Curriculum Showcase

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  • September 18, 2022 2:08 PM | Anonymous member

    Dear Fellow PLATO Lifelong Learning Enthusiasts,

    Have you tried a hybrid PLATO course?  Many of us remember the bumps along the way as we adjusted to online courses during the shutdown.  Now PLATO is figuring out how to make hybrid classes work well for both online and in-person attendees.  

    As the new chair of the Curriculum Committee, I thought maybe this summer would be a good time to experience a hybrid class from both the online and in-person perspective.  I signed up for Craig Wille’s hybrid summer course book discussion on Aging as a Spiritual Practice.  I’ve attended many of Craig’s classes in the past and he was kind enough to agree to let me attend some sessions online and some in person so that I could get a feel for the overall experience from everyone’s perspective.

    Admittedly there have been some bumps with the hybrid format.  However, with a class full of people dedicated to lifelong learning and practicing the flexibility that is a cornerstone of Aging as a Spiritual Practice we have been able to make several adjustments to better the experience.

    So far, these adjustments have included:

    • ·         Asked the in-person attendees to sit closer together and then pointed the camera at them so the online folks could see the in-person folks
    • ·         The instructor and online students turned on captions so that they could read what was being said if they weren’t able to hear it perfectly
    • ·         Instructor summarizes what the in-person folks are saying as it is still hard for the online folks to hear them
    • ·         Using breakout rooms so that discussions can be more intimate, and everyone has a chance to contribute.

    Personally, I enjoyed attending both online and in-person.  In-person was nice because I had a more intimate connection with the other attendees.  I didn’t find the online group distracting but some of the other in-person attendees did so.  Online was familiar, comfortable, and worked well for discussion in the breakout room format.

    What does the future hold for hybrid classes?  Because of the many benefits of the hybrid format: (socialization and intimacy of in-person attendance, flexibility of online attendance), PLATO will continue to explore this technology.  Also, as our instructors continue to learn and adjust, we’ll start to know what type of classes lend themselves to the hybrid format and what type do not.

    I encourage you to try a hybrid class this fall – and if possible – attend both online and in-person.  You can send any feedback to the anyone on the curriculum committee or to kburman@burmancoffee.com.

     


  • August 22, 2022 3:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO COURSES FALL COVID PROTOCOLS            

    Attic Angels - all visitors are asked to wear a 3-ply procedure mask, a surgical mask or a N95 mask when in the building.

    Covenant Presbyterian Church – masks are recommended but not required. It is up to each group meeting to determine their own protocols in their assigned space.

    Christ Presbyterian church - Starting September 1, 2022, face masks will be optional at all CPC worship services, activities, and events. 

    Individuals are encouraged to assess their own risk factors and follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health Madison Dane County if Community Levels increase.

    Capital Lakes - on the floor with the class rooms you will not need to wear a mask – everywhere else you will need to wear a mask in the building. 

    Madison Senior Center -Individuals are encouraged to do what makes them most comfortable – wear a mask or not.  In most of the rooms, depending on how the tables are configured, 15 people is about the maximum for the room. Each course can only have one room

    Oakwood – Masks are no longer required, though checking in at a kiosk at the main visitor entrance at Heritage Oaks is. Anyone who has had direct contact with someone who is positive for covid in the last 14 days should not be on our campus. The Art Center exterior doors are still locked so visitors will need to enter at our main visitor entrance at Heritage Oaks. Day time parking on our campus is challenging so I recommend the underground parking.

    Vista West – masks are required for all visitors unless they are actively eating, drinking, or presenting.  Presenters do not need to wear a mask as long as they maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.

    WI Bank and Trust – no Covid Protocols

    UW Space Place – no Covid Protocols




  • June 28, 2022 2:51 PM | Anonymous member

    The Work of the Curriculum Committee

    Who guides PLATO in offering so many fascinating courses each quarter?  The Curriculum Committee! Typically, 9 or 10 PLATO CC volunteers act as liaisons to over 80 course coordinators to prepare for those courses.  Each Curriculum Committee member has volunteered to stay in touch with their assigned coordinators to make the magic happen.

    About 3 months before the start of a new semester, the Curriculum Committee contacts coordinators asking for their plans for the next term.  This is where the specifics are gathered:  when, where, class size limit, type of participation level etc.  It s all the information you see online when course schedules are announced.  A new format was introduced during the pandemic, which is offering a few hybrid courses.  This has been a learning experience for all involved as to how to make that occur.  Much patience and trial-and-error has occurred over the past two years and will continue.  The PLATO Technology Committee has also played a vital role in rolling out the course information on the website each semester.

