Nearly 20 years ago, Mazda made commercials with the theme, “Zoom, Zoom!” (search YouTube). Now the word Zoom is solely related to one thing—video-conferencing technology of the day.
I have been in higher education for eleven years now. With that, I have been teaching through the use of video-conferencing tools for about five or six years. And I’ve also taught in all kinds of settings—traditional classroom, hybrid, online, live video, accelerated, full-semester. You name it. [Are there others?!] But what we are experiencing now during the Coronavirus pandemic is quite different, especially when it comes to video-conferencing and education.
Some are excited about current developments in high-tech educational settings (some may also wish they had bought stock in Zoom!). And, there is little doubt that the landscape of higher education will very quickly change. It is the pandemic that will probably accelerate the change that has been developing over the past decade.
But, for me, something like Zoom (or any technology for that matter) is merely a tool, rather than the answer. I don’t even get overly excited about Zoom. Matter of fact, if I never had to use Zoom again, I would be ok with it. I am—and I would argue we all are in some manner—wired for personal interaction.
Zoom as tool, fine.
Zoom as answer and the way of the future, meh.
I want to make clear that I am not wholesale against technology or video-conferencing. I have a blog on which I type from a laptop. I have a few other tech tools. I have utilized Zoom to teach, as both a requirement (before and during the pandemic) and as an extra added option. But I truly believe the human race is wired for a full, embodied experience, which includes more than the audio-visual experience that the screen has to offer. A holistic approach includes touch, smell, and even taste. This is the full five-sensory experience common to all of us. It’s just that we modern-day folk can primarily lean into the audio-visual. However, it is a truncated, and therefore, subpar experience.
If you could only see your coffee, but not experience touching the mug, nor tasting and smelling the brewed beverage, would it be worth the experience?
For me, not really.
If you could only see and hear your closest loved ones, but not touch them, would it really be the same?
This happened when we lived abroad in Belgium and my wife and I primarily had relationships with our families via Skype (the main tech of that time). It sufficed at times, but it wasn’t the same.
If life was only ever movies seen and heard on the big screen, would your life be missing something?
I’d offer it certainly would.
We do what we can in certain circumstances—like a pandemic. But it may just miss the broader experience intended. And if education takes a big swing toward Zoom, would it not just make sense to go ahead and jump into a fully online program?
There are pros and cons, as always. But, at least from my experience, I don’t see Zoom as our great answer for education in the 21st century.
Below are some articles that explore the challenges of video-conferencing (or Zoom). They particularly speak to one issue—how it drains your energy, especially in the drawn-out and back-to-back sessions. And it does! I can attest to it.
Zoom is here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). But let us remember that there are both other ways to operate and better ways to operate. We need to consider what our foundations are and what our tools are. Not only that, but we should make every effort to neither get the two mixed up nor allow the tool to overtake the foundation.
See these articles below about the changes in higher education, and the challenges of Zoom and video-conferencing.
The photo above is from Robert Collins – Home School, quarantine