Monday, July 25, 2011

The Longevity Project - Why I'll live to be 90+

For more than 40 years, Rose Wartsky managed The Rose Petal bridal shop in Tucson. Even at an age north of 90, she didn't have plans to retire. However, the sagging economy finally forced her to close the store.

To my knowledge, Rose wasn't one of the subjects of the Terman study reported in his Longevity Report, but her passion for work, and her ability to overcome adversity (she and her husband emigrated to the U.S. with nothing after WWII) easily put her into a group who would likely live a long time.

The Longevity Report started in 1921 when Dr.Louis Terman of Stanford University began a study of 1500 children to determine what led to long life. Eight decades later, this book The Longevity Project summarizes some Dr. Terman's findings.

As it turns out, longevity isn't dependent on eating certain foods and avoiding others, exercising, reducing stress, or following any of the other conventional wisdom of today. Not that those things don't have some health benefits, but those healthy traits are a result of conscientious behavior, and that's the trigger for long life.

According to the research (and subsequent related research) "the best childhood predictor of longevity was conscientiousness--the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person, like a scientist-professor--somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree." That means I am well on my way to seeing my 90+ birthday.

I found it especially satisfying that the findings predict that it was not "cheerfulness or having a sociable personality that predicted long life across the ensuing many decades. Certain factors were also relevant, but the prudent, dependable children lived the longest. The strength of this finding was unexpected, but it proved to be a very important and enduring one."

Another surprising finding was that working long hours, (like Rose did in her dress shop) even in a stressful job, help add years. If you take some one's well-meaning advice not to work so hard, you  could be shortening your lifespan! That made me feel a LOT less guilty about working the hours that I do!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Changing the paradigm of manufactured education

One of the stark differences between learning online and learning in the classroom is the freedom it gives the learner. Virtual students can pause, rewind, replay, fast forward, and perhaps most importantly wander down side roads and explore tangents that are almost never allowed in the brick-and-mortar education model.

Rather than holding a student hostage in a captive audience, an online instructor must relinquish much of his/her control. That makes many educators squeamish because it doesn't produce the standardized conformity that's so prevalent in "modern" education.

Without the rigidity of a structured class, online students quickly learn that they can ask lots of questions--questions that instructors often haven't encountered before and fall outside of the answer key provided at the back of the book.

Online learning is definitely forcing us to re-examine the "traditional" ways of teaching and learning. This video featuring the insights of Sir Ken Robinson, British author and the recipient of the 2008 RSA Benjamin Franklin Medal provides some great insight to continue the discussion.

Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Power of Words

I came across an inspiring little video clip this morning.  As instructors, we know how important our words can be. The words we choose to use can either demoralize or uplift. They can be heard as stern or concerned.

In the online universe, the words we choose to use are even MORE important because our audience doesn’t usually hear the inflection in our voice or see our body posture—two very critical components in communication—human or otherwise! Stop and think how often you know someone’s mood just by looking at them. No words required!

Good instructors will understand the power of their words and use them to motivate.

For example: If a student hasn’t appeared in your online class for several days you could don the “authoritative hat” and send a harsh note.
You have not posted to the discussion board. Please remember that you will not receive full credit if you wait until the last minute. If you have any questions concerning the grading policy, please let me know.
OR you could say…
I noticed that you haven’t been in class for a few days. Time seems to slip by so quickly doesn’t it? I just wanted to remind you that you need to be participating regularly on the discussion board. We all benefit from each others’ comments, and we want to hear from you! I know you’ll want to earn as many points as you can so please mark it on your “To do” list to post right away. I’m here if you need me!
Both messages essentially make the same point. However, the second message is far more likely to solicit a positive response from the student.

Now here’s the (short!) video clip that inspired this note.

Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Learning AND Remembering!

There are people who can remember all sorts of things that they did as a student, but I'm not one of them. My classroom years survive only as scattered bits of faded memories. Oh sure, I learned things. The fact that I can string together a coherent sentence is evidence of that, but most of the time I spent in the classroom remains extremely unremarkable.

However, I do have moments that I clearly remember.

I remember presenting a report on the country of Chile to my 4th grade class--back in the day when "research" meant reading the entry in The World Book Encyclopedia. For a visual aid, I assembled little bags of corn, rice, and beans to illustrate some of the nation's crops, and I drew a map and colored a flag.

I also remember the modern dance routine my partner and I had to design in 8th grade gym class. (Our teacher was the choreographer for the high school musicals.) I still remember most of the moves, and I can't listen to Jim Croce's Time in a Bottle without cringing a bit while I mentally rehearse the steps. 

