Lockdown Support Zone: Group Inspiration
Diana Harrison & Paul Bailey share their experience of a running a group meeting on Zoom
French Conversation on a Thursday
Just to let you know what our group (French conversation Thursdays even weeks) has been doing during lockdown.
We've also now done two Zoom meetings with 6 of our 10 members participating, including one in Corsica. It's been so good to see each other and be able to talk in French. We're going to carry on doing this on the same days as we would have been meeting until we can actually meet face to face again.
We're in regular touch by email. I have a French friend who sends me daily emails with funny stories, quizzes, political updates and wonderful travel videos from around the world. I pass many of these on to the group.
He also sends Coronavirus updates and it's been so interesting to see our situation mirrored across the Channel. With all our gloomy news (that makes you feel we're the only country which has completely mismanaged the virus), it's reassuring, if scary, to find that other countries are in exactly the same boat. This includes lack of PPE and funding going to the wrong places. A recent one said they were going to rename the phrase, 'as rare as hens' teeth', to 'as rare as masks'.
Probing the News
Like several other groups, we have used Zoom to hold two meetings. These have been a great success with 12 (soon to be 13) participating out of 18 members. Two of our participants are well into their 90’s, so as we well know age is no barrier to the use of modern technology.
Our group didn’t need much encouragement to participate. The lady who arranged the meetings did an excellent job of circulating instructions to everyone on using Zoom (basically how to join a meeting once you’ve downloaded the app). She also did do a couple of one-to-ones beforehand but everyone else sorted themselves out. Around three or four people were already using Zoom.
Most of us have found using Zoom to be straightforward and we have learnt on the job so to speak, with help from a couple of experts. I would encourage other groups who haven’t yet tried it to give it a go.
In terms of devices the majority of people are using iPads closely followed by laptops. Only one person is using her phone. Two of us are using desktops. From the feedback I’ve had whilst we have been in the meetings is that tablets work fine. Phones are probably the least effective when in a large group as you cannot easily see the other participants and stability problems occur if you have to hold the phone.
We normally meet fortnightly but have arranged future meetings weekly for two hours while lockdown is in play.
These are the initiatives that we know about in Ilkley U3A:
Singing for Pleasure experiments with Zoom. Angie Grain reports:
About 23 people took part and stayed on-line for well over an hour. There were a few technical teething problems for some, we exercised very little discipline but generally chatted and had a very jolly time just catching up with each other.
We had a couple of attempts at singing together and trying to follow music, with varying success - perhaps a 'work in progress' there, but we resolved to try it again, probably at our 'normal' meeting time.
It was a jolly session of near mayhem!! Lots of interruptions, some kept losing the screen, folk left to make coffees*, some didn't understand the concept of sharing the screen when Brian or Robin tried to play music, admiring folks' home décor, etc., etc.
* lesson #1 - make coffee before you start! Interestingly, the 40 minute “free time” limit seems not be enforced.
The Aviation Group has been using Zoom to hold a first online virtual meeting. John Metcalf explains:
I got the idea from our parish church in Silsden where one of the members of a discussion group set up a zoom account so we could continue.
I set up an account in my name and emailed our members (about 20) explaining what I proposed and said there would be a conference meeting the following Wed at 10.30am (April1st). I explained how to download Zoom and log in to my account at the time advertised.
In the end we got 8 sign-ins on the morning. One member attempted to join but couldn't probably because they tried at the end of the 40 minute period. Another sent late apologies. So half of the membership felt able to participate.
It worked well. Initially I took control of the meeting and asked X first for any contribution then went round the group. Somehow it then just 'worked' and members listened and as soon as someone made a contribution no one interrupted. I don't think anyone used a phone, some used laptops, and some like myself used tablets
There was general consensus about holding a second meeting so we are having another meeting next Wednesday, a gap of two weeks which feels right. I sent out a brief description following the meeting for those unable for whatever reason to join in. The acid test will be next Wed when we see how many join!!
For more information on using Zoom select here.
Art Appreciation, Bird Watching, Northern Towns, Railway and Craft Groups are amongst those using email to keep in touch. Art Appreciation have shared a quiz with the wider U3A (see Quiz page) and Ann Thake reports that the Bird Watching group are building up a steady collection of photos taken in gardens since lockdown started.
Tai Chi have added some links for some introductory moves to their group page. Select here to see what Jim Butterworth has provided for his group. My thanks to Ann Johnson for the suggestion.
The Drawing Group and the Craft Workshop are using our website to share their work with each other. If you are logged in, select drawing group or select art for fun or select craft workshop to see how they are getting along. Some excellent skills on display.
Otley Circle dance group are using their usual group time to dance at home... visualising being in the hall and in a circle. The theme for the first session was the popular song ’Don’t Worry be Happy'... the dance steps were sent out beforehand. Response from the members was encouraging so it will continue. The next theme will be based on the words of Julian of Norwich...'All shall be well again I know' using the tune 'Bells of Norwich'.
Art Appreciation have 9 members using WhatsApp. It tends to be more informal or chatty than their group email communications. They send each other arty info, funny or inspiring or beautiful images, pictures from walks or someone's creativity. All had a WhatsApp facility set up pre lockdown.
Walk Ten to Tea has a WhatsApp group to keep in touch. It was begun last September by one of our members, to initially share photos of our walks. Now it is used to stay in touch during this long break. 22 of the 27 members have joined and the other 5 have just been approached/reminded. It is a really good way of communicating, supporting, recommending ideas and raising spirits.
The Craft Group are circulating an email newsletter about craft and our one member without email has it sent to her by post and is in contact by phone with at least one other member of the group.
French Conversation on a Thursday have six members in a WhatsApp group. They write something about what's happening (not too depressing!) or share ideas about websites to look at, French films to watch etc.. Others are corresponding by email.
Members of the Tuesday Circle Dancing class are sharing various online resources so they continue dancing
Members of one of the wine groups have been invited to share photos and descriptions of wines they have enjoyed whilst their meetings are suspended.
The Photographic Group annual exhibition will be hosted by the website instead of the Manor House.
Other suggestions include:
Walkers: can post their favourite routes via a group page on our website.
Art and History: virtual tours of museums and galleries: https://www.boredpanda.com/famous-museums-offering-virtual-tours/
Birdwatching: share photos of a particular bird on our website
Bridge: use online apps and websites – here is one mentioned by members of other U3As
Trickster Bridge: https://www.trickstercards.com/home/bridge/
Crafts: the Craft U3A Facebook group is worth checking out - https://www.facebook.com/groups/CraftU3A/ (You need a Facebook account as it is a private group.)
Gardens and gardening: share photos on a theme (e.g. daffodils, camellias)
Languages: use telephone conference call or online apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger or Zoom to keep up with their conversational skills.
Scrabble: download the Scrabble app (or the new version, Scrabble GO) from the Apple App Store (for iPhone or iPad) or Play Store (for Android)
Singing: online apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger or Zoom can be used if groups want to sing together.
Gareth Malone is organising ‘The Great British Home Chorus’, which might be another way of keeping those vocal chords in shape: https://decca.com/greatbritishhomechorus/
Theatre and opera: various productions are being streamed online, and members could discuss these after watching the performance: https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/promoted/2020/where-can-i-watch-theatre-online-coronavirus-and-theatre-streaming/
This posting on a U3A Facebook Group should be an encouragement to have a try:
Select or click here to visit our support page for communicating without email
For ideas about how to keep in touch have a look at Managing group communication suggestions from Third Age Trust