My week in video conferencing – week 1 of the lock down diaries

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Well we’ve not quite finished week 1 of lock down here in the UK, but it does feel like a lot longer.   Zoom is the ‘new normal’ and we are all getting into a routine of queueing to get into the supermarkets. I for one am quite liking the safe distances particularly at the checkouts. I always seemed to have people over eager to get their stuff on the conveyor belt before I had even finished packing never mind paying!

I made a bit of a mental leap last week by thinking about physical not social distancing which is really helping me keep sane about the wider situation.  As I commented in my last post, working for home is my normal status so there’s not been much change on that front, but what and how I am working is evolving. 

If I was wittier, or could sing I would perhaps create a version of the 12 days of Christmas which would go along the lines of  1 teams workshop, 2 google meets, 3 good old skypes, 4 face times, 5 zoo-oo-oooms . . .and a collaborate ultra in a pear tree. 

What has struck me this week is differences in how I am using (video) conferencing technologies, and how my preferences are developing. On Monday Helen Beetham and I ran a workshop with colleagues in Durham University through Microsoft teams. I still feel a bit of a novice with teams and there are some things, like switching been presenting and chatting that I haven’t quite mastered, and feel a bit awkward, but I’m getting there.  The level of engagement we got for participants was fantastic and we incorporated a number of shared google docs which worked well for activities.  In between Helen and I caught up a number of times via Skype which is normal for us, but our daily stories were a bit different as lock down became a reality.   I really enjoyed the ALT drop in session on Friday lunch time (using Collaborate Ultra) – it was a lovely pause from everything just to chat with others and share some experiences. I also had a couple of google meetings with Maren Deepwell about ALT business – but that really is our normal way of communicating.

What has been slightly different for me is the more social side of conferencing. I had a lovely catch up with Allison Littlejohn, Lorna Campbell and Sarah Currier on Wednesday night. I booked a virtual table in our favourite Glasgow hangout and we had a great catch up both despairing at the situation and setting the world to rights, and just sharing what is going on in all our lives right now.

On Thursday I played virtual beetle drive with my niece and sisters. In the middle of that there was the NHS applause event. My sister and niece live in the country so it was lovely to be able to take them “outside” so they could hear and experience the claps, whistles, cheers from my part of the city.  On Friday we all met in again the “virtual foyer” of the Royal Opera House for a drink before a showing of one of the Royal Ballet schools productions on Youtube.  We even got dressed up, so that really changed how we interacted and felt. It’s funny, I don’t really go “out” that much normally, but just following that normal convention of putting on a bit more make up and a smarter top really felt quite exciting and helped to delineate Friday night from the rest of the week.

Like most people I can go for quite a period between seeing friends and family, there is always some level of communication. On reflection, perhaps a bit too much passive interaction through likes and shares on Instagram and Facebook. Now, when it so uncertain when we will actually be able see our family and friends in person the role of video in communication for “seeing” people really is taking on a more heightened significance.

Another first for me this week was doing a virtual fitness class. I normally go to an outdoor class in a local park, but obviously that’s not happening! So they have moved online – with the ubiquitous Zoom. What Facebook is making/doing of my zoom data I dread to think! and I also don’t remember seeing any notification of them about that but of course I guess it’s all in the small print. I’ve been doing 7am sessions and that half an hour has been a great way to start the day.  Again, I’m surprised how quickly I’ve adapted to the format.  Of course there has been an explosion of online “stuff” from online fitness to  music and art lessons, Again all great to see – I wonder how many of these will continue? What will we be the key lessons that we will learn, what will change, what will we forget in our rush to get back to “normal” – or as Kate Bowles in her absolutely beautiful post put it -what will our stories be? Where and how will we share them?

Next week looks like it will be another busy one online with the OER20 online edition. I’m also joining in a panel in a QAA Scotland event. The upside of virtual conferences is that you can be in two locations at once!  

Of course OER20 won’t be on the same scale as the f2f conference but I’m sure there is going to be a flurry of synchronous and asynchronous activity. There is so much learning and sharing of practice  just now – a veritable an explosion of open educational practice –  that I am sure the spaces that the conference will provide will allow for many stories to be shared and created. On a related note, I also recorded a little video message for all our ALT members this week too. Being visible, and having that human face in communication, is so important right now for everyone and every organisation.  

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