I discovered something new today. I mean… yes, I know… I discover something new every day. But today, I discovered something that made my heart fuzzy and my eyes watery. It was so moving that I got back up out of bed, and came back downstairs to type this blog.
I was just about to sleep, when my iPhone pinged. True, I have a bad, bad habit of always checking my email, even in bed, even at 4am. But I am glad I checked it just now. It was my aging mother… who lives on the opposite side of the globe.
My mom lives with my stepdad. My dad died when I was a freshman in college. Nowadays, my mom is often left alone in the house, as my stepdad still travels frequently, as he is super active with charitable organizations, like the Rotary Club and such. So, my mom is really lonely, really bored, and really far, far away from her two kids. Neither my brother nor I live near her. In fact, I only get to see my mom once a year, and sometimes, only every other year, as it is too expensive to fly 10,000 miles too often.
I taught my mom how to use email many years ago. It was a very difficult process, as my mom is techno phobic. Plus, she believes that she is uneducated and incapable of learning. Born during the Southeast Asian Communist Insurgence Era, my mom had a childhood of poverty and short-lived education. Despite being bright with obvious potential, being the eldest sibling, she stopped schooling at an early age in order to work and support her family of 9 siblings. Hence, till today, she staunchly believes she is uneducated and incapable of learning. And, she insists on living up to it every time I try to teach her something new!
Anyway, I did manage to teach her how to email me – a very important skill indeed, when your family is spread out over the four corners of the world.
Recently, my mom learned (all on her own), how to click on links, and be able to read and see pictures on websites, and also watch videos online. Earlier today, she had emailed me, asking how I was, and what I had been up to. You know the typical questions that moms ask to their grown adult kids… “How are you? Haven’t heard from you in a long time. What is new in your life? How’s work?”
Being the lazy I’m-too-busy-to-write daughter that I am, instead of typing up an email to reply to her, I sent her a link to a video of an online panel discussion that I had recently participated in for my research project.
It was a long panel discussion. Slightly over an hour. I figured it would keep my mom busy for an hour watching it! LOL! (Laugh Out Loud) and LOL! (Learn On Line)… Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Clever, eh? Devious, but with good intent. After all, don’t all moms want to see their precious kids do well? I know that is what I do to my kids. When my older son was in High School, the moment his high school yearbook was published, I scanned every page, hoping to see my “baby”. LOL!
Back to the reason I’m writing this blog. After all, my blog theme is:
So, here’s the core of my story…. Read on…
As predicted, my mom actually sat through the entire one hour video recording of the panel discussion. Then, she proceeded to email me questions, asking me to decipher the discussion topics. She understood parts of it, but could not make head or tail of some of the references made by the panelists. I thought to myself, of course she would not understand the specific acronyms or terminologies. Even I had to do my homework before the panel discussion, to make sure I was abreast with current issues. But yet, my mom, the lady who insists that she is uneducated and incapable of learning, was suddenly sparked to want to learn about all these new topics…
My brain started to race.
I pause here to remind you, that I was still in bed, teeth all brushed and ready to sleep. But I suddenly didn’t feel sleepy anymore. I propped my head up a bit higher on my pillow, and started to type feverishly with two fat thumbs on my tiny iPhone screen, squinting with my already squinty Asian eyes, since I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses.
I re-explained the concepts from the panel discussion to my mom in “normal” English, minus the verbose words that the panelists used. I re-described the same examples, minus the highfalutin theoretical references. And I summarized the overall objectives of the panel discussion, minus the intermittent off-topic intellectual bantering that all panel discussions tend to fall prey to.
The result? An immediate back and forth email dialog with my mom.
Now remember, my mom lives on the other side of the globe. Hence, noon to her, is midnight to me. But by that time, I was already high on adrenaline and happily answering my mom’s questions.
An important background piece of info: All my life, I have NEVER been close to my mom. We tolerate each other. Love? Yes, of course. What mom doesn’t love her kids, and vice versa. But to engage in an intellectual dialog which revolved around the topic of open online learning? Never before. At least, not by typing with fat fingers on a tiny iPhone screen at 1am in the morning from my bed… This was definitely a first.
We ended the dialog with me promising to email her more video links. She now wants to watch more videos of panel discussions, where education leaders come together to talk about the current trends of education, and specifically the current focus on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Well, I’ll be darned… I would have never guessed that my mom, the lady who believes that she is uneducated and incapable of learning, would be open about learning online, about the topic of open online learning.
So, I guess the moral of the story is:
(1) Senior citizens want to LOL (Learn On Line) too
(2) The desire to understand their adult children’s lives/jobs could be a powerful motivator for elderly learners to want to learn online learning skills.
I wonder how many people take the time to find out if their parents want to LOL?