Gord Winkle was well into his third jelly doughnut, his mustache vibrant with strawberry jelly and a smattering of custard, when Janitor Ed McGonigal strode purposefully into the staff room. Everyone fell silent. Because Ed had been working at Bedlam for as long as anyone could remember, he had become almost a part of the building in the minds of most of the faculty. And he never came into the staff room.
“Hah!” he said, triumphantly slapping what appeared to be several magazines down on the table in the center of the room. “No need to thank me, evan thoo I was doin’ yer jobs for yeh today. I caught a bunch a sophomore boys readin’ this—this—trash!” He gestured toward the pile before him. The teachers craned their necks to take a look. It was a pile of PC Gamer magazines. One of the covers had a computer-drawn figure of large-bosomed woman giving the reader her best come-hither look. “The clarty blaggards tried to tell me it was fur an assignment. I told ’em I wasn’t a wee bairn jus’ yesterday.”
Red Carpenter, who usually taught in the business department but had recently been drafted to teach two sections of sophomore English, stood up. “Actually, Ed,” he said, “those are for an assignment. I assigned my students to read them in preparation for my class.”
Ed looked crestfallen. As usual, in moments of stress, his Scots accent got a bit harder to decipher. “Oh, ’tis soorry I am, Mr. Caerphentaer. I neaver asoomed that ennyone would assign setch a thing to oor stoodents. And in an English class nae less. Did yuir textbooks nae come in in time then?”
Red laughed and slapped Ed on the back. “You’re killing me, Ed. No, we don’t use textbooks. We live in a digital age, and we need to keep up with the times. Books are so passé. I actually teach a majority of the class through an MMOG.”
“Huh?” Ed looked as stunned as a sheepdog that had just run into a fence post. “I dinna ken what the world yuir talkin’ aboot. Cain’t you poot it in English fur me?”
Gord looked up expectantly, smacking his lips as he hoped that an MMOG was some type of treat as of yet unbeknownst to him. He was quickly disappointed.
Red smiled. “An MMOG is a massive multiplayer online game, Ed. The kids are totally into it. From their computers, no matter where they are, they can enter a virtual reality that allows them to role-play, testing out other identities and worldviews as they build virtual cities, trade virtual currency, and conduct virtual commerce. And all the while, they are building their language skills without even realizing it.”
“So yoo’ve got the laddies and lasses playin’ games noo instead of larning, then?”
“No, I’ve got them playing games so they learn, Ed. Big difference.”
At that moment, Christina Lopez, chair of the English Department, stepped through the door. She was just in time to hear Ed say, “Are ya tellin’ me a video game is better’n a boook? School’s changed since I was a lad.”
Red smiled condescendingly and said, “Welcome to the twenty-first century, Ed. The digital era is here and print is dead. Our machines—our phones, our cars, our tablets, our PCs—they will read for us and speak to us. In a world where people spend a majority of their day looking at screens, books are obsolete.”
“Hold on now,” said Christina as she poured herself a cup of coffee.
Jan Karsvlaam recently left his position as Director of Development for Calvary Christian High School in Austin, Texas (after his Ten-Gallon Hat Ice Bucket Challenge resulted in a lot of wet, very expensive hats, and a lot of angry donors) to become Athletic Director for the soon-to-open Louisville Christian High School. Though disappointed that the board rejected his first two mascot proposals (the Louisville Inquisitors and the Louisville Martyrs), he is hopeful they will consider his third and favorite idea: the Louisville Fightin’ Theologians.