    The two leaders of the CC are Kathie Burman, who is Chair of the Committee, and Therese Stevens, who is the PLATO Course Planner. Other Committee members include Bill Eisinger, Paula McKenzie, John Serunian, Jayne Fisher, Barb Friberg, Paul Thompson, and Kathy Brown.

    The Curriculum Committee is always looking for additional volunteers to join the team. If you are interested in learning more about the possibility of joining this Committee, please contact Kathie Burman at kburman@burmancoffee.com


  • May 03, 2022 12:59 PM | Anonymous member

    A Coordinator’s Perspective

    For several years now, I have been coordinating a second section of Women’s Journeys: A Writing Workshop developed by Grethe Brix-Leer.  Grethe’s class is very popular.  Class members often continue from semester to semester, leaving little room for new participants and a growing wait list.  I had the privilege of participating in Grethe’s class for several years.

    As a curriculum committee member, I was well aware of the challenge being faced by the minimal participant turnover in the class.  With assistance from Grethe, I planned and have been coordinating a second section of this course in the Spring semester.  Prior to  each class meeting, I put out a prompt for the day which participants can use to start their writing to share with the class.  If the prompt does not suit a class member, they are always free to choose their own subject.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiasm and creativity of women who have joined my section of this course.  As we share our writing about the topic for the day, we each learn about the other members of the class and grow in appreciation.  I am regularly surprised by the variety of responses to a given topic.  I am grateful to the women who have joined me on this exploration of various dimensions of our lives.

    If you have a particular interest you would like to share with others, please contact the Curriculum Committee to learn how you can become a course coordinator.  Being a course coordinator is well worth the effort!


  • April 06, 2022 1:20 PM | Anonymous member
    • REFLECTIONS ON COURSES:

      I began participating in ----- class a semester or two before the pandemic hit. I enjoyed meeting in person around a large table, but our class is one of the few events I actually prefer online to in person. We can see each other so much more clearly and, unless there are technical problems, can hear well too. People can attend in all weather and even if they are feeling under the weather. Class has helped provide needed structure during the pandemic, doing so while we engage in reading and discussion of mysteries. What could be better? We don't get to socialize much, so when (if!) the pandemic ends it would be great to get together outside class to get to know each other better.

      Thinking over the previous couple of years, I know that Plato on-line classes have been an antidote to the scourge of old age made worse by the pandemic and winter weather:  loneliness. 

    • It provided a great reason and process for staying connected with other Madison people.
    • Without Plato classes during the pandemic, I would have had far fewer affiliation opportunities. 
    • The use of Zoom meetings has been critical and enjoyable for continuing all of my Plato classes.  One class will continue to meet on-line whenever needed (Covid, weather, etc.).  Zoom lecture based classes allow for speakers from other cities to participate without having to travel to Madison.
    • For me, Plato has been a critical part of the many people connections I am involved with during the past two years.

    I have been a member of PLATO for about 6 years, so pre-pandemic and pandemic. Meeting in person for learning and discussion seemed like it was part of the point of PLATO but now the necessity of ZOOM has informed me that remote connection (when one gets used to it) is also valuable with the plus of being able to attend if out of town or the weather is bad. Meeting in person is still preferred… but perhaps the advantages of ZOOM might make hybrid classes even better for the long term, but perhaps impractical.   I hope to attend classes in 2022, probably still remote or hybrid.  A class or 2 each “term” is about the right amount for me.

    Some PLATO classes are intellectually stimulating which is part of what I’m after. PLATO members who decide to coordinate a class are all admirable for their efforts. In my experience and according to my preferences there have been a few classes that stood out mostly because of the erudition and dedication of the coordinators. Their graciousness in sharing time and knowledge along with timely subject matter and a well-organized and developed class plan is appreciated by the many educated and experienced participants in these classes who are eager to be involved and contribute their thoughts. I am looking forward to more of this in whatever form it takes. 

    We've been Plato members for something like at least ten years.  I have only good things to say. Very stimulating and something to be looked forward to for each class. Some of the courses we took have been amongst the best courses we ever took, even in formal education. So, we're only positive about the course material and our fellow students


    I have been a member of PLATO for more than ten years. The courses ground my week. Participants are thoughtful, and the facilitators are hardworking and well organized. “Students” from a variety of backgrounds, willingly share their thoughts and stimulate new and interesting perspectives.  Although I’d be happy to have the in-person option, the virtual classes have allowed many people to see and hear more clearly, stay at home in fierce weather, and attend from a distance. All in all, a great program.  

    (I have been a member) Since either 2018 or 2019. What I enjoyed were the theater trips and outings more than the classes that were offered.

    (I) Like the ease of not going someplace to meet especially if it means going downtown and paying for parking etc. 