In 10th grade, we studied Greek mythology, and for one assignment, we had to pick a topic to research. I selected the theater and built a model to present to the class. I can still tell you about the skene (the backdrop--known today as the scenery) and chorus. 

During my junior year of high school, one of my English teachers encouraged me to enter a poetry contest. Although I don't remember my entry word for word, I do remember the gist of it.

I could cite other examples too, but I had to ask myself, "Why do I remember these things? What makes these things stand out from everything else?"

And then came the "Aha!" moment. All of them involve creating and presenting.

We live in a digital age that allows us to create blog posts (like this one) and share them with the world. We expect to create our own ringtones, playlists, videos, and photo albums...yet many online instructors are still stuck in the old classroom mode. How often do you encourage or even allow that creativity and presentation?

This video has been circling the education circuit for a few years, and it makes a similar point. When I reviewed it again, I couldn't help but marvel at the speed of digital change. For example, the video quotes the statistic that in 2006, 2.5 billion Google searches were conducted a month. That number seemed extremely low. My web research puts the numbers today closer to 88 billion a month. (

Learning can take many forms, but if we want our students to really remember, we should encourage their natural desire they have to create.

Do you have a similar story? Share it!

Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Friday, April 8, 2011

An education database confuses Nevada for Arizona!

I was Googling around this evening checking out Pima Medical Institute's search engine optimization when I came across the Education Database Online. Clicking through the site I found the silouette of the state of Nevada masquerading as Arizona.

This was probably the result of a
  1. coding error on the back end.
  2. geography challenged web designer.
Considering the location of the image in the table--my money is on "B."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Between Trapezes - Flying into a New Life

I've been reading off and on for many months the book Between Trapezes by Gail Blanke, and I finally finished it this past week. With the uncertainty of the job market--ANY job market really, but particularly the job market of the past few years, it seemed fitting that I remind myself of what I do best, and how I really want to spend my time.

If you've ever watched a trapeze artist, you'll know there's a moment when they must let go of one trapeze in order to grab a hold of the next one. It's this illustration that provides the foundation of the book. Each chapter retells the stories of people who had found themselves between trapezes and how they managed to let go and move forward.

The author of the book, Gail Blanke, is currently the founder and president of Life Designs, but she earned her street cred as an executive at Avon. She herself has spent some time between trapezes, so she isn't just writing about other peoples' experiences but also her own.

One key take-away from the book is not to cling to the "Woe is me, life sucks!" mentality. Although circumstance might completely justify that attitude, it's impossible to change the past. You can only learn from it, grow from it, and move forward.

And strangely enough, it's those unsettling moments in life that have us questioning almost everything that can have the most profound POSITIVE impact.
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting a new PC is like cleaning the attic

I've been migrating files from my old HP something-or-other desk top to my new Dell
Inspiron XPS 1501X lap top. I don't have a special affinity for any of the PC manufacturers left on the market today, but we use Dell computers at the office, so a Dell seemed just as good as any other PC for now.

This lap top is what is generally called a "desk top replacement," and it's bigger than the one I use at the office. However, it's also not designed to be lugged back and forth between work and home--that is unless you have a one-floor commute.

Sorting through old directories and files is like cleaning the attic. I found stuff that I'd forgotten about, and other stuff that was just no longer worth hanging on to.

I knew I'd hit some kind of land mark when I blew out the last remaining electronic vestiges of my previous job. There are no other back-ups for what I deleted. It's gone. No regrets here!
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I just updated my professional web site Over its lifespan it's gone through several face lifts. The first version, which you can see here on the WayBackMachine, was designed exclusively using Note Pad. (Learning raw HTML proved to be quite a career enhancer for me!)

I created the original in 1998 to republish my newspaper columns as well as to provide useful web resources for my macroeconomics and microeconomics classes that I was teaching at the time. However, I haven't taught economics in a f2f classroom for almost 10 years so my site seemed long overdue for yet another change.

Rebuilding my site this time around was a LOT easier. I wanted to use an application that was easy to use, reasonably priced, and offered both HTML and WYSIWYG functionality. In other words, a product that landed somewhere between NoteTab and Dreamweaver.

Although I didn't use one, I found so many interactive easy-to-complete web forms that I found it hard to believe that every professional doesn't have their own web site. Note: Facebook does NOT count, and LinkedIn is too constraining!
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.