The main reason to have children is so that they can remind you what an old fart you are. Last Christmas I bought my husband a boxed set of DVDs of the TV show Northern Exposure. It took us a year to watch all six seasons. Then we loaned them to a neighbor so she could also watch. When we were done, we offered them to our son. The rejection was a polite, but pointed jab about wallowing in past technology. There followed a restrained boast of streaming, downloading or Harry Pottering anything he wanted to watch without the use of an archaic DVD player. And btw, was I still listening to 8-track tapes? Cheeky kid. They still sell DVDs, well, at least they were a year ago. It’s true, we stopped ordering weekly DVDs from Netflix a while back and now have three subscribed channels. Northern Exposure is not streaming on any of them and our magic viewing wands don’t work as well as they used to. Was our kid telling us to get with the program…technology-wise? Come on! We have HBO max for crying out loud.
It’s not that we don’t embrace the latest technology, it’s that it never occurs to us to ditch our old ways for ones of which we have no knowledge or understanding. But, we have dabbled in up-to-date technology from time to time. AARP offers Movies for Grownups through their website. It only took us a week or so to figure out how to hook the computer up to the TV set, find the proper setting on the remote for sending the voodoo through to the television screen and click on a link embedded (hidden) somewhere in the AARP website. We only miss the first few minutes of every movie we want to watch. Anyway, I already knew the storyline for Westside Story (the new one!). We have also managed to watch a few concerts through musicians’ Facebook pages. It’s a stumbling, fumbling, swearing process, but we eventually manage to view most of the entertainment we seek to enjoy.
We’d love to adapt to the magic of new technology. We simply have no inkling of what the possibilities are…until someone insists we use some new fangled whatever just to perform the tasks we’ve been doing in a certain way for the past 30 years. The new way is always better, faster and more reliable than the old way. But that has not always been my experience. The COVID pandemic had a way of driving this message home, when meeting in person had to give way to online everything.
In 2019 I started teaching tai chi. I’d been a yoga teacher for 20 years, so it seemed like a natural transition to offer tai chi class through the Healthy Aging Programs of Land of Sky Regional Council. The student sign-in sheets were on paper. The in-class music was broadcast via a CD player. The helpful tai chi principles were shared on hand-made posters. We were nonchalantly old-school in every way. My co-teacher and I were close in age. We synced wonderfully. After successfully teaching one 20-week class together, the pandemic intervened. and online classes via Zoom were suggested. Oh no!
Land of Sky Regional Council wanted me to continue teaching online. To say I was thoroughly intimidated is the mild version of what I felt. I was adamantly opposed. Outrageously insulted. Completely unwilling. Teach? On a computer? Everything I do on my computer has been carefully taught to me, step by step, by parties with immense patience and fortitude. Teaching a tai chi class on Zoom was too much for a brand new instructor with close to zero technical skills, to take on. So, the Healthy-Aging Program Director at Land of Sky talked me into it by offering a second instructor who knew the technical ropes. The area tai chi master, our instructor trainer, put together a class to help us teachers use the technology. I was beginning the process of morphing from an overwhelmed and terrified non-techie to an overwhelmed, slightly confused online tai chi instructor.
My new co-teacher Sara and I muddled through together. Well, I muddled through while she graciously walked me through helping students connect online, managing everyone’s view of us and understanding mirror image vs whatever. Sara and I recently met in person for the first time a few weeks ago. I hugged her hard. Though I learned a lot from working online with her and was grateful for her steady flat-screen presence, after teaching that class for 20 weeks, I declared I would not teach another session until we were back to in-person learning. It has been a long wait.
From our online teaching experience, I learned I teach best when physically in the same room as my students. I’ve had countless Zooming sessions since our online class, learning new tai chi skills from more advanced instructors, meeting with various committee team members and chatting with friends. I learned how to use the technology, but even so, despite my new found skills, I prefer face-to-face educational experiences. I look forward to 2023 as the year I get to teach tai chi classes in the Land of Sky Building and not my living room.
I am a very active person with my tai chi, yoga, weight training and hiking. My body generally complies with my unending commands to move this or lift that with as little complaint as possible. So when I tell myself to lie down and read a book, the old bones and muscles sigh with relief as I settle on the couch and turn on the reading lamp. Reading is an ancient, noble undertaking. I sometimes read standing up in the kitchen while I wait for something to complete its round in the oven or stint in the frying pan. This is, most likely, contrary to general reading rules since I am splitting my attention between the pots and the pages. I’m rather proud to claim it as my most accomplished style of multi-tasking. I was recently ruminating on how reading is one of those endeavors which hasn’t changed much over the years, but other people have protested this thinking. Though books are still popular, there are now little reading machines in which the contents of multitudes of books may be stored.
I could check out electronic books from libraries near and far. I could literally have the words of thousands of authors dating back to antiquity lodged in a little machine made just for this purpose. I could even read these publications on my very own computer. But I don’t. It may be considered my last stand, but I promise to go down fighting in defense of the paper book. But, of course, the argument is about saving money, saving trees. I get that. What I don’t get is when my very own public library has a book available only in an E-book format. I can feel the tide slowly but irrevocably turning. Libraries are starting to participate in printed book genocide.
I recently purchased a book for young Mr. Smartypants, (our kid). That particular book was from 1866. An antique. He was delighted by it. He wants to collect old books. Will his children/grandchildren have the same opportunity? There will be no such thing as an original edition (or very few of them) if we insist on degrading the written word to so many bytes in a file. Is that the right word? Bytes? They definitely take up less space than paper books, but I’d like to continue recharging my own batteries by reading a paper book rather than having to recharge the machinery designed for reading them. That thing will most likely crap out after a couple of years anyway. Ah, simplicity, thy name is Little Free Library!
Since learning is my #1 sought-after activity for the new year, I am always on the lookout for new experiences to broaden my horizons, or to even just tack on a new skill or two. Sometimes (most times) these opportunities land in my lap or are rudely shoved in my face. So, instead of shoving them away and over the nearest cliff, I am embracing their presence in my life. Our church has a new administrator. She’s young. As such, she probably took one look at the way we operate and gasped in youthful horror. Determined to drag us all into the 21st century, she has “suggested” we adopt Google Drive as a means of updating our record keeping and sharing. Apparently, vacant stares did not seem deter this plan. A training has been scheduled in February. So be it, I am ready.
The first thing I did after receiving this news was to Google Google Drive. I needed to know what I was up against. Should I familiarize myself with the program to ward off the inevitable confusion during training? Should I call Dawn, my blog’s technical advisor, and ask for private lessons in this Drive thing before I go to the training? Going in cold, without any clue, might demonstrate the full extent of my ineptitude in techno culture. I don’t have that sixth sense about these matters which millennials seem to possess. I’m hoping our instructor takes one look at the folks in my church committee and makes no assumptions about what we should already know. I fear I might be seen as the weakest link. At least I know what a link is.
I decided to let go of my anxiety and focus on the learning. I’ll take a stab at going it alone to familiarize myself with what Google Drive is/does before I enter the training zone. I can always call my son and ask him about the stuff I don’t understand. He might be an impatient smart aleck, but I know he loves me. I have already learned the lesson about who I can rely on when the chips are down…or when the bytes are chewing on my homework, or when the dang fangled thang is harder to learn than I thought it would be. I am determined to become The Mistress of Google Drive. All hail!
Live, love, learn,
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