    I started with …. in the spring of 2020 right before in-person shut down.  I have very little in-person experience with this group.  I don't feel any personal connection by only Zoom where other things I do in-person there is more of a personal/social connection that does not exist for me with this class.  It probably does have some personal connection for people that met when the group was in person.  Another organization where I have many Zoom meetings and had in person experience with almost all of them pre Covid and that feels a lot different.  Much more socialization goes on because we personally know each other. 

    I joined PLATO to meet other people with different backgrounds than the people I already know. 

    PLATO became much more important to me after the pandemic began, since I was so much more limited in being able to see friends, socialize, and generally interact with people. It was really a kind of lifeline, especially before the vaccines were available and we were so isolated.

    The PLATO classes have helped me maintain connection socially and intellectually, especially before the vaccines were available. 

    I like the intellectual stimulation of the …. classes, as well as the social interaction with people from different backgrounds.  I will participate in classes in 2022.  Before the Omicron surge I preferred in-person classes, but I'm having second thoughts about that due to the transmissibility of the variant.

    PLATO has offered me the opportunity to get to know people from different backgrounds - people I would not have met except for the program.  I enjoy reading books I wouldn't have read on my own, and I especially enjoy hearing others' opinions and discussions of the books we've read.

    ...the program has meant a lot to me and I'm very grateful to all who donate their time and effort to making it so great.

    Coordinators have to become technical experts.  Loss of social interaction and smaller discussions with online classes.  PLATO needs to figure out a way to make in-person safe.  Does PLATO have the right to insist on vaccination and masks?   

    It’s very important to stay creative, involved, volunteer, learn – PLATO provides that opportunity.


  • March 02, 2022 4:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With Dane County’s mask mandate expiring, PLATO will be updating its COVID protocols to be specific to each host site.

    Here are the details for specific host locations:

    Oakwood – masks must be worn all times and check in required

    Vista West –masks are required of all visitors and they will continue temperature checks when visitors enter the building.

    Christ Presbyterian church - masks are required throughout the building, along with social distance and no food or beverages in rooms

    Capital Lakes - on the floor with the class rooms you will not need to wear a mask – everywhere else you will need to wear a mask in the building. If you are new to their building bring a copy of your vaccination card.

    UW Space Place – March 12 mask mandate expires 

    Madison Senior Center -Individuals are encouraged to do what makes them most comfortable – wear a mask or not.  The limit of participants at tables in a room is 15 people



  • March 02, 2022 4:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As we contemplate starting spring 2022 PLATO classes, I have been thinking about what PLATO has meant to me since joining in February 2020.  Yes, that’s right, I joined just as the world and PLATO shut down!  I remember that I attended two weeks of classes in person and then all went dark.  But, oh, those two weeks were memorable – the warm welcomes, the stimulating discussions, the incredibly bright and educated participants and coordinators!  For a brief moment in time, I had found my retirement Disneyland and then it was gone.

    But wait! Those crazy, innovative, PLATO volunteers on the Curriculum, Technology, and Executive committees as well as persistent, dedicated, class coordinators found a way to bring the PLATO Curriculum back online (Don’t you just love a play on words?  Of course, you do, you are a PLATO member!) A lifeline was thrown, and I grabbed on as fast and as tight as possible.  

    I’m still holding on to that lifeline as I spend the winter in Arizona.  While it’s not possible to be grateful for COVID, I am continually grateful that PLATO courses are online and that our dedicated class coordinators that have been willing to become technical online meeting experts. And that some of these selfless coordinators have continued to offer their courses year-round as the pandemic drags on and on and on……….

    But, speaking of dragging on and on – enough about me.  Okay wait, one more thing.  Since I am a member of the curriculum committee, I should probably say something about the curriculum.  More in the form of a question – don’t you just love when the new semester course schedule gets posted?  Wait, what?  You mean I can enroll in any of these?  OMG – there are so many – and they all sound so good – and I love this instructor – but this class is at the same time and really, really intrigues me.  What SHALL I do (hand to forehead)!

    I apologize, I do tend to get animated.  Just ask anyone in the Wednesday AM current events class when we discuss any space related topics.  Some people call me the Space Cowboy but so far no one has called me the Gangster of Love. 

  • March 02, 2022 4:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO is “where love of learning never gets old”. Our courses, coordinators, and participants contribute to this idea in a significant way. Members bring to the courses many different experiences and opinions.

    But in our present day polarized society sometimes it is hard to listen to opinions that are opposite to our own deeply held views.  We strive to make PLATO courses a space where members can discuss diverse viewpoints. Through these discussions we continue to learn from each other and expand or clarify our views.  So, we ask everyone one to:

    • Welcome the outside perspectives even if they are different than yours.
    • Be serious listeners and be courteous to all members and their opinions.

    If you are in Virtual course, remember that if your microphone and video are on, participants in the class can see and hear you.  So please turn off your microphone and your video when you are not participating in the class.

