When you go into a photographic darkroom, there is change. Not just from the bright light of day into that rarified red glow, but a change of attitude. You go ‘there’ to work, to develop, to create… Don’t believe me? Stand with a group of year 10s in a photographic darkroom pending the slow fading to existence of their pinholed photos and tell me there isn’t an air of expectation. There is an almost mystical process occurring as the clear liquid sloshes over a slowly developing image. It comes with a buzz of creativity and a general enhancement of all faculties. So, do we need this mental and spatial transformation in order to be creative and focussed? There is no doubt that it can help. We all keep old junky clothes for when we work in the garden (or when renovating the house). It is not just a practical thing; it is a mental changing too. When you put on the old clothes, you are prepared to work. Try weeding in a full suit one day as see if you are not disinclined to pull out that dandelion. Does this have impact when the home PC is used for games? In my place there is a PC dedicated to word processing, project work, assignments and the like; there is another one for games. Technically, they are configured differently but mentally they have a different ‘aura’. The expectation of my children when they approach one or the other (sadly one more than the other) is different. So how do you encourage your daughters to use the computing power to their scholastic advantage? If you can’t have two PCs in two different places, then make the one you have behave as if it were two by separating ‘them’ temporally. Designate it to be an educational machine during the hours of, say 4pm to 6pm. Then make it a general-purpose machine for email, games, chat, surfing, etc., for other hours. This does not stop you using it for anything any time, but is a good reason or basis to encourage educational computing skills and also utilise the printing, word-processing and graphics capabilities of your technology. If the computer is seen as an educational resource between certain hours, going there at that time will carry an expectation of work. Going there knowing it is always a machine for games and chat takes the edge off the concentration. See if the delineation works for you.

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