Friday, July 13, 2012

ReImagine GC: Sunset the DUMB Books

I could have survived all of General Convention using only my iPad and iPhone. And . . . that was without any access to WiFi in the Convention Center. Boingo was a total Fail in the Convention Center. Like many deputies, I could never get my $9.95 per month Boingo account to work in the Convention Center, although it worked great at Denver International Airport. Thankfully, I had paid for the data packages on both devices ($29.99 monthly fee for each device), and Downtown Indianapolis has LTE (Long Term Evolution mobile communication standard), which makes for a fast, dependable cellular connection on the iPad and iPhone. 

Deputy Matt Hall, Secretary of Legislative Committee 18-
Ecumenical Relations, taking notes on his laptop at the
orientation session for Legislative Officers and Aides.
I had downloaded the Blue Book as a PDF on both devices. Thanks to Scott Gunn at Seven Whole Days, I was also able to download all the subsequent B, C and D resolutions as one large PDF file onto my devices. Scott kept us updated until July 3rd, and the first legislative day was July 5th. 

The only time I needed to refer to the B, C, and D resolutions printed out for our DUMB books (as in Damned Unwieldy Musty Binders) was on the one or two occasions when I wanted to read the Explanation of a resolution. If the GC All Resolutions Web page printed a third category of "Resolution with Explanation" in addition to "Original Resolution" and "Current Resolution," that would obviate the need for the DUMB book completely.

Colorado's alternates, (L to R) Max Bailey, Janet Farmer
and Erica Hein. Max has his MacBook laptop. Janet has a
Blue Book (which is salmon this time), and the DUMB books
in front of Janet and Erica have partially filled up with days
of calendars and resolutions.
Elections could be handled either by posting the updated nominees' information to a new GC Web page (preferred option) or continuing the practice of passing out paper (if we have to). Elections and appointments were reported on a GC Web page that contained the original resolution calling for the election or authorizing the appointment and the current resolution that detailed the results.

The General Convention Legislation Web Page had every Daily and Supplemental Calendar of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops and the most recent Messages from both houses so that I could track the status of legislation. This was particularly helpful when I retired to my room each evening and prepared for the next day's legislative sessions.

Two deputies comparing notes on their smart phones.
(On the right, Deputy Larry Hitt, Colorado.
I'm sorry I don't know the deputy on the left.)
Deputies are very grateful for the General Convention Office's negotiations with the convention hotels that gave us all free Internet in our sleeping rooms. That saved each deputy $12.95 plus tax each day! (We were also grateful for the negotiated $10 daily hotel food coupons and 10% food discounts at hotel restaurants, negotiated by staff. Thank you!) Most deputies, myself included, also traveled with a laptop on which we did our blogging, photo processing, and emails in our rooms, and free Internet meant fast downloads and updates to programs and apps.

It was also very evident that many deputies used iPads to write their testimony and carried them to the mircophones both on the floor and at hearings to give their testimony. Many preachers now preach from notes on their iPads instead on pieces of paper or index cards. The electronic notepads like iPads are slim and relatively lightweight, have long battery life, and fit easily into purses and slim briefcases.

Deputy Lelanda Lee testifying at microphone, using an iPad.
[photo by Beckett Stokes]
For a future GC, we should strive for a paperless convention with the option for those deputies who absolutely cannot go all electronic to be accommodated. We would just need a print distribution station for deputies with badges marked that they signed up for paper copies. I believe that deputies should be willing to try new technology as part of their duty to participate fully. Going all electronic not only saves paper as an environmentally conscious measure, but it also saves the time and effort of staff and volunteers who have to print and distribute the volumes of paper, and deputies will receive their electronic documents faster than paper documents. A look around the House of Deputies at the end of the last day reveals that most deputies don't carry their DUMB books home after GC is over. Many of us no longer keep paper copies of documents, preferring to file electronic copies for easier access and storage.   

I understand that electronic devices are costly to own and maintain, and money should not be a barrier to participation. I suggest that diocesan offices consider buying some iPads that could be loaned to standing committee members and GC deputies for their meetings and otherwise deployed by diocesan staff and volunteers for other meetings. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) experimented with loaning iPads to several synods (comparable to our dioceses) to try a paperless churchwide assembly in 2011, and The Episcopal Church should try something similar in 2015. Perhaps funding could be obtained through a grant from an outside source for such a churchwide endeavor.



Les Singleton, Alternate Clergy Deputy from Florida at GC 2012, sent me an email with the following comment, for which I am grateful, and he gave me permission to post it here:

"Lelanda, in your blog you mention ELCA going paperless in 2011. That's not the way I observed it. I spent 2 or 3 days in Orlando, sitting in the back visitors gallery. About 25% had loaner electronics. The main activity was all on PAPER. What the ELCA does in the future, I don't know.

I really enjoyed their worship... it was GREAT. But, a couple of book stores and a parish nursing program was all they had for a market place. But, in 2011 it was still business on PAPER."

I wrote back to Les that I had heard about the paperless churchwide assembly idea at the ELCA Church Council meeting when the proposal to provide loaner iPads was raised. The Church Council meetings are virtually 100% paperless, utilizing an online posting system for sharing documents with council members, that is updated all during the Council meetings.

V said...

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