In this period of self-isolation and social distancing, those of us who regularly met for life-saving/sustaining meetings are left searching for alternatives. One valid method is to participate in online meetings. These are similar to regular meetings, but instead of gathering in a church fellowship hall or basement, we meet in a 'virtual room' using technology to bring us together.
Our area seems to have largely embraced the Zoom application to facilitate our online meetings. There are other alternatives, from group phone calls to Facetime chats....but for this blog we'll focus on the Zoom alternative.
One nice thing about Zoom is that it is quite flexible. At the low tech end, any phone can be used to participate. Merely call the phone number listed in the meeting page, enter the meeting number provided on the same page, and you will hear all that goes on - and can share as well. There are no other charges than phone service, and any phone will work. The disadvantage is that no video of participants or shared documents is possible. For that, you would need something a bit more sophisticated...but it is still pretty easy.
If you have a smart phone (iPhone or Android), a tablet (iPad or Android), or most home computers, you can join a meeting and share video of the participants and documents. Having a WiFi connection will avoid any data plan charges on your phone, but if you have an unlimited plan that may not be a concern. But if you DO NOT have an unlimited plan, be aware that connecting WITHOUT a WiFi connection may use up your allotment quickly. There are apps you can download into your phones or tablets - same as any app - go to the Apple store or Google store and search on Zoom. The apps are free to download.
The easiest way to connect to a meeting is to simply click on the 'Meeting Link' column in the CopperCountryAA website...this will take you directly to a meeting. You can also click on the app on a smart phone or tablet and enter the meeting number associated with that meeting (also from the website).
Zoom allows you to control the operation of your camera and microphone - so you can mute yourself (say kids start hollering), or shut off your camera (say you're shy).... By default, both these are OFF when you first join a meeting - you will need to turn them ON. Touching the screen of a phone or tablet should bring up a pop up menu with little icons of a microphone and camera that let you click these on/off as you wish. In meetings with many members (>10) it is considered courteous to mute microphones when not speaking to avoid the accumulation of distracting background noises.
Many, but not all, home and laptop computers have built in cameras and microphones - and with these the computer would make a fine platform for Zoom meeting. All tablets I've seen have built in cameras/microphones and are perhaps the best platform - still mobile, but large enough to actually see documents and facial expressions. I have tried 2 different Android tablets, and an older iPad Mini with good results.
I did a quick Google search on 'Walmart Android tablets less than $100' and a couple dozen models showed up - as low as $45. Although I obviously cannot personally vouch for all these models, I believe just about any tablet would make a decent Zoom platform for meetings. Keep in mind though, you WOULD need a WiFi connection - and public WiFi at libraries, coffee shops, etc...are not available in our isolation condition. Maybe a generous neighbor would share their password?
We can get almost everyone hooked up to online meeting so we can all stay sober during this stressful time - and all stay virus free and healthy. If all this seems a bit much - help is available. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will get a return email or phone call and help will be provided....