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Curriculum Showcase

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  • September 09, 2023 4:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO member, Fay Ferington has been a participant in Andy Millman’s Writers Workshop.  This summer Andy Millman wrote “I'm thrilled to report that Fay's journal of her time as a nurse in the Viet Nam War has just been published and is now available on Amazon. Those of you who were in any of our Writing Workshops with Fay know how gripping her narrative is. For those of you who haven't read or heard any of Fay's stories, you are in for an emotional and fulfilling experience.” 

    Fay’s book is entitled Off the Record.  It is available on Amazon or can probably be ordered through one of our local bookshops.

    Congratulation, Fay!

  • September 01, 2023 3:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO Writers Workshop Presents... Steven Wright


    We are so excited to welcome the award-winning author and man with many hats, Steven Wright, as our PLATO Writers Workshop guest speaker on Thursday, September 7, at 1 PM. 


    Steven's book, The Coyotes of Carthage, was called a "crackerjack debut political novel" by USA Today, "riveting" by The Washington Post, and John Grisham said, "With this splendid debut, Steven Wright announces his arrival as a major new voice in the world of political thrillers." He was named by USA Today as one of "100 Black novelists and fiction writers you should read." 


    Steven currently teaches in the UW Madison Law School AND the UW Creative Writing program. He has degrees from Duke (BA and MEM), Johns Hopkins (MA), UW (MFA), and Washington University in St. Louis (JD). He is the former co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. 


    I encourage you to buy and read his book, which is available here:




    This presentation will be online. Feel free to share the info with friends and colleagues.


    Author Appearance - Steve Wright

  • June 27, 2023 1:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The PLATO Curriculum Committee is available to support course coordinators interested in learning more about combined in-person and online ( hybrid”) access for their courses.  Here are some of the ways we are doing that:


    1.     The Curriculum Committee will host an information sharing workshop for coordinators interested in learning more about how to run a hybrid course or to share lessons learned from their experience on July 7, 2 pm at Bethany United Methodist Church.

    2.     PLATO can use a dedicated videoconference device (“Meeting OWL”) for a few hybrid courses at Bethany United Methodist Church (3910 Mineral Point Rd) or at Oakwood West.

    3.     Hybrid access is also quite feasible at many other venues, using simple equipment such as webcams, speaker/microphones, and in-room TVs or projectors.

    4.     PLATO Course Coordinators’ Guide for Hybrid Classes is available by clicking here

    5.     The PLATO Courses webpage has  a block devoted to additional information about hybrid courses, hybrid devices and course management.

    6.     If you have questions about any of the above, please contact Bill Colwell at

  • May 01, 2023 6:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Tom and Gerry Vale

    The class which we know as "Experiencing Great Literature" was initiated by Plato-notable Fred Ross in 2002.  At first it was dedicated exclusively to poetry (was it titled "Experiencing Great Poetry" at its beginning?), but within a couple of years broadened to include, each semester, a novel and a play, along with poems.  This three-part structure continued for the remainder of the class's existence.  For almost a decade, Fred coordinated the group, and he himself led all presentations.  In 2010, a few other individuals began to present some of the material.  Subsequently, within a few years, coordination passed to Phil Paulson (along with, before she moved out of state, Patricia Becker); Phil was also a frequent presenter.  Covid interrupted the class in 2020, but resumed in fall of 2021; perhaps that interruption contributed to the declining enrollment that led to the class cancellation this spring of 2023.


    It was a class of rich "experiences."  We read 34 novels (from Danel Defoe to Toni Morrison), a comparable number of plays ( from Beowolf to Athol Fugard, with at least 9 by William Shakespeare), and innumerable poems (both as individual pieces and as collections by authors and time periods, from John Milton to Robert Frost).


    Thanks to Fred for the initiation and to Phil for carrying on, heroically, to the end.  Maybe someone will think to restart the group in the future.  If not, we will greatly miss it.



