Fear and Loathing in LLI Tech

You Know What We Need?

Regarding technology, we seem to have two types of LLI members: the ones who love it and the ones who hate it. While I am in the first category (a tech lover), I have recently and temporarily experienced the second category as LLI moves to online classes for SummerFest.

The first time I used Zoom (the software LLI uses to deliver online SummerFest classes), my initial thought, after my head slap, was “you have got to be kidding!” I had no clue what to do. The icons were hidden and I didn’t know what they meant. There is the “speaker view” and the “gallery view” icons in the upper right. What on earth does that mean? In Zoom, the main menu is hidden at the bottom of the screen (unless you are on a tablet and then they are at the top). And what did all those icons mean?

I decided I was too old and too set in my ways to learn yet something else new. While I was having all these dark thoughts, it occurred to me that this is what our LLI members who hate tech must be thinking all the time as we introduce an alphabet stew of applications such as G Suite and ProClass, the LLI website, and now Zoom.

Technology options abound with different devices, different software, different versions of software, different vendors. With choice comes complexity as each vendor finds its way in the marketplace. I wish I could wave my magic wand and standardize everything so everyone sees the same screen on their devices. But then we wouldn’t have many choices or much progress. Everything is simple once you understand it … but getting to understanding takes some curiosity and experimenting.

Well, Why Not?

There are many things about Zoom that I really like, especially the part about seeing the other attendees in virtual meetings in the Brady Bunch style: an organized display of pictures arranged in tiles. I could choose to see the tiles with the gallery view (oh, warm, and lovely familiar faces looking right at me) or I could choose speaker view to focus on whoever is talking with all my buddies shown in a small ribbon above (or beside) the speaker.

Well, as Chuck Mishaan always says, we are “lifetime learning.” Maybe I am trainable?

As the lockdown continues, I find myself “Zooming” every day. I practice yoga with my familiar yoga teachers, I talk with my physically distant children, I catch up with my running buddies, I have many LLI committee meetings on Zoom. It is fun and a way to feel connected.

Plus, I have learned that I cannot break Zoom. No matter what I click, Zoom just does its thing and I get to have social contact in a time of social distancing.

Anyone can get a free Zoom account (free accounts have a 40-minute limit on Zoom sessions for more than two people). For more time, you either need to pay the $15/month to support Zoom software development or join a Zoom meeting started by a host with a paid Zoom account. This is what LLI uses for SummerFest. LLI members pay nothing extra to attend SummerFest classes because LLI has a paid educational Zoom account for our session managers/Zoom hosts.

I Mean, If a Thing's Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Right

So, I continue to dive into Zoom. Like all new things, the more I play with Zoom, the more I like it. Yes, sometimes all the options seem overwhelming (and I move from “why would anyone want to do this” to “this is absolutely essential to what I want to do”).

Lessons learned (which apply to all these tech things and beyond):

  • I am a lifetime learner;
  • I am more curious than fearful of new things (i.e., I can’t get into trouble by clicking around);
  • I have new power because I have taken these steps to learn something new. I have a social life during the pandemic!

If you are an LLI member in the “hate tech” category, I hope you will jump in and explore. We couldn’t offer classes or do all the things we are doing without our members being willing to do new things. You can see a great, short, curated list of ways to learn Zoom on our website under Membership> Participating Members> How to Zoom Online Meetings. Plus, we have a great tech help team (at techhelp@lli.bard.edu) in case you get stuck. We can share your screen using Zoom so we see what you see and can guide you along the way.


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