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


Our Rising Star

Miracles? Devine interventions? The energy of the universe creating connections? An eerie but random set of events?

Rising StarI witnessed an interesting merger with the sun in early July 2012, while driving near our home in Colorado Springs. A vertical vapor trail had helped it resemble a rising star. A couple of weeks ahead of that sighting, we finalized plans to visit my wife’s sister and niece in Quebec.

During the trip in August, we toured Saint Joseph’s Oratory at Mount Royal. Brother André Bessette, a distant cousin of my mother, founded the oratory in October 1904. He was appointed its guardian in July 1909. Brother André became known as a miracle worker by our family and countless others, even beyond his death in 1937. 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

Qatari Merchant

Qatari merchant explains life before the oil

Mohammad Saleh Nishwar, 79, has sold merchandise at Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar, for more than 60 years. His family-owned store, about the size of a parking space, hasn’t budged in almost 100 years. Reconstruction projects have protected its cultural merit, as part of the oldest trading area in Qatar. Across the street, soaring temples of trade, banking, hospitality and governance are rising from the desert sands, fertilized by seemingly endless fossil fuels. Aside from considerable oil reserves, Qatar has proved 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the largest single gas field under the earth’s crust.

Qatar is a contrast of elements: dull, beige land meets sparkling, blue water. The country protrudes into the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Peninsula. Sand and compact bedrock cover 4,416 square miles. Occasional patches of trees and grass endure the dusty surroundings, which soak up only a few inches of rainfall each year. There are no rivers or lakes, only saline swamps from changing oceanic tides. Continue reading

Kerala Craftsmen

Kerala craftsmen

Shajilal Pallikuniyil of Kerala, India, is known as “Jalal” in a loft located above a gold shop in Doha, Qatar. Below the thick concrete floor is a glitzy storefront stocked with over $7 million in gold jewelry, peddled by a half dozen Arab salesmen. Customers never know Jalal is upstairs in a secluded area, but requests for handcrafted jewelry depend on it.

The most productive and top performing goldsmiths working in the Middle East are from Kerala, said Mohammad Al Salahi, deputy general manager of Al Salahi Jewelry. The Yemeni chemist lives near his family-owned gold factory in Saudi Arabia, where out of more than 300 goldsmiths, nearly everyone is from India. Salahi frequently travels to Doha to check on his five Qatar showrooms, which exclusively employ Kerala men to complete custom gold requests. Continue reading

Qatar's Old Pearl Diver

Qatar’s old pearl diver

Saad Ismail Al Jassim, 73, is widely recognized as “the old pearl diver” in Qatar. His store attracts a steady stream of intrigued patrons at Souq Waqif, a newly renovated shopping establishment that models ancient Islamic architecture. Surrounding structures resemble a fort constructed of sharp geometric shapes covered in creamy gypsum. Mazes of merchants stockpile handicrafts, fabrics, perfumes, spices and fresh foods. Known for its art and culture, the mall complex is appropriately anchored by Jassim’s shop.

The aging merchant reveals remnants from a lifetime spent conquering the salty waters of the Arabian Gulf. An old stone and rope rest near his doorway. Many years ago, they helped submerge him into the depths of the sea. A crudely created nose clip always sits in his pocket, where its significance in early diving adventures is ready to share. A note of appreciation for his pearl diving stories is hung from a far wall, signed by students at the American School of Doha, Qatar. Continue reading