All posts by Professor David Simpson

Professor of Psychology, Carroll University (USA), Lover of Dogs, Reading, Teaching and Learning. Looking for ways to enhance cross-global communication and to apply technology learning tools. Interested in brain health maintenance, brain fitness training, and truth in advertising.

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So much to learn….

One of the many joys of being a professor is being afforded many opportunities to learn and discovering new ways of learning and teaching.  My Thursdays this semester are especially devoted to research, learning, and reflection. Among today’s learning activities I engaged in were

  1. studying a successful Comenius  grant kindly shared with me by a fellow teacher from Turkey. Thank you, present and former fellow teachers Inci Aslan (Turkey) and Irma Milevičiūtė (Lithuania)!
  2. further exploration of the curating learning tool, Here is some background information I “scooped” today  to better know Turkey.
  3. having a simultaneous Skype sessions with three of my undergraduate students and a graduate student where we test the usefulness of two Skype recording applications Pamela and Callnote. Skype is becoming an increasingly useful teaching and tool for me.
  4. rediscovering an old neglected audio recording “app” Tapedeck and finding that it worked with the new Mavericks operating system OSX 10.9 and seamlessly interfaces with YouTube and Itunes
  5. providing feedback to a blog post of a teacher in Spain. I continue to learn so much from etwinning elementary and secondary school global colleagues who are far more adept than I in using learning technology

Last Tuesday I updated my MacBook Pro to MAC OSX 10.9 . Now I have the challenge of updating my far-too-many applications (I just received notice within the past five seconds of the need to update 8 of them!) . So much to learn…so little time. Yet what fun to have so many learning opportunities and new teachers of all ages and from all over the globe!

Curious David

CONFIDENTIAL: Teaching Students with Disabilities

Wheel Chair

The sealed envelope stamped CONFIDENTIAL from our Counseling Center  appears in my campus mail the day before classes begin .  Some semesters none arrives; other times I may get three or four.  Inside is a form letter addressed to all faculty teaching classes for “Student X” indicating that the student has provided proper documentation for a diagnosed (but unspecified) disability. In addition,  the letter lists special accomodations that, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, my institution is required to provide the student to better allow an equal opportunity to learn and to be fairly tested.

Over the 35 years I have received more and more such letters though whether that is due to increases in enrollment of such students, broader definitions of “disability,”increased enrollments of students in general, or increased fears of law suits is unclear to me. Although I actively endorse the concept of equal learning opportunities and I clearly indicate in my syllabus that I am open to private discussion with students about any special needs, I often question whether I should be privy to this information and wonder whether there are better ways or better times to communicate it.

I have taught students with a wide range of ages, abilities and “disabilities.” It is definitely helpful to know in advance if a student has special physical needs (e.g. wheel chair access; special versions of course materials) in the classroom or if their presence may mandate my changing how I teach. In my classroom all students are special and all have special needs. I make special efforts from day 1 to create an atmosphere of trust so that students will feel comfortable alerting me in timely fashion to idiosyncratic special needs or special learning or testing accomodations. But I am also wary of prematurely labeling a student—or of reinforcing their dependency. So many times such students and I have been able to celebrate their academic successes without the recommended accomodations. It is especially thrilling to see them graduate having developed skills to succeed academically.

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In Search of Arrow: Additional Reflections about The Cellist of Sarajevo

At the end of his novel The Cellist of Sarajevo  Steven Galloway mentions briefly his search for the sniper Arrow whom he fictionalized. Here is an audiotape of the interview he refers to.

Here is a newspaper article about her.

Here is another newspaper about Arrow’s “transformation” from a longing for peace to a longing for the front lines.”

Here are some images.

And here are, some more images.

When will we ever learn…

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What Did You Do This Summer, Professor Simpson???

Flying Pig

Perhaps it is my age. Perhaps it’s my approaching retirement. However, I like to think it is because of my values. I no longer yield to the increasing Carroll peer and institutional pressure (and financial incentives) to be on campus teaching, writing grants, doing research, and mentoring students over the summer. Summer for me is a time to be away from campus and from campus emails— a time for reflection, for recharging, for redirection, for play and for rejuvenation. I never stop learning (amusingly my Mac DayOne App just eerily intruded to ask what I learned today!).

I’ve hardly been academically or intellectually stagnant since I left campus in May.  Among the books that I have enjoyed reading this summer are

  • Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son
  • Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo
  • Ben Fontain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
  • Khaled Hosseni’s The Kite Runner
  • Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and her Behind the Scenes at the Museum
  • Connie Willis’s The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories
  • Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman
  • Marisha Pessl’s Night Film (thank you, Susan Gusho, for the treasured autographed copy!)
  • Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus 
  • Robert Galbraith’s (aka J. K. Rowling) The Cuckoo’s Calling

What shall I read next?

