View from the Edge: Back to (Streaming) School!

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Dear Parents of St. Streaming-On-The-Wire, 

In these difficult times, it is difficult to know how to start my back to school letter to you all. I think it is fair to say that "I hope you are still able to pay the fees this term" more or less covers things from our side without "getting political." Politics, as my teaching staff and I keep reminding the school, is something best left to politicians, gangsters, and time-wasters and has no place at St.Streaming-On-The-Wire (SOTW).

Last year, at the IBC annual kickoff for the academic year, during the Friday night prom at The Beach, I spent at least a few hours on my hobbyhorse pontificating (some would say "proselytising") about the fact that the broadcast industry had fundamentally changed, and it would take one more year of flogging legacy systems to the market before everyone would finally admit—just after IBC 2020—that it was time to embrace an "Out with the old, in with the new" attitude. 

Indeed, even then, many of the brightest senior pupils at St.SOTW were making arrangements to change their prefectures, and even their houses, in order to prepare for some significant churn from the traditional to the new. As one boy put it, "The dinosaurs finally accept they are extinct."

Well, I was right. Who could possibly have dreamt that our rivals at St. CabSat's and Our Lady of SDI would have so convincingly lost to St.SOTW at the interschool Contract Renewal Challenge at Christmas? But nothing could have prepared the school's infosec team for the virus that has been going around since then. It nobbled even our antivirus protection until we sent all the children home and washed our hands of the problem at school.

Actually, the great thing is that St.SOTW was perfectly set up to deal with this virus once all the pupils had gone home. Unnoticed, we started working on our online schooling model many years ago, and we have just been waiting for the right moment to let you know that St.SOTW has been ready for complete virtualisation for nearly 25 years! 

Yes, of course, there have been a few difficult areas and changes. Live physical education classes did not work well and have been successfully replaced with replays. Food technology and cooking classes were reorganised to focus on ready-meals. Conversely, Mrs. Skiver's lesson on how to Skive a Zoom meeting using an animated "reconnecting" GIF was one of the best-attended classes ever (by pupils and teachers). 

One particular area of personal interest has been that music lessons have been replaced with out-of-sync jam sessions that really challenge the definition of "music." However, it has been heartwarming to hear this cacophony often accompanied by philosophical chats among the class members about how to overcome latency and/or the laws of physics. I often enjoy dropping into those virtual discussions using a very-high-latency video link and debating with the pupils several minutes after they have concluded the conversation. I like to keep them on their toes.

We realise that this period of time has put unnecessary pressure on the family. The fact that you are now all together all the time has only intensified the pupils' love for their online lessons at St.SOTW, providing the perfect excuse for teenagers to avoid direct interaction with the family at all. The fact that it is nearly impossible to tear your children away from the internet is a testament to our power as a school community.

We know that many other schools have struggled to decide if their infosec team should wear masks all day, but frankly, our school policy (and this is one from the governors, not just from me) is that so long as the infosec team members stay in their basement overseeing the firewalls and hold their breath whenever they need to leave to rewire a camera, we will be just fine. And in the event the virus spreads, we can just blame it all on them.

I realise that some pupils will have been furloughed. We hope you will encourage them to explore their career choices beyond St.SOTW broadly, ensure they practice plenty of TikTok so as not to fall behind in the semaphore syllabus, and share OTT subscriptions widely among their friends in readiness for their anti-piracy classes, which will start in earnest once furlough is over.

We are proud that St.SOTW is not only the most unreadable acronym I've yet developed (and that's saying something), but it is destined to confound all of those with an addiction to buzzwords. Even so, it is sad that we have continued to have a real problem with misuse of buzzwords in the school community. May I remind you that buzzwords are a privilege reserved for teaching staff and the prefects only. I want to make this clear: we will have no more unfounded references to "AI," "P2P," or "blockchain" in the school unless you really have got some genuine reason. 

Along those lines, too many of last year's show-and-tell classes were a waste of time for pupils and teachers alike, and until you have something real to put forward, we would ask you to attend more history classes and understand why those who have been in the school a long time find it so uninspiring when pupils think they have discovered something that has been discovered and discarded so many times before. It will not be tolerated next term. 

While on matters of discipline, I would ask that the various house codec teams, who have been fighting regularly over a range of issues, solve many of their problems by getting rid of their legal team captains and 100% discounting their patent licence values since, let's be honest, if you introduce a licence fee, you can be sure that the entire school will turn up cheering for another team offering a cheaper option at the next match, and none of it matters nearly as much to onlookers as you think. It is very inconvenient for the bursar to accommodate the change in licencing fees all the time, so I ask you to stop and have a good look at yourselves over the summer break and return with a better mindset. 

In keeping with this, next term we'll see the introduction of isolated classes, known as "containers." Kate Ubernetes will be joining us to act like she is the be-all and end-all of orchestrating the containers at St.SOTW, and I would urge you to listen to her. We do hear the concerns of parents that there are numerous ways of achieving isolation in this way, and so during the term, the governors and I will be looking at alternative ways to orchestrate and maintain isolation within the school, be that "on-prem" or virtually. We feel it is important for the school to be able to offer continuity dur­ing the inexorable march to an edge model that has overcome the world.

So please do some reading, enjoy the rest of summer break, and we look forward to seeing you online at the start of our first full academic year doing what we do best at St.SOTW: sitting in front of a screen watching videos.

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