My Passion for Learning & Google Drive

Carl Sagan Quote Learn

Forgive me for prying if I am, but what fuels your obvious passion for learning?

You are not prying. It is an interesting question and one that I am happy to take a stab at. Besides, I asked you to come up with questions that you had. It wouldn’t really be fair of me to NOT answer a question like this. And thank you for saying that my passion for learning is obvious; that is a real compliment.

I think that I have always liked learning but I was always sort of ambivalent about school. When I was younger, I was interested in classical knowledge: science, Shakespeare, classical music, because I wanted to understand why everyone thought those things were important. But I was afraid that if anyone knew that I was interested in those things I’d be FORCED to take a bunch of classes that were difficult and boring. So I snuck into the library in my hometown and read books and listened to recordings in the library study room. I wouldn’t even check these materials out.

As I got older and began to have a wider sets of experiences I discovered that I never tired of learning new things, meeting new people, eating new foods, traveling to new parts of the world, listening to new music etc. Some people want to fill their lives with money or things that money can buy and that is common in our society, but I find that I don’t really care about these things as much as I care about learning and being open to the knowledge that unfolds. Things that money can buy can be replaced, but things that feed our souls and our minds are unique to us.

I would encourage you to keep your curiosity alive by pursuing new interests and learning things. Doing this and being thankful for what you have and what you have learned will bring more happiness than all the wealth or power or status one might accumulate in a lifetime.

Would it be possible to use i cloud storage as oppose to google drive since i only have apple devices?

Of course you can use whatever storage you’d like, but I am going to ask you to create a Google Account for this class. Just so you know, the Google apps work on Apple products as well. I have mine linked with my iPhone so it talks to my calendar and I can view and edit documents on any computer or on my phone. It’s pretty cool.

How to ask better question, divergent thinking and personality inventories

How can one be more inquisitive?

Hang around with some 3-5 year old. Seriously. They want to understand the world around them and they question or mess with everything. Not because they are trying to create trouble, but they want to know, They don’t know NOT to ask questions and they will poke and prod until they get what they want. Once kids get into school, they learn that asking questions makes them a problem for the teachers. They learn that the things they think are important are not the subjects they deal with in school

How can you ask effective questions?

Human beings get better at what they practice. Make lists of questions that you might find interesting. If you can’t think of things that interest you, first check your pulse, then Google lists of questions. Short list from NPR’s Story Corps:

  • Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
  • What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
  • Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
  • Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • What is your favorite memory of me?
  • Are there any funny stories your family tells about you that come to mind?
  • Are there any funny stories or memories or characters from your life that you want to tell me about?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • When in life have you felt most alone?
  • If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • What does your future hold?
  • What are your hopes for what the future holds for me? For my children?
  • If this was to be our very last conversation, is there anything you’d want to say to me
  • For your great great grandchildren listening to this years from now: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
  • Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?
  • Is there something about me that you’ve always wanted to know but have never asked?

Is convergent or divergent thinking better?

It depends on the situation. When do you think it would be more appropriate to use convergent and when would you think it might be better to use divergent? (See how I slipped some questions in there?)

Why take a personality inventory?

A personality inventory is one tool we will use to get you thinking about yourself:  your likes, your interests, your values, your personality, your interests.  Sometimes it is hard to see ourselves in meaningful ways. As the Chinese proverb states: The fish is the last to discover water.

Re: Asking Questions, Attendance and Exemptions


1) Do we always have  to comment and questions even if we don’t have any?

I require students come to my Introduction to the College Experience class with questions.

Questions: Ever been around a 3 yr-old? They are question asking machines. You were 3 once. You could be that machine again and you would learn like you did when you were 3. Think about how many things you were taking in because your mind was set to question. I would say that if you cannot come up with any questions, you are on your way to dying. Questions are the things that keep us alive and make us strive. They send us to the moon. They solve crimes. They make art. They create cures for disease. No, questions are the most important thing you can have. They will keep you alive, never doubt it.

2) What will happen if we miss more than 3 classes because of being sick? What can we do if something came up at the last minutes and we cannot make it to class?

My class requires a 90% attendance rate in order to pass. We meet about 27 times so they can miss like 3 times. Students have some bad habits about class attendance they’ve acquired in high school, which this question seems to suppose.

