Powering Up Offline in New Zealand

Two seagulls seem to be scolding me . . . it sounds like they are saying “Where is my lunch?”  “Don’t you have food to give me NOW?”

I am sitting at a small table outside a studio unit on a Pacific beach in Hahei, New Zealand, an end of the road driving destination, yet ironically, far more connected than I have been for the last week to people and activities back home in the states. I am using the next few days to recover from my holiday of last week–a guided walk along the Milford Track–one of the 20 best walks in the world in the Fjordland of New Zealand.  The Track is officially 33.5 miles long, spread out over three days of walking through beech tree forests, up and over Mackinnon Pass, and undulating temperate rain forests.

Doris starting the Milford Track

Doris starting the Milford Track

For a novice walker like me, it offered adventure and challenge–narrow, slick zigzags up the mountain; rocky, steep declines & flooded rock beds to cross going down; cold temperatures (hey, I’m from FL–45 degrees is cold!) and 35 MPH wind gusts as I approached and crossed Mackinnon Pass.  Did I say that I carried a 15 pound backpack and liter of water/camera (3 lbs+) with me everywhere?  Although I walked mainly by myself (my husband did not go and I was on a different pace from the 23 hikers in our group), at critical times, suddenly, quietly, one of the three guides would appear–Logan, Fe, or Akiko.  They would raise my flagging spirit with frequent “Well done” encouragements, entertaining  conversation, offers of hot chocolate, hot tea and respite from the elements in “huts” along the route, and showed me how Read more

Are you and your organization ready to MOOC?

I remember my first MOOC (massive online open course) experience – it was one of total bewilderment and confusion. I didn’t know how to navigate the many activities, groups, and topics that the MOOC participants were generating. It was my first introduction to connectivism, working out loud, networked learning, and learning in an organic, unstructured online environment. I was lost but intrigued, and entered the same MOOC twice more before I got the hang of it and developed the skills I needed to participate in and understand the power of this type of learning. The prescribed activities were designed to generate more participant-driven ones, with groups and subgroups forming and working and learning together. A heady experience!

Fast forward five + years, and now MOOCs are being offered by conglomerates of very renowned universities (Coursera, EdX, Udacity are examples). There are now different types of MOOCs depending on the learning philosophy and design. What has not changed, however, are the skills needed to be a successful MOOCer.

I have taken more MOOCs since my original experience to fulfill my personal learning plan. Most are free, and even if I don’t follow all of the requirements or activities, I get a lot out of them. I can choose my learning agenda within the MOOC, and pursue that agenda without consequences. The statistics for those that complete a MOOC are not good, but I don’t need to complete them to achieve my learning objectives, expand my personal learning network, and form new learning alliances. This is the new D-I-Y learning model. Read more

International Women’s Day and Women’s Ways of Working

Monday was International Women’s Day, and it was inspiring and sobering at the same time to hear how, in some cases, far women have come but also how far women still have to go to achieve parity in the workplace, safety in their homes, economic security, and value in society. Many women live in poverty, are considered property, enslaved, or are still chattel.

It was an opportunity to celebrate the many gifts, talents, and skills women have to offer the world. Begun in America in 1909 as America’s National Women’s Day to highlight the poor working conditions women were subjected to, it became an international holiday observed by Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland in 1911. In 1975 the United Nations declared it an official international holiday. On Monday the official international holiday turned 40 years old. Read more

Internet, Digital Technology, and Aging Well

From the time we are born, everyone is aging. I just have more experience at it. We should all be so lucky.

So said a speaker at the first listening session at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) held in Tampa on February 19. The WHCOA listening series started in Tampa and will continue in Phoenix, Seattle, Cleveland, and Boston before the Conference convenes late in 2015. The listening sessions are an opportunity for those interested in public policy to help all Americans age with dignity and health in the most independent living environment that we can manage. Ideally a majority of us wish to stay in our own homes, but if that isn’t possible, then in supportive settings that allow us to experience life as fully as possible for as long as possible.

History of Aging Programs in America

2015 is the 80th anniversary of the passage of the Social Security Act, our country’s first and most comprehensive effort to date to help people survive losing their income due to disability or advanced age. President and Mrs. Roosevelt in the White House spearheaded the passage of the Act to keep sick and old people out of the proverbial poor house. However, it took the federal policy recommendations of the 1961 White House Conference on Aging and the leadership of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to convince Congress to implement Medicare and Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act in 1965, 50 years ago. More recently, WHCOAs have led to Congress-legislated protections for older workers from job discrimination (for those over age 40 because many employers wished to avoid paying into retirement plans or higher health care costs for their workers), annual cost of living adjustments in Social Security benefits, and Long Term Care ombudsmen to help residents of long-term care facilities. Other programs preventing elder abuse, assisting elders with legal issues and adult protective services have been added in the last decade. Millions of Americans—as well as their families—depend on these public pillars to live with less vulnerability and more security. Read more