A short history of video meetings

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.