Thursday, March 19, 2020

Keeping in Touch, touchless contact. It's just another day of corona virus lockdown, and I'm missing all the people I'd usually see today. After all, this is when our genealogical society usually meets—but this month, no meeting.

On the work front, our business has learned to keep in "touch" by virtual means. We've certainly put Zoom through its paces in the last few days, and we're thankful there is such a technology available to those who still need to keep working, but can't go out and meet. This even applies in school settings, and, with the help of parents, even with younger students.

Because we are a training company serving a broad spectrum of clients, I need to keep an eye on developments across several different industries. The other day, a short post in another blog caught my eye. Even though it was written by someone well known in the marketing arena, it addressed the topic of education, so it grabbed my attention. The bottom line: instead of meetings featuring one talking head speaking to a virtual room of people who are, in actuality, zoning out, why not create an environment in which everyone can participate? Why not facilitate a meeting with a goal to "produce powerful and engaging discussion" about the topic we've come together to address?

The blogger—author and creative Seth Godin—calls his idea "transformative online learning" and he outlines a way to achieve this through a series of guided conversations. The whole process is aided by technology, of course, which is why the article caught my eye. Right now at our own company, we'd be nowhere if we didn't have Zoom. His discussion about that idea of guided conversations mentions a feature at Zoom which enables virtual breakout sessions within videoconferencing meetings.

Reading about such an option, I couldn't help but juxtapose two personal beefs about conferences (yes, even genealogy conferences). The one is my own complaint: conferences are so huge, all that really gets accomplished is to go hear a talking head (if even a nationally-known talking head) lecture for an hour; attendees rarely get to delve into problem-solving on issues that personally challenge them, except for the serendipitous occasional one-to-one connection in passing. The other issue—which is more an issue for groups which organize these big conferences—is that fewer and fewer folks seem to spring for attendance at such big-box events.

Why not experiment with the technology to enable guided small group conversations within a class topic at virtual conference settings? Now that I know about the Zoom offerings for breakout sessions, I'm chomping at the bit to try that option in a learning application.

Meanwhile, here we all are, isolated in our own homes, keeping our school-less kids busy or aiding our elderly relatives who can't go out in public right now. I don't think there are many who see this crisis as an opportunity—even those of us who miss seeing each other right now. We are quite pressed out of shape by the challenges ahead of us. We've somehow lost the spitfire inspired by the motivational speaker's meme of the Chinese character for the word "crisis" (the juxtaposition of "danger" and "opportunity"). We just want to stay away from the danger.

And yet, no one likes to sit still and remain a captive audience to a script spouting crisis. People always find a way to find a way. It's amazing what we can learn about ourselves in the face of disruptions such as this, and I hope some of us will piece together new options to salvage the ruins of old complaints. After all, we might be together in this for the long haul. May as well find a way to creatively keep in touch.

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