Technology Will Bridge Languages at 2016 General Conference
When the United Methodist General Conference meets in Portland, Oregon, in 2016, the planning committee wants to ensure that language differences are dealt with as fairly as possible.That means providing simultaneous translation in eight languages for the delegates, bishops, staff, official observers, reserve delegates and guests to the plenary sessions at the church’s top lawmaking assembly. In past conferences, English-speaking delegates have not used headsets for translations. Also, translations done over the public-address system slowed the sessions.
Providing infrared headsets for the 1,200 delegates, bishops and official participants won’t be too much of a change for staff from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and translations systems contractor Frank Ferrer. But providing interpretation for as many as 3,000 guests presents a larger challenge.
Ferrer went searching for a solution when he realized that renting equipment would be prohibitively expensive – not to mention the high risk of loss from unreturned receivers and headsets. The option he found uses smart device technology.
Ferrer demonstrated to the Commission on General Conference a “Bring Your Own Device” system that allows the use of a smart-phone app in connection with a dedicated wireless network to stream audio. Originally designed to allow patrons in sports bars to hear their favorite television channel, it can be used to access any of the eight translation languages provided at General Conference.
The commission then tested the technology during their meeting in Portland. It will be tested again during the Council of Bishops meeting in Berlin, May 1-7, and a final decision about using this, or other emerging technology, will be made by interpretation staff and the General Conference business manager, Sara Hotchkiss.
Initial testing shows the system will work with most portable smart devices. Those that use the Apple iOS have worked well in initial testing. Android OS devices can also access the app, but not all versions are compatible. Ferrer reports that Microsoft phones and Surface tablets do not support the app at this time.
Battery life may be the other challenge. When smart phones are accessing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular networks simultaneously, battery life can be compromised. Ferrer reports times as low as three hours for an iPhone, but iPads and iPod touch can run for 10 hours.
“Our hope is that people will download this application before coming to the conference, and then when they need the service, it will be right there on the device they have with them,” he says. “It won’t be the perfect solution for everyone, so we will still need a few receivers to loan out, but this will provide a high-quality audio solution for most of the people attending.”
He’s also planning to have low-cost ear phones to sell on-site for those who need them.
Nelson is the director of communications in the Oregon-Idaho Conference.
News media contact: Heather Hahn, firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-742-5470.
How technology could help General Conference delegates
an earlier story by Heather Hahn
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Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network
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The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:
- Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
- Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at email@example.com.