    Thank you for helping PLATO courses be a pleasant experience for all.

    Curriculum Committee

  • March 02, 2022 4:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO is a volunteer organization.  We always need volunteers to coordinate courses.  Without those coordinators, we would lose one of our main reasons to be.  In the past, we have been able to thank coordinators at a luncheon prior to the Fall semester.  The pandemic has made it impossible to have those gatherings for the past two years.  Nevertheless, we are very grateful to each of you who have chosen to coordinate a course through these challenging days.  Many of you have had to learn new online skills in order to continue your courses.  We thank you for all you have done and are doing to keep the learning alive and well!  You are the lights of our organization!

    We would especially like to thank coordinators who have served us all and have chosen to retire in 2020 or 2021.  We are grateful for your service to the work of PLATO!  You made a difference and we appreciate that.

    In 2020, Greg Bell and Gerry Campbell retired.  Greg coordinated a course entitled, Current Events PM.  Gerry led a course about the Wisconsin Idea.  Thanks to each of you for the time and energy you have given to these important courses.

    This year, 2021, we have even more retirements to announce.  The latest retirees are:  Peter Beatty who led French Conversation, Bruce Gregg who coordinated What in the World Happened, Brent Larson and Leslie Larson who co-led PLATO Travel, Arden Trine who coordinated Managing your Money and Vicki Ford who facilitated Biographies East.  To each of these coordinators we give a hearty round of applause in gratitude for their many hours of service to PLATO.

    If you are inspired by the volunteer work of these retirees and would like to help make PLATO a success into the future, please take time to fill out a course proposal with an interest or expertise you would like to share.  The form can be found on this curriculum website.

    Thank you again to all of our course coordinators and a special acknowledgment of gratitude to those who have recently retired!

    Paula McKenzie for the Curriculum Committee

  • March 02, 2022 4:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This fall starts the 35th year in which PLATO has offered courses to its members. Much has changed but the essence remains the same. In 1987, PLATO offered its first three courses: “Media and Society,” “Current Affairs,” and “Topic of the Week.” Called study-discussion groups, they followed a format that would be familiar to many members today. Led by a coordinator, they relied on member participation, ran two hours in either the morning or afternoon, and lasted 6 weeks. Each of the three groups was limited to about 15 members, which was sufficient to accommodate PLATO’s 39 members.

    Topics of suggested future sessions sound similar to those offered now, such as “Energy Today and Tomorrow” and “The New Technology and Human Values.” PLATO almost doubled its membership to 72 by 1990 and increased the number of fall courses by 67%--from 3 to 5.  Two years later, in 1992, membership and fall courses had doubled yet again. The 148 members had a choice of 12 courses and many of the subjects are still relevant today. Contemporary issues were covered in courses on Current Events and on Science and Public Policy. Members could choose a course where they could read and discuss writings by American Indian authors. The arts were heavily represented with courses on jazz, opera, biographies of classical composers, and motion pictures. A writing course allowed members to try their hand at writing reminiscences. There were also courses on philosophy and discussions on the works of Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf.

    By 1997, membership had doubled again to 329 and PLATO had begun experimenting with new formats. The group discussion remained the mainstay, but the curriculum committee reported that it received more ideas for courses than volunteers to lead them. They reported “the challenge is to convince members with good ideas that they are capable of being discussion coordinators.” In this era, new formats were being introduced. Retired UW history professor Norm Risjord offered a popular lecture format course, which became the model for additional offerings. Throughout it all, PLATO retained its distinctiveness from other learning in retirement groups. It did not pay course coordinators but “depended entirely upon volunteers largely from within the organization.” George Calden, one of the charter members, put it well when he said PLATO is “a do-it-yourself, grass roots university for retired people.”

    PLATO’s membership doubled again to 685 in 2007 and grew to almost 1,300 in 2017. Courses numbers continued to rise. Between 2012 and 2019 annual course offerings rose from 76 to 105, with the fall session typically being the busiest, with between 40 and 50 offerings.

    And then there was the pandemic. In spring of 2020, 46 in-person courses were suspended, but remarkably 7 continued meeting virtually. Even after the courses’ completion, some of the groups continued to hold informal meetings online without a break. Due to hard work and fast planning by PLATO members, technological solutions were found, training sessions were held for coordinators and members, and a group of determined members found ways to offer 36 online courses in the fall with a total of 81 for the 2020-21 year. The hundreds who took the courses had their own learning curve and mastered learning in an online environment.

    Much has changed over the past 35 years, but the volunteer spirit has remained at PLATO’s core. The resilience, generosity and ingenuity of PLATO members continues to make it a vibrant place where the “Love of Learning Never Gets Old.”

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