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Sociotechnical Zoom

Posted on: October 13, 2020

The implementation of any educational technology is a sociotechnical endeavour and Zoom is no exception.

Whether a plan to integrate technology with lessons works well depends largely on the human factor, not the technology factor. If people have a can-do attitude and come prepared, the effort is more likely to go well than not.

When I tried Zoom’s September release of Breakout Rooms, I did a trial run before using it for real. Despite my reminders that students update their Zoom clients, a few did not. So instead of all my students choosing their own stations, I had to manually assign the few who could not use the Breakout Rooms function.

October 2020 class in Zoom.

I noticed something else between classes. At my first online session, I noticed that my students names did not appear underneath their video thumbnails when they moved from the waiting area to the main room. There was a three to five minute lag before their names eventually appeared.

I highlighted this issue to a techie who was there to hand the hosting role over and the problem did not appear at the second session. Might there have been a switch of dashboard setting or an update at the server end? Again, this was a human move.

Both examples illustrate how using Zoom is a sociotechnical system. It is one thing to learn how to use it technically, and this is the easy part. It is another to negotiate its use socially and to preempt human issues on the same.

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