I have just participated in a video conference. The first such meeting I have attended. I thought it might be appropriate to blog my thoughts.
There were 6 groups participating in the video conference. I was the only one on my own. Three others centers had two in the room. The main center had a group of four participating and one other center had four participants.
Positive aspects of this meeting
*It was a good opportunity to get people together without having to travel too far
*It is nice to be able to see each other as well as to speak
*There was the ability for the main center to present a slide show on full screen and to talk over this to present it (I do not know if participants in other areas would have been able to also do this or not).
*Connection was acheived through a television with the aid of a remote control.
*Particpants who are not at all happy about using computers or technology found this easy to use and enjoyed participating, saying that they would happily do more of this and use it for different educational and meeting purposes.
*For most it was very simple to get going and use this without it having to be a big learning curve
*I am challenged by televisions and remote controls.
(I know this is ludicrous as I am quite happy finding my way around a computer and enjoy learning about all these new technologies.)
*Perhaps I did not have adequate instruction but it took me ages to work out when I was able to speak and when I was muted.
*I could quite often hear background noise which I found distracting.
*I found the conversation quite stilted and difficult to get a good flow going.
*Access is limited to the places that have this network available. I believe that Otago has access in the main rural centers and one in Dunedin.
Overall it was a good way to get together and it is interesting that those who abhor anything to do with computers and technology did not have similar feelings about this, expressing support and enjoyment of the process. This being the case perhaps this is a good way to get rural and isolated people together. However it does not provide an opportunity for establishing ongoing communication and is limited to access at certain times in certain locations. Whereas communicating online is more spontaneous and for most can occur anytime from wherever they can access a computer, for most this would be their own home or workplace. It would be very difficult to have a meeting with more centers than were present in this meeting. The screens would not be big enough to see people and it would be too confusing about when people could speak or not speak. Using online group networks such as Elluminate it is possible to have quite a large group participating and to share documents and resources as you go. I feel that participation and interaction is generally more limited in the video conference medium.
Using this is useful for people who cannot use computers. However if they rely on this instead of learning how to use web based communication and networking tools they are cutting themselves off from a huge source of valuable information sharing and networking tools which could benefit them in so many ways. In many ways I feel a bit sorry that we are going down this track instead of encouraging midwives to get up to speed with the internet and web based communication, which i believe has a lot more to offer.