Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations — Richard M. DeVos
The agenda of go-to opportunities scheduled for Older Americans Month is robust and welcome – learning opportunities abound – to learn from the experts, to share ideas, join a spa, to take a class or participate in a conference. The focus and the effort are to be lauded!
Still, seniors who yearn to learn often encounter barriers – money for tuition, fees or registration, physical limitations, lack of transportation, time commitments. As a long-time advocate for armchair learning I can’t let OAM pass without a pitch for just a few of my favorite online learning picks
Increasingly, digital learning could and should be the flagship of lifelong learning. Though there’s lots of buzz about distance learning for young learners or as a cost-effective way to build a trained workforce, we tend to overlook the fact that lifelong learning is a certain investment in a full, rich, mentally and physically healthy life for older Americans, a learning life of ideas, opinions, information and memories and curiosity about life, the university and everything.
My concern is that too many of us, including lifelong learning proponents who push keyboarding skills, undervalue the potential of 21st Century access to the expanse and power of resources waiting to be tapped by seekers of knowledge or entertainment. Judging by promotion of the virtues of digital skills one might conclude that, for older techies, the primary applications are email, shopping, sports, and sharing progeny photos.
In fact, armchair learning opens the mind to endless possibilities. My goal in the OAM posts is to raise expectations – learners’ expectations of the abundance of recorded knowledge and techie trainers’ expectations of the learning horizons of seniors.
Though my skills are limited, my searching style is random and my fuse is short, I have faith that the Net is as patient as it is bountiful. That bounty includes – and is clearly not limited to — massive libraries of programming that began life as broadcast or cable television or radio. Many of us still think of mass media as being “of the moment”, unaware of the vaults of learning possibilities waiting to be clicked. The myth persists that you need to view or record the program as it is aired. Patently no longer true.
Because my quest to learn leans to independent, unscheduled, free and open (read armchair) learning I am currently poking around the staggering mix of digital libraries devoted to archiving and extending the life of broadcast/cablecast media – documentaries, informed discussions, book talks, interviews – all searchable and viewable online.
For me, radio rules. That may be because I learn by listening – and I’m probably not armchair bound but more likely doing boring chores while I make room and time for the information and ideas to sink in. Still, doodling and knitting do improve focus.
For example, listening to Krista Tippett early on Sunday morning is a ritual; the On Being website and blog keep rattling around my head during the week. And if I oversleep or need a refresher listen it’s archived here:
Similarly, most public radio programming is posted, cataloged, annotated almost as soon as it is aired. A ready point of access is NPR inclusive site (http://streema.com/radios/NPR_National_Public_Radio). It’s just a click to listen to archived treasures including All Things Considered, Fresh Air Radio, Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, The Diane Rehm Show, Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me Weekend — and a whole lot more – from wherever and whenever. For a lighter touch click on the digital replay of This American Life with Ira Glass – wouldn’t this be a good time to take a fun break at http://video.newyorker.com/watch/new-yorker-cover-mirror — or to reflect on the Bob Edwards’ wise words, as apt today as when the were recorded http://www.bobedwardsradio.com
Though radio’s great TV is not without its charms. In fact, yesterday’s television programming excels as an untapped learning resource. The wealth of video options on the web is staggering – random, but immense. Virtually every producer maintains an archive and search tools. It’s important to underscore that many of these programs are captioned. Readily accessible video vaults abound, including these, the tip of the digital iceberg:
- Twin Cities Public Television — http://www.mnvideovault.org/about.php
- Public Broadcasting – national http://www.pbs.org/shows/ and http://americanarchive.org/
- C-SPAN — http://www.c-span.org/about/videoLibrary/
- Ted Talks — https://www.ted.com/talks
- The UpTake http://theuptake.org/- rich archives plus live streaming of the Minnesota Legislature
Access to archived mass media is an obvious starting point for the armchair learner – the idea is to dive in, to eke the most out of the techie tools, to expect success.
Stay tuned for future armchair learning possibilities, starting with the inestimable resources produced, collected, organized, preserved and delivered to your armchair by government workers who share your vision of a learning democracy.