Tag Archives: alzheimer’s

Wreading, Writing, and Writhmetic

Have you ever wanted to take a class with a Nobel laureate, listen to the classic works of Shakespeare on your way to work, or take guitar lessons? You can start today, and the only cost of admission is a computer with an Internet connection.

With Internet access rising at an exponential rate, opportunities to further one’s education have ballooned. Here’s a small sample:

  • iTunes U offers hundreds of lectures from universities large and small, including UC Berkeley, Stanford, and MIT;

  • Speaking of UC Berkeley, their lecture archive is arguably the best in the world (Go Bears!), including courses from as far back as 2002 (my appearance at Professor Alan Ross’ Election 2008 seminar is here). They also webcast special events hosting some of the sharpest minds alive today;
  • LibriVox offers hundreds of open-source audio books;
  • PodCast Alley hosts thousands of podcasts on just about every subject you can imagine; and
  • YouTube is home to a number of users who contribute instructive lessons on thousands of subjects, including guitar lessons, cooking lessons, math lessons, and more. Ever wanted to learn Thai? There are videos for that too.
  • More over the flip…

    The material available is impressive and growing rapidly, and from the retirement home to home room, we have not yet fully appreciated the value of media already at our fingertips.

    To appreciate continued learning throughout life keeps one’s mind active and spirit lifted. And studies show that keeping the mind engaged is especially important for the elderly. While there is yet no cure for Alzheimer’s, studies at UC Irvine and the University of Pittsburgh suggest that learning appears to slow the onset of the disease. For people who may have difficulty reading because of age, disease, or disability, webcasts and podcasts offer an easily accessible opportunity to explore the boundaries of human knowledge in a way that was substantially more difficult even five years ago.

    And as free interactive and digital learning materials continue to blossom, they will provide our country’s hardworking teachers with helpful tools to enhance lesson plans and provide avenues for students to pursue knowledge beyond the classroom. Most cash-strapped public schools can’t be expected to offer much instruction on modern art or ancient philosophy, but the Internet can.

    Never before in human history have we had access to so much instructive materials at so low a cost of entry. Nevertheless, we must recognize barriers to entry still exist in impoverished communities and communities without access to broadband Internet (not surprisingly, these are often synonymous). The United States ranks 17th in broadband speed, and I’m glad President Barack Obama is committed to a strong investment in our Internet infrastructure. We must not fall further behind the digital curve.

    The future is now; let’s learn some new tricks.

    John Garamendi is California’s Lieutenant Governor, a University of California regent, and a California State University trustee. He is running for Congress in California’s 10th Congressional District. A primary election will be held on September 1st. For more information, see http://wwww.garamendi.org.