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

Colorado Students Unveil Civil Rights Tribute, Remember 9/11

PEYTON, Colo. – “The hatred I see today bothers me – it bothers a lot of people,” said James Wade, while unveiling a school project Sept. 11.

Wade, 17, a 12th grader known for his creativity at Patriot Learning Center in Peyton, Colo., had led the school’s ninth through 12th grade social studies students’ three-day civil rights project that combined ideas, materials and artworks.

During the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they unveiled to their school a pictorial tribute to the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Hung in a hallway, a large, bell-shaped pressboard contains the collage of student works, each representing excerpts from King’s speech. A cutout of the word “freedom” is situated as the bell’s clapper. 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


Preying on Big Data

The falcon soars to a pitch high above a plain, surveying for an attractive piece of data. Another 2.5 quintillion bytes is filling the landscape today, stuffing social media posts, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, cell phone GPS signals and other information systems.

He anticipates the flow of information, staying a step ahead of reactions, considering all environmental conditions. Circling the surroundings, he isn’t expecting the feel of familiarity, but thinking instinctively – nothing is unfamiliar. The characteristics of untrustworthy, unreliable data are consistent across state borders. 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