How necessity drives innovation faster than technology
by John Travers
In mid May our lives were turned slightly upside-down by the world pandemic. I started to set up a video meeting with a group of men I regularly meet with and someone suggested that Zoom was better than Skype. I did a quick look at reviews and found that Skype was similar and better known. A week later several other people mentioned Zoom so I thought I had better have a look at it. Within a week I was a regular Zoom user and since then have hosted or taken part in multiple meetings of our Old Men Group, my wife’s discussion group, my book club, my wife’s tennis group, a class I conducted on Apple Photos, and another on writing a blog. U3A’s next Board meeting will be via Zoom. Our grandchildren are now spending their full school day online, in class. As one ruefully commented, “The teachers seem to think we have nothing else to do.”
As a long time promoter of technology in education through by work and in retirement this is a quite amazing change. Have people suddenly decided that technology is wonderful? Has the technology suddenly got better? No to both questions. Necessity has pushed us forward, and don’t have an doubt that it is forward.
The members of my Old Men’s group and of my wife’s tennis group are not all technology enthusiasts, but they have been presented with a choice: do you want to maintain face to face contact with your friends even though it might mean some technological discomfort? The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, not because everyone found it stress free, but it seems that all have found it a satisfying experience once they get over the initial awkwardness. Our book club has met for years and had very good discussions — and long argumentative lunches. But last week’s meeting was generally thought to be one of our best discussions ever, via Zoom, and as a bonus, a couple of people who could not attend were sent an audio of the discussion. I missed the lunch, though.
“You can get a personal Zoom introduction from Roger by enrolling in Come Zoom with Me.”
So, from this very short history I think that the lesson is that necessity, opportunity and a bit of confidence take us forward. A considerable proportion of U3A members have been using Skype or FaceTime to talk to their children and grandchildren for some time. Many have in the last month taken the next step into group video meetings. Give it a go. Experiment with someone who can help. Humans like to talk and interact, and these tools help.
A number of classes at U3A are thriving with Zoom. U3A Board has agreed to pay for licences for the extended time version of Zoom for tutors who need it. There is a very simple guide to getting started in Learning Stories A Guide to Zoom, below on this blog, . There is a much more detailed guide by Roger Bills at Come Zoom with Me, in Course Notes. And more important, you can get a personal Zoom introduction from Roger by enrolling in the course, Come Zoom with Me.