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CoGS approves use of tablets at General Synod 2016

By Tali Folkins on March, 11 2016

Brian Bukowski, General Synod web manager, gives a presentation to Council of General Synod (CoGS) on an app to be loaded on tablets at General Synod 2016 this summer.


It’s official—tablets will replace binders at General Synod this summer.

Council of General Synod (CoGS) voted Thursday, March 10 in favour of a motion to approve and authorize the use of tablets at General Synod, after hearing presentations by planning committee chair Dean Peter Wall and General Synod web manager Brian Bukowski.

The decision means that when delegates arrive in Richmond Hill, Ont., this July, they will be issued tablets instead of the traditional three-ring binders. The tablets will come preloaded with a special app that will include the agenda of the six-day gathering, resolutions and other key documents, and a number of other features meant to enhance the experience. 

Wall said he got the idea of switching to tablets after attending a recent General Convention of The Episcopal Church, where attendees used similar technology. 

“I was very impressed with the use of what they call their ‘virtual binder,’ ” Wall said. “I came back thinking, ‘Wouldn’t that be neat?’...and then in a meeting I actually talked about how neat it would be. And so a group of people, both on the planning committee and around Church House, thought that this was worth investigating.”

Among the findings of this investigation, he said in response to a question about the cost of switching to tablets, is that while it would require some additional expense, it would also save money that would otherwise be used for the paper, photocopying, labour and other costs normally incurred by issuing the binders. In an earlier interview with the Anglican Journal, Wall said the total cost of the tablets is estimated to be around $30,000—which includes the cost of the app, backup tablets and on-site technical services. Money saved on printing, photocopying and paper will amount to around $18,000—meaning the tablets will cost about $12,000 more than is usually allocated for distribution of information materials, he said.

The net cost of switching to tablets fits into the existing budget for General Synod, Wall told CoGS. 

Extra tablets will be ordered in case any delegates need a backup for the tablet they’re issued, he said. Since the tablets will be rented, delegates will return them after General Synod. 

However, Bukowski said, delegates will also be able to download the app onto other devices—their own laptop or desktop computers, or phones, for example—and sync it with the app loaded onto the tablets. This way, he said, they’ll be able to keep all the documents from General Synod after they leave.

The tablets will be loaded with a commercial app specially designed for use in conventions, said Bukowski, whose presentation to CoGS included a demo of the app. Each delegate’s app will be customizable for that delegate—it will include, for example, an agenda showing which meetings he or she will be attending, depending on the delegate’s committee membership. As demonstrated by Bukowski, the app features a map of the hotel, with a dot indicating where the delegate is supposed to be at any one time during General Synod.

The app also allows delegates to see all the resolutions before them, updated every 90 seconds with their status—amended, approved and so on, he said. General Synod attendees will also be able to send messages to one another, and even instantly share photos, he said. 

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By Tali Folkins| March, 11 2016
Categories:  News|National News
Keywords:  General Synod 2016

About the Author

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.  His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer

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