Absence – You fail, automatically. Period. If you are too sick to show up for classes you need to ask yourself how you expect to pass classes.  If you have a major illness, by all means take care of yourself and we can see you next semester. What do you think would happen to the class environment if some people just decided not to show up.  Would that work in a workplace? What happens to people who don’t show up in the workplace?

If something comes up at the last minute, you need to do what adults do and decide what you are going to do about it.  Don’t expect the other adults to accommodate you. If you need to miss, you miss.  If you miss too many, you fail. That is the consequence. Adults get that. Kids expect to have an adult with authority fix the situation for them.

3) Can we be exempt from finals if we have a good grade?

Final Exemption:  No. My final is a actually a self-evaluation where you look at your own work and behavior and evaluate what you did well. Why would you skip that? If my class was a big Easter Egg Hunt for the right answers and you had a full basket of eggs, perhaps that would make sense. But it isn’t and so, no exemption.

The Trouble with Textbooks


Students hate buying textbooks. Let’s get that out on the table right now. Professors know this and most of us sympathize with our students. We were students too (that’s one of the usual requirements for us to become professors).  Students will do all kinds of things to avoid buying books or paying full price for them, so let’s have a frank conversation about textbooks. If it is an issue for you or it has been this semester and you want to do better next semester, let’s talk

“I don’t have the textbook”

I just want to say, if and this is and IF and I am not accusing you of anything. IF you didn’t buy the book and you are having trouble affording a textbook or you just thought you could get through the course without a book, you need to just be honest  about that. You would not be the first student a professor has encountered who has been in one of those situations. Just make sure you are honestly telling him/her about what is going on. Keep the communications clear, they might be able to help you. So let’s look at some of the things students say about NOT having their textbooks.

1) “I just lost the book and I have no record of the purchase.” As a professor who cares, I am going to want to know how you came to lose the book and what strategy you have for keeping stuff like that from happening again. As you know, books are expensive and if you are the one paying for them, you don’t want to make losing them a habit.

2) “Okay, I didn’t lose it. I never bought it because I thought I could get by without buying a book for this class. I just didn’t want to waste my money on a book I would not use.” To which I would tell you that I have been working on the affordability of textbooks because I know that is an issue for students. You might need to make friends with the idea of buying books for your classes. Think of it as a cost of doing business. Let’s say you were going to become a business person and everyone in your profession wore suits and and similar professional attire, but you said “Yeah, suits are too expensive and I am not going to do that, but I still want to be in that group.”  You might see where that is a problem.

3) “Okay yeah, I didn’t buy the book, because it was buy the book or buy groceries.” To which I might say that I totally get that. Books are expensive and I really have worked to get the price down, but sometimes even the little extra expenses are too much.  I get that and I want you to know that the book for my class is one of the cheapest. SO if affording textbooks is going to continue to be a problem for you, you will need to know how to address that problem. Professors have some latitude in what they do, they might even have ways to help you get some of your books or access to web content at a greatly reduced cost, but you need to talk to people about that rather than not buying textbooks and hoping for the best. There are options to rent or buy used, but this might be a problem since a book, like ours, might come with online content.

Main thing: Talk with your professors early in the semester about what is going on and see if there are strategies to get access to the books you need at prices you can afford.

Oh and by the way, if you are going to buy electronic copies of your textbook and put them on a tablet, consider getting insurance for your tablet or computer that will protect you in the case of loss or theft. Just like they have insurance for your car in case you are in an accident, your technology is something that needs protecting too.

A Student Question: Is public education a lost cause?


I want to ask you if you see our primary public education system as a lost cause?  Do you feel like our government policies are enforcing rules to create drones rather than free thinkers?

Great question. I actually think that we do a pretty good job in elementary school, if that is what you mean by primary. If you mean the “main” or “typical” education system, I think that the job of a public education is more it’s implied education and less about the overt subjects that are taught.

For example, we teach English in the same 55 minute period in high school as we do for field hockey as we do for chemistry as we do for introduction to Spanish, right? So the subjects we are to be learning are implicitly contextualized to be of the same importance. Another way of seeing it is that nothing is important if all things are the same. We must want people to accept this method as “learning” even though most of the important things we learn are outside of school and don’t follow this pattern.

