Why We Must Break Concepts into Pieces, Let Ideas Linger

During an open house event April 7, I joined University of Massachusetts Boston’s Critical and Creative Thinking program in honoring the work and upcoming retirement of Dr. Carol Smith, a professor of psychology and pioneer in cognitive development, conceptual change and restructuring, and learning for deeper understandings.

UMass Boston faculty members described Smith’s decades of dedication, compassion and goodwill, as she navigated through transformative learning and problem solving, identifying what’s important to think about, as well as why and how. They explained her comfort in appreciating diverse perspectives, and her capacity to offer mixed observations. Continue reading

Why The World Needs Nimble Thinkers

During an open house event March 3, I listened to stories offered by graduates of the Critical and Creative Thinking program at University of Massachusetts Boston. Their stories revealed several common themes among the program’s alumni.

While virtually seated in Boston from Colorado Springs, via an online Google+ Hangout, I heard the first graduate explain how the curriculum had caused some restlessness. She started reopening texts, revisiting ideas. Her thinking had evolved. Her view of the world had changed.

After completing the program, “I figured out just how much I had learned,” she said. Continue reading

How Might Stories Scaffold Creative Learning?

My fingers frequently flirt with keyboards, oftentimes making a move, sometimes when they shouldn’t. It’s that digital hush, again: “Facebook isn’t for essays or politics.”

Where ought I write to understand? Describing her writing process, Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

As a graduate student in critical and creative thinking, I’m fascinated by literacy as mastering process, not content. Knowledge isn’t a commodity. It’s an exploration.

It’s about people using tools—it’s sociotechnical. Continue reading

Voltaire Philosophy

Voltaire: To Online Dialogue Leaders

Online communities lacking leadership often get trapped within the realms of talking nice or tough. Debate is healthy, as it creates a container for reflective and generative dialogue. But within all conversational settings, dialogue leaders must ensure harmony, protecting a culture of inquiry and a commitment to emergence and creativity. They synchronize the actions people take during a conversation. Movers initiate ideas and transition conversations, while opposers challenge their direction – both act as advocates. To inspire, followers complete ideas and support the conversation, as bystanders provide perspective. Leaders keep everyone transitioning through the fields of conversation, ensuring debate leads to breakthroughs not breakdowns. What might Voltaire, an 18th century writer and philosopher, a fighter of free thinking and human dignity, an influencer of the French and American revolutions, offer today’s online dialogue leaders? Continue reading


Voltaire: To Digital Citizen

Ferney, February 20, 1759

Once again, sir, this orange has been squeezed, and now we must save the peel. Perhaps, my peculiar birth was hundreds of years premature. Did I materialize too early, or just in time? For I’ve survived a generation, weak in the body, strong in the mind, paving your rue for truth. Nearly 300 years later, I trust you’re reasoning in novel ways, exposing and uprooting tyrants, sowing innovative utopias, benefitting from a sweeping brilliance.

Monsieur, do you demand skepticism of truth and reasoning? Do you cherish an inalienable right to make use of your pen as of your tongue?

“Respect my master’s absurdities!” says tradition’s slave. “Nay,” yells the enlightened. “Shut your mouth. For your master’s lies shouldn’t earn five minutes from a shelled mollusk.” Continue reading

2013: New Era of Connectivity, Global Collaboration?

Back in the old days, we shopped in stores, where Black Friday events caused trampling injuries. Our wallets were stuffed with cards for using credit, receiving discounts and unlocking doors. On average, English words were a couple of letters longer. Schools issued books, not tablet computers, and foreign exchange programs required students to actually travel overseas. Tablets relied on batteries, which required a recharge after only a couple of days. Hyperconnected folks stayed mostly tethered to power outlets and WiFi networks. People preferred to record and share events on smartphones, more than take part. Palm-held touchscreen apps helped tech junkies with everything, from infant parenting tactics to finding cheap gas to social activism. There was a lot of political discourse occurring; Congress had an approval rating below that of the United States turning communist. Continue reading

Mankind: Step Back, Gain Clarity

By stepping back 20,000 miles, our participation on Earth gains clarity. We see no borders to defend, no political districts to win, no homes to secure. Our manmade containers blend back into our planet’s resources. We see the sun warming Earth’s cold surface, lush forests fading into desolate deserts, prairies peacefully lifting into majestic mountains.

From the human’s perspective, we see signs explaining religious rhetoric, political rallies, state boundaries and private property. Bombs and bullets are tearing into villages. Law enforcement officers are chasing would-be migrants. Rush-hour commuters are tucked in mobile cages, hamming on horns. Activists are colliding between moral convictions. Continue reading

Why People Can’t Talk Politics, Personal Branding

ArgueIt’s tough to talk politics. Company policies and family requests often forbid it. Recent surveys suggest most people ignore such discussions, while some disenfranchise friendships. In December 1774, American revolutionaries argued over the best reaction, or no reaction, to the East Indian Company receiving a royal monopoly for tea deliveries, along with a special tax. In April 1995, Timothy McVeigh, Michael Fortier and Terry Nichols argued the ethics of exploding a massive bomb near a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City — leaving McVeigh to light the fuse alone, igniting the worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history. People around the world continue to argue the moralities behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, especially when the original premise was never proven true; the nation wasn’t harboring weapons of mass destruction. Today, political opinions are more polarized than any other point in the past 25 years, according to a review of surveys last month by Pew Research Center. What’s happening? Continue reading

Colorado Hockey

Intro to American sports, hockey

College ice hockey isn’t as entertaining as football overseas – known here as “soccer” – but that’s probably because I don’t completely understand the rules yet. There’s a lot of action in hockey, that’s for sure. I love how the players constantly change and everyone moves around at a fast pace. But if you don’t understand the rules, you’re like a deaf person in a musical: you see people moving around but you cannot hear the rhythm. I’m interested in learning about hockey to figure it out.

I could hear spectators screaming and commenting at the hockey players’ actions and the circling referees’ calls. During soccer, I jump up and down, sometimes swearing at the plays – my heart and mind is in the game. I find it easy to get overly excited, like I want to jump into the field. I see calls before their official announcements and, occasionally, I want to slap the referee. However I’ve never shouted “hit ‘em, hit ‘em” or “throw him into the glass,” like I heard inside the World Arena. Continue reading

Qatar’s expat experience

The daylight is blinding and the moist air somewhat suffocating. Frequent 110-degree Fahrenheit temperatures clash with heavy humidity. Hot, sandy breezes feel like standing in front of a filthy spinning turbine. For respite, residents rely on concrete air-conditioned homes, restaurants and shops. Those are typical and timeless summer conditions found in Qatar, a peninsula country protruding into the Persian Gulf.

I arrived in Qatar via Germany and Bahrain in July 2003, more than seven years ago. I had signed an employment offer with a defense contractor in Fort Worth, Texas, while living in Henderson, Nevada. The company staffed force protection positions at Camp Sayliyah, the forward-located headquarters for Central Command. The CENTCOM commander routinely met with reporters there to discuss war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Continue reading