By Resident Reed Browning —
Few aspects of modern life are so steadily in transition as our interactions with the digital world. New hand-held devices seem to come on the market every year, and people tend to own more and more of them. Meanwhile, enticing offers of new streaming options clutter our mail boxes on an almost weekly basis. And what is true for individuals holds true for communities as well. If a community wants to be be useful for its members – and Kendal communities make that goal one of their prime purposes – its Information Technology opportunities must be up-to-date, and their care and repair must be timely. Otherwise, residents would perceive their contact with the dizzying world of digitized information as frustrating and judge it to be inadequate.
As residents of Kendal at Granville, we know that with Amie Webb as our Manager of Information Services, our IT needs are in good hands. I spoke with her a few days ago, and in her own words, she “likes solving problems and helping people.” In the four years since she assumed her responsibility she has planned and overseen three increases in campus internet speed, moving us from 3-6 mbps (megabits per second) to 100 mbps. She has helped guide the recent upgrade in our health system server to allow the rapid transfer of medical records. She is currently exploring the possibility of having events and performances in the Amelia Gathering Room transmitted “live” to the television screens in the various residential units. And she regularly meets with the people who hold positions analogous to hers at other Kendal campuses to share IT ideas, to hear reports on various local IT experiments, and to make sure that Kendal at Granville is adopting “best practices” as it moves to stay abreast of the field of IT service.
“Service” is the key word here. For residents also know Amie as the person helps them cope with their personal IT problems – a person who wants (and again I quote her) “to go the extra mile.” In fact, roughly half of of Amie’s time is spent dealing with residents one-on-one. New residents arrive with all levels of IT savvy. Whatever their needs, she helps them set up their equipment. In some instances it’s as simple as getting some things plugged in. But at the other end of the spectrum – as for example with new residents who want to continue running their businesses from their new home – it can require several visits. Assuring that a system of business connectivity is operative is all part of her job. As Amie says, with a trace of understatement, having “an onsite IT person to assist with urgent technology issues is nice when you’re up against deadlines.” Nice? How about essential!
Meanwhile, in recognition that Amie can’t be everywhere at once, the Kendal at Granville Residents Association (KAGRA) is exploring the possibility of regularizing the currently informal Microsoft and Apple users’ groups. The hope here is find ways to complement the work of the Manager of Information Services by bringing in on occasion outside experts to offer group classes for those who are just entering the digital world and to provide one-on-one sessions for more-advanced individuals with specific questions.
I’ll end with a personal note. Kendal’s residents come from a diverse set of professional, geographical, and educational backgrounds; our interests are varied. But despite these differences, there’s one trait we all share: having grown to adulthood well before the digital revolution transformed American life, none of us can claim to be a “digital native.” Instead, as the years passed we have all found ourselves adjusting, adapting, and feeling our way along—some with speed and excitement, others more fearfully and occasionally resentfully—as we have become aware of the extraordinary power and possibilities of the digital revolution to change the world we are familiar with. As residents of Kendal, therefore, we are fortunate that, guided by the expertise of Amie Webb, and in consultation with knowledgeable local residents, Kendal at Granville is navigating this journey into the future with a clear vision, a determination to stay up-to-date, and a commitment to serve the IT needs of all residents.