We must want drones. Free thinkers are a pain in the butt, frankly and the school system, as I see it, even though it claims to want “free thinkers” or “critical thinkers,” would be loathe to accommodate the thinking that would happen and the ideas that such thinking would bring with it. So we want to have students who are compliant and dissatisfied with themselves and waiting for an expert to show them the way. What great consumers that lot would make.   No, I think we have the system we have for a reason.

Your Brain’s Secret Weapon: Curiosity


If you have spent any time around a 3 year-old, you know that they are question generating machines. Humans across cultures naturally develop the ability and the desire to know about the world around them. Formalized education, aka school does a pretty good job taking this ability away from most of us, or at least marginalizing it. What happens when you use it? What happens when you don’t use it? How can you develop you natural curiosity?

What happens when you are curious:

Learning is driven by the desire to know. It’s as if curiosity is a thirst an learning is a tall drink of water. When you allow your natural curiosity enter into a situation, you will learn exponentially faster. When you lead your responses to a situation with questions, you will learn and make fewer errors (especially the kind that are difficult to correct).

When we enter a situation, for example an interaction with a friend, lover or spouse things go better when we are curious. When you first meet someone, you begin by finding out information about that person. If he/she is someone who interests you, you tend to have long conversations or interactions with him/her to find out more about how he/she thinks or reacts in a situation. In fact, it is this initial curiosity that fuels most romantic relationships.

When we engage in our hobbies or take classes in something we care about, we enter those experiences with questions. We have decided that we want to know more about that thing. We have questions. We talk about that thing, read about it and make friends with people who share that interest. Curiosity is the fuel for those relationships and those activities. In the best situations, it helps us expand our circle of friends, our employment opportunities and our expertise.

What happens when you AREN’T curious:

Humans tend to overestimate what they know a subject and underestimate the problems they don’t know about. Folks who aren’t curious tend to make assumptions about the world around them to explain what is going on. Folks who don’t practice curiosity in situations tend to offer false reasons for things that are happening. They don’t understand why they are not getting jobs or failing in their relationships. They are quick to find reasons outside of themselves (blaming) without knowing what is really happening. They also attribute their good fortune to “luck” and therefore don’t understand what is causing that good fortune or what might cause it to end.

For example, if a friend does something you don’t like and you assume why he/she has done that thing, you might end up saying or doing things that will hurt that relationship. Oftentimes, this is expressed as our need to be “right.” Being right might sooth your hurt for awhile, but it will keep you from understanding what is happening. Asking that person questions will allow you to understand and communicate your care for him/her.  Also, if that person actually is a big jerk, you will definitely know that because you actually asked why they did something.

In learning situations when you aren’t curious, you don’t question what you are being told, you don’t apply it to yourself and it fails to make an impact on you. Think about required classes you have had to take that didn’t interest you. You remember so much less because you didn’t plug the skills or information you were were supposed to be learning. Failure to be curious can cost you relationships, learning and employment opportunities.

How do you practice being curious:

While we all enter the world as bundles of curiosity, we don’t all remain that way. Staying curious is a habit that one can cultivate. Below are some specific things you can do to keep a curious mind:

  • Make a list of questions that you would like to know the answers to. They can be simple or complex, but create a list of them and review the list once a day. If you drink a morning coffee, like I do, try and review your daily questions over that first cup of coffee.
  • When you are faced with a complicated problem, make a list of questions you have that are specifically about that problem. Set about answering them. Try not to assume what you know.  If you need to, write down what you think you know about the problem and then make sure to say how you know that to be true.
  • If you have a person or a situation that just irritates you, question the situation as if you were not a person in the situation. In other words, imagine that you were looking at things from the outside. What questions would you have if you were a stranger?
  • Expose yourself to new experiences. Try new restaurants or recipes. Learn a language or a musical instrument. Learn to dance or how to program a computer. This makes your mind flex because you are placing it in situations where you cannot assume what you know.
  • Have conversations with people with whom you aren’t likely to agree. They will challenge you to consider not only their positions, but the value of your own.
  • Read books on subjects that you don’t know about.  The author didn’t know about it when he/she came into the world either and learned about it. The book is an expression of what he/she has learned.

Your curiosity is what makes you knowledgeable and interesting to others. It helps you learn faster and have better relationships with those around you, but your innate curiosity needs to be grown, nurtured and sometimes challenged.