Making Connections

Technology Empowers Us To Sustain Relationships From Huge Physical Distances.

The pandemic has been like a slingshot for technology adoption: for business, for schools and for families trying to stay in touch. While it is often a poor substitute for getting together over a meal or just a coffee for a face-to-face chat, we often take today’s modern communication technology for granted.

“I talk to my grandfather on WhatsApp, Zoom or VR about twice a week. It’s not the same as when we hang out in the summertime,” says Justin McClure, a 10-year-old SIS South Jakarta student. “We love hanging out on his farm and building things on summer breaks.” But between Justin, who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, and his grandfather, who lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada, there is a distance of nearly 16,000 km. “We’re lucky that we have Zoom and VR especially during the pandemic,” he says.

The two stay in touch because they have a special bond built over regular in-person summer holidays, Justin explains. But he says it’s still hard. “You’re missing out on all the little things. Play fighting, boxing lessons, campfires, building things in his shop.”

While Zoom and Skype were designed for use by business travellers, Justin feels this tech has also allowed him to maintain his relationship with his grandfather. And the feeling is mutual. His grandfather, Ron, says, “It’s a little easier not having to worry about the phone rates,” he says. “I used to think I would be satisfied talking to my kids over the phone but now that we have video it’s really nice to see them. And with my grandchildren it’s especially nice to be able to see their faces, see them getting taller, hear them play instruments and even get to play some video games with them. Justin is always showing me new worlds and new games in VR. The Internet has always been around for them so I was the only one that needed to adapt.”

Of course, technology is more than just a way of staying in touch with family and friends. Technology has been improving communication between coworkers as well — not just for those working from different cities or countries, but even for those who work side-by-side in an office.

“It’s nice to be able to get work done with just one mouse click,” says Justin’s father, Ryan McClure. “And I’m happy that my team can even work on small projects together remotely.”

Ryan and his digital agency employees haven’t been together in an office for over a year. But that’s nothing new for them. Long before Covid-19 hit and lockdowns began, Ryan’s team saved commute time and the hassle of Jakarta traffic by learning how to work remotely. Some now even live in other cities and countries. “We each have our own digital spaces and can share files easily: we also can assist each other as needed either through web calls or video conference calls. The only difference since the pandemic hit is that now all of our clients are using these tools, too. Instead of driving to and from an office we can spend more time exercising or relaxing with family.”

It’s only natural that children want to be together to be social. It’s an important part of growing up as a human as we are all social animals. That’s why, going into another year of Distance Learning, SIS Group of Schools is exploring even more ways to be social using various forms of “edutech”. Even though VR might not sound like a perfect substitute for a class trip, Virtual Reality and the AltSpaceVR platform allow kids to hang out and have casual conversations – outside of the Zoom classroom. This lets close friends have private conversations and new students to develop 1-on-1 relationships, play pickup games and other activities that just don’t work in Zoom. While socialising with these tools, they are also becoming familiar with the tools the working world must now use.

While we all look forward to those class trips to the water park it’s important to be thankful for the technology we have now that allows us to maintain our relationships despite being so remote. We may be “social distancing” with our bodies, but thanks to modern technology that’s no reason not to be social!