Vienna, W.Va. – It’s a long way from the State Capitol in Charleston to Greenmont School in Vienna.
But only if you measure the distance in miles.
In cyberspace, the distance doesn’t mean anything.
Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant met face-to-face with about 45 fourth grade students today – while they sat in the school’s library and Tennant sat in her State Capitol office.
Using the internet program Skype, the students and Tennant made the 90 miles that separated them disappear and were able to see and talk to each other. One by one, the students sat in front of the webcam and got to ask Tennant a question.
Cooper asked her if she had to travel a lot for her job. Bailey asked her if she ever got nervous when she had to give a speech. Nick asked if it was hard being elected Secretary of State. And Dylan asked Tennant if she ever considered running for another office.
“This is what open and engaging government is all about,” Tennant said. “This is the opportunity to talk face to face with a government official. If we have the technology we have to take advantage of it and show that we can make West Virginia smaller but also move the state forward at the same time.”
This isn’t the first time Tennant has used Skype to communicate via webcam. While at the Overseas Vote Foundation conference in Munich, Germany, Tennant did a live interview via Skype with WOWK-TV and WCHS-TV in Charleston. WOWK-TV again interviewed Tennant live via Skype when she was in India as part of the Aspen Institute’s Rodel Fellowship.
The best part, Tennant said, is that Skype is free.
“All you need is a computer with internet access and a webcam. That’s it. That means we meet face to face with students around the state. It’s exciting technology that we should all be using to help students understand how their government works.”
Tennant said more Skype live shots were planned with students around the state. In addition to Skype, Tennant has hosted several live webcasts in the past year, including ten webcasts on Election Day. During the webcasts Tennant was able to answer questions about issues that were arising throughout the state and show how Secretary of State staff was assisting county clerks and other voting officials.