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TTN Peer Group Crowdsourcing

February 25, 2014

TTN Peer Group Crowdsourcing
Linda Scatton, TTN Philadelphia Tech Peer Group Member

How many Transition Network women does it take to master the electronic devices that both clutter and enrich our lives? As it turns out – about 11.

The Mercer-Bucks Peer Group, part of the Philadelphia Chapter of TTN, took on the topic of Technology for its February meeting. The idea evolved naturally from the January meeting, when one of our members confessed she didn’t know how to record a program on her DVR. Several piped up with solutions, and we decided we could all use help with electronic challenges. Our interest was not only in technology itself, but also how technology is changing our society and how we can use it effectively as we age.

Our discussions are always lively and interesting, but this meeting was perhaps the most unruly one we’ve had – unruly and fun. We could have used a teacher with “class management” skills because we are all at different levels of technological comfort and expertise, and we were all eager to help each other when members admitted they were defeated by some gadget or software or app. As always, we laughed a lot at ourselves, and we readily shared experiences. (One of the beauties of a peer group such as ours is that we are comfortable exposing our foibles.)

Among the specific topics discussed were online banking, E-Z Pass, credit-card fraud, technological advances in other countries, texting vs. email, PayPal, the differences between a tablet and a computer, iCloud, and the appeal of being able to look up anything and everything immediately, on the internet. We even learned there is an app for “Acupuncture on Horses.”

As our society evolves and technology assumes an ever greater role in our lives, we are confronted with a number of questions: How do we keep up? How much do we want to take part in the new technology? How is it relevant to us, in our current stage of life? Who will help us feel comfortable with it? In the past, many of us relied on IT departments at our workplaces to solve our tech problems. Now, we need to find other sources of help.

Our group decided to form a listserve Tech Buddy system to address specific questions from our members. We also resolved to send information about our favorite apps to one of us who volunteered to compile a listing and circulate it to everyone. Beyond the technology itself, we looked at ways in which it connects us with others, for both better and worse. Many of us live alone, and most of us use Skype, we text (especially with children and grandchildren, for whom email is now passé), we play Scrabble online with faraway friends. Some of our communities have developed apps to collect information from residents about potholes and closed roads. One person described the way in which technology helped with a music lesson which would otherwise have been cancelled: a snowstorm prevented her from traveling to her teacher, so they conducted the lesson via FaceTime. The teacher sent the new assignment later via an email attachment of sheet music in pdf format.

All of this fast-moving, ever-changing technology comes at a cost, of course, both personal and societal. Privacy issues in connection with the electronic availability of personal data raised some thorny questions, as did the seeming addiction of younger generations to their devices. Many members lamented the demise of handwritten correspondence.

Our meeting was spirited and informative. We met in the home of one of our members, on a cold day, around a fireplace. When the flames died down, our hostess reached for her bellows and brought the fire back to life. Bellows were once a new technology, too.