My age shows not just in the wrinkles, creaks, and need to turn the volume up on the television, but also in my disinclination to videoconferencing–especially the multi-site virtual meeting in which various people or groups of people participate from various locations. I know it’s way cheaper to get a bunch of people together virtually than to have them all travel to a common destination, but it just isn’t the same. First, there are the technical difficulties. As anyone who has attended a videoconference knows, these can range from not being able to hear or see people at remote sites to people disappearing altogether. Second, even when the technology goes smoothly (have you ever been in a videoconference when all the technology went smoothly?), a lot of the subtleties of communication are lost. You can look at the face on the screen, but you can’t lean over and whisper a comment in the monitor’s ear. Nor can you solve the world’s problems during a chat as you and a colleague walk up the hall for a restroom break.
All that said, I know I need to get over it. Videoconferencing is here to stay. Steve Vaughn, one of our TICAL cadre members, is working on a nice introduction to web-based videoconferencing for our site. I’ve already learned something just from seeing his draft. I also visited the K-12 HSN collection of Conferencing Resources. If you, like me, are ready to begin extinction therapy for your fear of videoconferencing, I highly recommend the The Videoconference Zone. It is a hilarious spoof of the classic television program The Twilight Zone (1959-64). In fact, even if you love videoconferencing, go watch the movie anyway. It’s less than seven minutes long so you won’t even need popcorn.
“My computer crashed.” How many times have you heard those unsettling words? Most of the time, I’m skeptical. I figure it’s user error and smugly go about my life. But yesterday, those words came out of my own mouth–accompanied by a few other choice words as well.
It was 4 PM. I was leaving the next morning for the ASCD conference in Chicago. After that my next stop was Sacramento. Everything I needed for my ASCD presentations and my workshop in Sacramento was on that laptop that had clammed up and would tell me nothing, let alone do my bidding. Coarse expletive.
Thanks to Andrea and Doug, our Santa Cruz County Office of Education tech support gurus, I’m here in Chicago sitting relatively pretty. I have a loaner laptop. I have VPN access to the county office server. I’ve been able to get hold of nearly all the files and documents I want for the next few days. I’ll get by. But what a royal pain.
And what an eye opener. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been “computer-dependent” for years and have never had a major crisis. Yeah, I’ve been inconvenienced a few times, but nothing major. We’re talking sending my laptop back for a keyboard replacement while I went on a ski vacation. Hardly counts as a serious incident (even though when I go skiing, I do tend to spend as much or more time on the computer as on the slopes).
The bottom line? I now have new appreciation for the teacher who says, “I don’t do more technology integration in my lessons because the technology I have is just not dependable.” In the current situation, my worst-case scenario was simply to be required to talk to 100 people without benefit of PowerPoint slides. What if I had 33 fifth graders in the final stretch of a 6-week long multimedia project and the server storing all their files crashed? Pandemonium.
Technology can be a magical thing, as long as your wand works.
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