  • March 27, 2023 5:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you spend some time talking with long-time PLATO members as I recently did, you may hear the word participation” a lot.  Steve Hirsch, member since 2006 and Fred Ross, member since 1996, both mentioned that discussion, questioning, challenging, and to “… encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.” are key to why they have been, and remain, avid participants in PLATO courses.  (Do you recognize the quote above?  Thanks, Fred, for making me aware of this - ).

    Both gentlemen mentioned their deep affection for Norman Risjord s A Leisurely Walk Through American History,” – Michael Stevens wrote about this in 2019 – read about it here.  Other favorites from these two include: Global Affairs, PLATO Travel, Whither the State, and Continuing Philosophy. 

    Why do they keep coming back to PLATO? Social interaction and the opportunity to participate in active and lively discussion are key.  In addition, they both have been, or currently are, course coordinators.  After all, PLATO is all about Participatory Teaching as well as Learning.   I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the fact that PLATO allows you to be curious about a topic and decide to offer a course to like-minded members on that topic.  What better way to learn than to teach!   Please consider volunteering to coordinate a course.

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes …. Well, of course, there have been changes over the years.  Fred mentioned that the founders may have thought of PLATO courses in terms of small group discussion.  Now, we also offer expert-led, lecture-style formats.  Perhaps a bit more passive, but what an opportunity to deepen our understanding of a specific topic.   We also discussed the changing format of our courses, virtual, hybrid, and in-person.  The convenience of virtual classes is much appreciated but both Fred and Steve mentioned that they miss the camaraderie of in-person classes.

    Going forward our long-time members encourage the Curriculum Committee to provide interesting classes and speakers and to stress the opportunity for members to volunteer to TEACH classes. 

    Lastly, I wanted to mention that Fred stressed that the UW has been extraordinarily generous and supportive of PLATO and that we wouldn t be as successful without that support.  In appreciation let s not forget to donate to the PLATO education fund And, support the AGORA! 

  • February 24, 2023 10:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    PLATO Coordinator Retirements 2022-2023

    Every semester we have many options for intriguing and creative courses.  As PLATO members we benefit from the generosity of our colleagues, who volunteer, as they share their interests, knowledge and expertise.  We are fortunate to have numerous coordinators who return semester after semester to challenge and enrich us.

    As we begin this new semester, we would like to highlight individuals who have faithfully led  courses for many years and have now retired.  A special thank you to:

    Bob Fry (Classic Films)

    Grethe Leer (Women’s Journeys)

    Norm Leer ( Life Maps - Norm died in Spring 2022)

    Paul Brandl (Frontiers in Science)

    Judy Havens (Reminiscence Writing)

    Helen Brewster (Biographies eastside)

    PLATO depends on the generosity of people like those listed above to make our programming rich and diverse.  If you have an interest in sharing an area of knowledge with others, please contact a member of the Curriculum Committee for assistance in arranging for a new course.

    Thank you to all of those who have enriched us with their leadership in the past and to those

  • December 13, 2022 8:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    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 -  face masks are 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 – There are no longer kiosks at the entrances.  Masks are not required in our Independent Living areas of our campus, which includes the Art Center,  though we do ask those that are feeling ill to avoid visiting our campus to protect our campus residents.

    Vista West – no masks are required of visitors

    WI Bank and Trust – no Covid Protocols

    UW Space Place – no Covid Protocols

  • December 08, 2022 3:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    New feature: Coordinator Videos!

    Coordinators, here s a new opportunity to publicize your course – and yourself – to prospective PLATO course participants. Starting in the Spring Session, the PLATO Curriculum Committee will be offering the opportunity for you to record a brief, 1- to 2-minute video about yourself and a description of your course. A link to the video will be posted on your course webpage. This is a completely voluntary option but might be a fun way for you to introduce yourself and your course to potential students.


    As an example, Course Coordinator Michael Stevens has recorded the following video about his course on the Boston Massacre:



    It is very easy to record a video using your iPhone. Please send a note to Jayne Fischer at if you are interested. She will send you the instructions, including tips on recording the video and where to save it.


    The deadline for submission of course videos for the Spring 2023 Session is January 10th.

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

    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


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

    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

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