Jonathan Klyng was comfortably living his life as a philosophy professor at Harbor College – and a committed and active member of AFT 1521 – when the COVID pandemic hit and another opportunity arose.
In the early summer of 2020, the call went out for someone to coordinate Harbor’s Distance Education program. Klyng applied for the position, which he now shares with Alberto Pimentel. Klyng handles most of the technological aspects of the work while Pimentel works directly with administration. But even for a person as tech-savvy as he is, Klyng admits the new post has its challenges.
“I started doing this at the height of COVID, and it was a tidal wave. That’s the best way to put it,” Klyng said. “It was just a whirlwind of new information and new transitions, learning how to navigate the online classroom and helping everybody else do that as well. I had a background in technology that I thought I could use to help my college out when the need arose.”
His help is in nearly constant demand. Klyng manages the online platform Canvas, making sure that all the classroom shells are set up and functioning properly. Outside the classroom, in his role as Harbor’s Contract Action Team (CAT) lead, Klyng has applied his tech skills to assisting his union. Through things like video tutorials, Klyng has worked to make digital organizing less difficult and even fun.
The work has run the gamut from helping members figure out the protocols of Zoom to creating an easy way for members to upload selfies to accompany an email sent to the LACCD Board of Trustees during an organizing action. The goal is ease and expediency so that, whatever the action, people are not scrambling at the last minute trying to figure things out.
Looking toward a post-COVID future, Klyng acknowledges the need to take some of what we have learned from distance learning and apply it to the “new normal,” whatever that may be.
“The challenge now is how do we see distance education?” Klyng said. “What pieces of the online classroom environment can we take from the pandemic situation and make online learning better? When it comes to the future of meetings and office hours, what role will online videoconferencing play? Are we going to allow everyone to sort of Zoom in? Are we going to open up office hours to our students so they don’t actually have to come in to campus anymore? I think that in the future, the potential for online videoconferencing as a replacement for face-to-face meetings is going to be significant.”
A Los Angeles native, Klyng attended Pierce College before transferring to UCLA and then going to California State University, Los Angeles for his graduate work. He will be returning to UCLA to pursue a doctorate in education.
While teaching classes at Pierce before being hired at Harbor, he met Sociology Professor Julio Tsuha, who encouraged Klyng to increase his involvement with Local 1521. As a member of the Guild’s executive board, Klyng helped draft 1521’s new vision statement.
“I see unions as a voice for our colleagues, a way to represent our needs and our concerns,” Klyng said. “Unions are potentially powerful organizations which can help drive real change in a community and in the state. So I think that I would always like to be involved with my union, one way or the other, to help make them more successful than they already are.”