Prior to lockdown I rang two or three times a week in three different towers – bells were quite a big part of my life. So when we had to stop ringing it was a godsend when in April, Marion Moldon (Maz), the Corsley Tower Captain, invited me to join her virtual ringing group. Ever since, four of us have been ringing on Ding weekly. I was able to ring Call Changes and Plain Hunt on tower bells, but the other three are more experienced ringers. It was so good to be part of a team again and to continue bell ringing and learning albeit on a computer.
Ding is an app which allows you to ring a bell on a computer screen using the mouse or keyboard. Also available is a sister app called Bob which automatically fills in on any bell(s) for which there is no ringer. It is easy to use and makes the practice very flexible as just a small number of ringers can enjoy a session.
Ding has a message pane for the ringers to communicate via text but running a Zoom meeting in parallel makes communication between the ringers much easier. Initially our sessions were hampered by an echo which made precise striking difficult. We have now replaced the pc loudspeakers with headsets.
A successful session requires three different roles: a session organiser who deals with setting up the session including booking a Zoom meeting; an IT savvy person to assist with technical difficulties; and most importantly, the conductor to run the practice and teach.
These roles don’t necessarily need to be done by one person. For the smooth running of the Zoom practice it is vital that people know how to use the technology. A lot of time can be wasted if people try to come to grips with the technical side during the time set aside for a practice.
This aspect needs IT knowledge and can be facilitated by someone introducing people who are new to Zoom/Ding, how to set up their IT. It would be best done during a period dedicated to technical detail.
I have benefited greatly from regularly using Ding, especially under the guidance and personal encouragement of Maz. Through Ding I have been introduced to method ringing. It is as if a new door has opened and my horizons expanded. I have progressed from Plain Hunt to Plain Bob and Grandsire, and even had a go at Stedman. Ding has taught me to concentrate 100% on listening to bells and counting my places. The challenge will be applying this learning when we start practices in the tower!
Ding is an excellent teaching and learning tool, and I believe that it has the potential to continue to be used for that purpose in the future when the pandemic is over.