Tag Archives: C-Span

Armchair Learning – Click and Learn from Massive Media Archives

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:

http://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444594/krista-tippett-on-being http://www.onbeing.org/about.

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:

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.



Hubert H. Humphrey: Documentary Generates Memories and Invites Discussion

Though I know it dates me, I am forever proud to boast that I cut my political teeth handing out Humphrey campaign posters at the Union Hall in Highland Village.  From the first Union member’s positive response, I was hooked.  I trailed the Smiling Warrior through that Senatorial run, then lived and politicked in DC during some of his finest hours in the Senate.  As director of a national student organization with an aggressive human rights agenda I swelled with pride as Humphrey inspired youthful activists to believe in the political process – and to act on their beliefs.

The legacy of that era is a body of human rights legislation that shapes the nation today.

For many, the legacy is a lifetime commitment to political activism and awareness, politics of the possible and, yes, the politics of joy.  I admit that to this day I treasure a glossy photo in which some of us groundlings constituents tagged along with an interdenominational delegation of youth leaders for a high level tête-à-tête with our fearless leader.  I have told my sons that we were passing the Civil Rights bill and, in a way, I guess we were.

Though for the most part I eschew egocentric ramblings this reflection on HHH is the exception.  I cannot resist a personal affirmation of his early influence.

My retreat from the ubiquitous Super Bowl frenzy led me to C-Span’s Q&A where I tuned in on Brian Lamb interviewing Minnesota documentary producer Mick Caouette. They were discussing the two-hour documentary Hubert H. Humphrey: Art of the Possible

For a decade, Caouette interviewed scores of politicos – Senators, staffers, Humphrey supporters, historians and voters.  Caouette also delved into extraordinary archives of long-buried audio and video records of Humphrey in his glory and in his final illness, Humphrey as VP berated by Lyndon Johnson, Hubert the family man at his Wayzata home.  I was spellbound and, like several of the interviewees, moved to happy memories dampened by an occasional tear.  And this was the just discussion of a two-hour documentary I have yet to experience.

For those of an age Humphrey remains a powerful presence on the political scene – too recent for the history books, but alive in our memories.  Bill Moyers’ response to the documentary, quoted on the Humphrey Institute website, echoes and elegantly expresses my thoughts:”

I was among more than a thousand people who watched, laughed, gasped, and wept at Mick Caouette’s Hubert H. Humphrey: The Art of the Possible during a screening in Minneapolis. It is a powerful film about arguably the most important United States Senator of the 20th century whose great personal courage shaped the world we live in.

This is far more than just the riveting account of an exuberant public figure whose life was marked by both triumph and tragedy; it also is an important and fresh exploration of American history.

Youth will know about the demise of the Humphrey Metrodome, now reduced to relic status.  Many Minnesotans and virtually all U of M students know that the HHH Institute remains a venue for research, discourse and learning.

It occurs to me that time spent viewing and discussing the interview and the documentary would make a meaningful intergenerational experience.  If it happens to ignite a spark of interest in the legacy of Hubert H. Humphrey check the HHH Institute website for leads to scores of worthy books and related resources – and information about the centennial celebration of Hubert H. Humphrey that the Institute is planning for September 2011

Consider, too, that there in our midst family members and friends who would love nothing more than to dust off their memories and reflect on the lasting influence of Minnesota’s ebullient native son.