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In Appreciation of ZOOM (Sort of)

By Kathleen Russo | May 2, 2020
I've never ZOOMED   in  my life until March 20, 2020. Not because I was curious but out of necessity.  Our whole world turned upside down   in  a matter of two weeks. As the co-director of the  Audio Podcast Fellows Program/Stony Brook,  the only way to "save" our program ( in  the middle of a semester).- was to ZOOM. We went from meeting once a week   in-person to not meeting at all. Until ZOOM (wish I bought stock   in  the company).
But seriously, I have to say, it saved us and gave us an intimacy with our students that we never experienced before.   Our class is comprised of many diverse and outstanding storytellers.  If you want to podcast, you have to be able to tell a good story and this is what we impress upon our students from Day One. We have such a wide range of   podcasts  coming out of this program from -   Faithless  (a podcast on atheism),  Gathering   (portraits of African-American families), to   Kids Tell Stories  (a podcast told   in  the voices of young children) just to name a few.
We decided instead of teaching our 4-hour class as a group, once a week, we would do individual sessions with each of our 15 students, plus one weekly class with ALL the students. 
For some reason, I thought I could sign   in  and multitask at the same time but NO! You have to be   really  present.   In  fact, I think more present than when you do teach   in-person. 
What we accomplished (I hope) is to keep everyone on track and on the schedule we set forth   in  the Fall- to launch their podcast   in  May on Megaphone (one of our program's sponsors). Most of our students will be able to do this because of our hardworking team. Some will get it done over the summer.  Even though our class ends next week, we have pledged to our students, we are here for them until they get their podcast launched.   In  fact, if they want to come back to the class- at any time- next year- they are more than welcome to attend.
I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you ZOOM (although I've never sat this much   in  my entire life) but also, thank you to my students and my team of teachers.  Everyone was on board and willing to try a new way of learning and for us a new way of teaching. We all worked hard to find a solution very quickly. This is brand new territory for all of us and I guess, we need to embrace it because what other choice do we have?    
We spent the first class back after we were quarantined just talking or as we have now named it -PODCAST THERAPY.  A critical component to keeping us afloat   in  a podcast community that has grown close over the academic year. We are supporting each other to do the best we can under the extenuating circumstances and guiding each other to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  No, it's not a train as the poet Robert Lowell would have you believe, it is a podcast!