Tuesday, 12 March 2013
The National Archives is that there is always something new going on. I keep volunteering for things (and sometimes people higher up the food chain 'volunteer' me, and then tell me later! They know I'm always up for it).
This week's new experience was running pilot sessions for webinars. I've taken part in webinars before, and even been a ring-in interviewee, but I've never been the main performer before. This one had vision as well as sound, with my 'talking head' in the corner of the screen, next to the presentation slides. It felt rather odd, talking to a camera instead of a live audience, but I have done occasional recordings to camera before (although this was live and not being recorded) so I soon got used to it. This pilot session was on finding 'missing' people in the census, one of the 30-minute 'Focus on' sessions that we gave on the day before 'Who Do You Think You Are? - Live', and then at the show itself.
One of my colleagues, John Wood, was the facilitator, doing the introduction and after the talk he asked me questions that had come up on the chat board. There's another pilot session tomorrow, 13 March, at 4pm GMT when John will be the speaker, this time on First World War records. If you are reading this in time, and you are free then, you can email for details on how to join in. Otherwise, keep an eye on the website for news of the webinars when they are launched for real.
The software we are using is called Blackboard, which is already used by the Education Department as part of its work with schools. By the way, although the resources on that part of the site are aimed at school students, family historians will find much of interest there too. There is a neat little light pen that you can use on the screen, but I resisted the temptation to play with it - well I did use it just once, but it was integral to the presentation, honestly!
I think these webinars are going to work well, and as we become more comfortable with the technology I'm sure we'll become more proficient. As it was, I thought the pilot session went pretty well, for a complete beginner. I hope that in a year's time I'll be able to point to a collection of archived webinars and a programme of forthcoming new ones. And that I'll have had the chance to do some more new things too. I like living in interesting times.