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Down the line

We really don't appreciate enough the wonders that information and communication technology enables. The smartphone in our pockets gives us abilities that only James Bond had when I was young. And earlier this week I had a brilliant example of the way ICT can transform the way we work when I spent the day in a school in Amman, Jordan without leaving my office.

I've done quick Q and A on occasions via Skype with a school before, but nothing on this scale.

Overall it was remarkably effective. Now I can hear the technophobes in the background (what are you doing reading a blog, you old fogies?) saying 'Ah, but it's not like really being there!' And for once they are right. That is perfectly true. But there are plenty of occasions when being there is just not practical, and this is certainly the next best thing. What's more, it even saves the school money (something most schools are not averse to),  because they don't have to pay for my travel. And I can do it in my slippers.

We had two-way video set up and the outcome was better than I could have imagined. I ran interactive sessions - I could see them with their hands up, as long as they spoke nice and loud I could hear what they were saying and this two way visual communication gave some real benefit. (I've had lovely emails from the school emphasising this.) Just how important the video link was was brought home in the first session of the day (not helped, I admit by starting at 5am because of the time difference), when technical problems meant I had to do a chunk of the session 'blind.' Not seeing the audience made a huge difference - and not a good one.

I know lots of people use Skype to keep in touch with distant loved ones. I've always found it a bit clumsy for this, as you have to schedule a chat and it feels far less spontaneous than phoning or texting. But for this particular application the technology came up trumps and made it possible to spend a day in a school that was, in reality, over two thousand miles away.

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