Begun in 2011 by Big Think and the Jack Parker Corporation, The Floating University is an online educational initiative that debuted at Harvard, Yale, and Bard College. The purpose of The Floating University, according to its site, is to “democratize access to the world’s best thinkers” by providing free, approximately one hour-long courses on a wide range of topics, taught at a university level by experts and professors in the various fields. The inaugural course, the most favored at the three universities, is Great Big Ideas, and it more or less does what it says: tackles some of the largest, most perplexing questions in digestible introductions that also manage to be rigorous, informative, and thought-provoking.
In the lecture above, for example, Harvard cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker presents an “eSeminar” in linguistics, addressing dogged questions in the field over whether or not humans have an innate, universal grammar (as Noam Chomsky has famously argued); why language is so fundamental to our social relationships; and how language evolved. Pinker, who describes human language in broad terms as a “miracle” and a “window into the human mind,” also gets into the specific subfields of linguistics, discussing them in terms that any layperson can understand without much diluting the fascinating philosophical and scientific debates around what Darwin called our “instinctive tendency to speak” to one another, from infancy onward, all over the world, in some 6000 different languages.
The Great Big Ideas (now added to our list of 550 Free Online Courses) lecture series consists of twelve lectures total, including Pinker’s.
AN : A fast moving but highly informative video ( see source article ) covering language, language learning and linguistics. Eleven other topics and links there as well.
via Great Big Ideas: Free Course Features Top Thinkers Tackling the World’s Most Important Ideas | Open Culture.
An excellent short synopsis on thinking….
“Thinking is one of the basic human activities. Our mind starts popping up different kinds of ideas at a very tender age and we learn to ponder upon them. There are two types of thinking—critical and creative. Critical thinking is more analytical, convergent and focused, whereas creative thinking is generative, divergent and diffused. Our creative thinking skills are usually restrained due to various reasons.
The tendency to center only the negative aspect of a situation acts as a barrier for the creative thinking skills. Statements like “it is too difficult or too expensive”; “we cannot do it because we don’t have enough resources or skills” highlights the negative attitude that a person carries. Instead, one must try to find opportunities in every situation and must allow oneself to face challenges.
When a person is over-stressed or burdened with workload, it tends to smother his ability to think creatively. Stress targets the creative mental processes and reduces them to the minimum. In this case, one must try to understand that organization of everyday work is important but that shouldn’t stop us from trying new ideas and approaches.
AFRAID OF FAILURE
Often people prevent themselves from thinking differently for they are afraid that they’d make a fool of themselves. Creative thinking skills allow a person to bring out the unconventional methods and plans. Some see this opportunity as an easy way to become the butt of the jokes and therefore, they avoid it. In fact, one should understand that failure is a part of progress and must be embraced in a healthy way.
STRICTLY FOLLOWING RULES
Rules are very important for us to function properly and accurately. However, strictly sticking to them kills the inventive aspect of a person. This represses any possibility of bringing anything new and innovative to the table. One must not be afraid of infusing new ideas; otherwise work turns monotonous and dull.
Over-indulgence and over-reliance on logic does not allow our creative ideas to bloom and flourish. Also, being too judgmental excludes imagination. However, creative thinking does not mean the absence of reason. It simply shows us a different, humorous and more mind-boggling approach towards it.
It is a universal tendency of humans to expect the worst of the unknown. Everyone is usually afraid of the future and what it holds for them. The conscious and unconscious assumptions have the propensity of restricted creative thinking skills. For this, one must weigh all the assumptions to make sure they are not cutting off any new ideas.
Creative thinking skills open up many opportunities for us. To make the most of it, one must work on eradicating the barriers that holds back our creativity. “
via Barriers Of Creative Thinking Skills – DesignTAXI.com.
“The DirectedCreativity Cycle: A Synthesis Model of the Creative Process
The DirectedCreativity Cycle is a synthesis model of creative thinking that combines the concepts behind the various models proposed over the last 80+ years.
The DirectedCreativity Cycle
Let’s walk through it, beginning at the 9:00 position on the circle. We live everyday in the same world as everyone else, but creative thinking begins with careful observation of that world coupled with thoughtful analysis of how things work and fail. These mental processes create a store of concepts in our memories. Using this store, we generate novel ideas to meet specific needs by actively searching for associations among concepts. There are many specific techniques that we can use to make these association; for example, analogies, branching out from a given concept, using a random word, classic brainstorming, and so on. The choice of technique is not so important; making the effort to actively search for associations is what is key.
Seeking the balance between satisficing and premature judgment, we harvest and further enhance our ideas before we subject them to a final, practical evaluation. But, it is not enough just to have creative thoughts; ideas have no value until we put in the work to implement them. Every new idea that is put into practice changes the world we live in, which re-starts the cycle of observation and analysis.
Directed creativity simply means that we make purposeful mental movements to avoid the pitfalls associated with our cognitive mechanisms at each step of this process of searching for novel and useful ideas.
For purposes of explanation, we can further divide this model into four phases. We will use these four phases of Preparation, Imagination, Development, and Action to organize the tools of directed creativity in other working papers.
Note that this model continues in the tradition of others in asserting that creativity is a balance of imagination and analysis. The model also purposefully avoids taking a stand on the controversy of whether imagination is a conscious or subconscious mental ability. While I personally believe that imagination is a conscious, non-magical mental action, the activity of “generation” in the model welcomes creative ideas regardless of their source. Finally, notice that this model clearly supports the notion that innovation is a step beyond the simple generation of creative ideas. The Action phase of the model makes it clear that creative ideas have value only when they are implemented in the real world.”
via Working Paper: Creativity Models.
“At the core, critical thinking is about recognizing and challenging beliefs and assumptions, in a way that constructively brings them into conversation to be considered, given the context of the time or situation. Some say that it is the process of thinking about thinking, or becoming aware of how we think about something to the point that we can consider whether that thinking is serving us well. And it provides the space and opportunity for different points of view to be considered.
Two important competencies for critical thinking are an understanding of systems and cultural contexts and asking powerful, thought provoking questions. We cannot think critically about something if our frame of reference is narrow. We need to be knowledgeable of the context and the systemic interactions and dynamic relationships that are at play. This skill of systems thinking develops as we focus our attention more on the relational dynamics rather than just the observable behavior.”
via Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking – Rethinking Complexity.