhancing medications and sedatives. It happened to one blue-desker, Jessie. She turned up one day completely subdued, barely-there, meekly obeying instructions. She would spend break times sat perfectly still, nodding her head. She used to spend lunch arranging bets over marbles. She had changed and it wasn’t because she had wanted to change.

Class draws to a close, and I feel relieved to see my desk-tablet show my score as amber-green, just above average.


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