Thursday, March 26, 2020

Where I'm calling from - 3.26 #sol20 Story Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic seems like a mixed blessing for the video conference industry. On one hand, many of us are now Dick Tracy with a gee-whiz wristwatch while, on the other hand, spotty picture, sound, and connectivity -- to say nothing of this brave new world of etiquette pitfalls -- are regularly proving the genie not quite ready for this abrupt release from its bottle.

Just yesterday, I enjoyed a pleasant one-on-one call with a willing eighth-grade volunteer. The technology afforded a welcome moment of paradoxically remote connection. We got a little work done, sure, conferring about a piece of writing the student started for fun before this long pandemic pause, but the highlights for me were an impromptu tour through his house to see a bathroom renovation in progress and a hands-on tutorial about a board game called Galaxy Defenders, in which the student and his brother have been losing themselves lately. To get to those worthy points, I realized at the call's appointed start time -- when I remained all alone -- that I actually needed to teach the student how to join because a link embedded in a calendar invitation is not necessarily intuitive for most tweens.

Later in the day, I had a call with a colleague and another group session with a dozen far-flung family members. Those tries were fraught compared to the student conference. When available, video signals came across blurry or pixelated; microphones failed to deliver reliably; internet connections bucked and reared, throwing us off our calls. (My brother-in-law, whose routine is remote work, reported, "I heard Zoom's telling employees not to host calls that start at the top or bottom of the hour, to ease off on bandwidth demands.")

With our routines upended by social distancing and an increasing number of shelter-in-place orders, we find ourselves between the proverbial rock and hard place. It's where we're calling from, to borrow a short-story title from writer Raymond Carver.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences with video conferencing. I’m headed back to work next week and am worried about how to teach my students remotely how to use technology, let alone if they have access. Our world is upended

  2. Yes, the increased use of and demand for internet and phone sharing space has created its own set of problems. Somedays, Google Classroom could be renamed Snail Classroom. It's a brave new world, one where I wish I had bought some Zoom talk!!!

  3. Any post that mentions Raymond Carver is one I automatically have to read (ok, ok, I was already reading this one). This phrase, "regularly proving the genie not quite ready for this abrupt release from its bottle" made me laugh because it's all too true! I've had more online meetings with more different groups of people in the past few days. And yesterday a meeting with TWO superintendents, some principals, coaches & a bunch of teachers got hacked. It was, um, unusual. Anyway, all of this to say that I definitely appreciate this post & I'm glad you got the house tour.

  4. Another victim of COVID-19--decreased bandwidth availability! Though I must say, after sitting through a long online meeting and feeling my hips tighten up, I realized in another meeting the next day that I could turn off my camera and do aerobics moves while listening in on the conversation--whoohoo!

  5. i personally am calling from my lair. It feels like that, my library in the lower level with it's high 1/2 window and glimpse of daylight under the porch. slowly reconnecting in this disconnected world. "see you soon"