I have written almost every day (blogging, developing international contacts, Twitter, Facebook, book reviews, manuscript reviews) though what I write and where  I write seems not to be highly valued by my institution’s reward system. C’est la vie.

I continue to develop expertise to bring into the classroom technology learning tool applications (e.g. Ning, WordPress,, Scoopit,  and Animoto) based upon the path-breaking contributions of Jane Hart and others I have “met” virtually this past academic year and this summer. I have created a Sandbox for International Educators whom I have come to know and respect and experimented with BlogTalkRadio.

Here is an Animoto short video slideshow of some highlights from this summer: Final Copy of Summer Vacation 2013.

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“My Name is Alisa”: Reflections on Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo

Our Opening Convocation at Carroll University this year will feature a presentation by Steven Galloway, author of the novel The Cellist of Sarajevo.  All incoming freshmen were given a copy of the book this summer and extended a “challenge” to submit an original piece of writing (e.g. a speech, essay or poem) that engages both The Cellist of Sarajevo and the campus-wide “humanity” theme.

Being an incoming student at heart (every year), I dutifully read the book and curated some background information in the form of two editions. Here are links to the August 13 edition  and August 18 edition. Here is the cellist performing. Here is a story about “Arrow.” I would also recommend reading The Book of My Lives by Alekzandar Hemon.

I very much look forward to hearing the author in person. Though I am not involved in freshmen seminars, I can easily see drawing upon this material in my Introductory Psychology class which has predominantly freshmen in it. Putting the book down, I was reminded of the course I once taught “Why War?” of this song.

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Making Lemonade: Personal Disrupting Educational Experiences

I am an experimental social psychologist by my graduate school training. Tonight I am in the process of preparing for my fall semester PSY303A “Experimental Social Psychology Class.” This year I am interested in giving it a more international/ global focus while at the same time preserving the course’s emphasis on the value in using the scientific method. I also want to imbue the course with technology learning tools that I have come to value.

I am entertaining beginning the class by having all students carefully read the article Coping with Chaos: How Disordered Contexts Promote Stereotyping and Discrimination. After we have carefully studied the experimental design, elegance of the the thinking, data analysis, and conclusions and practical implications I will have the students read the full report of the investigation of Stapel’s fraudulent data collection here and his explanations of why he falsified data.

The challenge is how to avoid undermining students’ belief in the validity of psychological science while at the same time confronting the reality that science is a human endeavor. I found the Stapel malfeasance most disruptive to my own professional identity (and I am not alone.) How can I make that disruption a positive thing, especially for my students?

Curious David

Too Many Applications: Not Enough Applying

Summer time in theory allows me time to embrace the 5 R’s: Reading, Reflection, Regrouping, Refocusing, and Rejuvenation. Alas, it’s past time to revisit the 270 applications on my Macbook Pro and decide which are essential, which are duplicative, and which should be removed to free up space. Still, I want to leave some remaining summer time for enjoying the simple beauty of the flowers.

North Lake Flowers

There are many drawbacks to having too many applications (and electronic devices). One challenge is keeping them updated, though I subscribe to a number of services which alert me to updates and upgrades. Another, is simply keeping track of them in terms of what they do and how well they do the task. A third challenge, is keeping in mind to what degree they are portable and comparable in capabilities across the electronic devices which I use. And, then, of course the electronic devices themselves “evolve” with new operating systems and new devices.

Tonight I am focused on apps on my Macbook Pro which begin with the letters A-C (or begin with a number). Clearly my most valued applications are 1Password  and Camtasia.   I continue to delude myself into thinking I can find some teaching potential for Clarify, Comic Life, and Crazytalk. Hey, a guy has to have play time.

Curious David

Just Browsing

It’s amusing how much I take my web browser for granted — and how I under-utilize its capabilities. Depending upon which machine I am using I rotate across Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. Right now I am using Google Chrome, in many ways my browser of first choice. I really should revisit and reorganize all the bookmarks here before school starts. I imported all my bookmarks from all other browsers. I also need to re-evaluate all the  extensions that at some point in time I judged important enough to add.  Some clearly are of value to me as an educator. Other, far too many, are just neat or deemed “best” by others! So much to learn, so little time—so many distractions. Alas, summer is almost over.

Curious David

Loosely Translated: A Lithuanian, a Turk, an American and a Teacher from Poland enter a Virtual Meeting Room…

I enjoy “reading” cartoons. Friends say that I am often “funny” and have a good sense of humor. Alas, I’ve never been good at telling jokes (except about me).

I am toying with revisiting my academic interests in the psychology of humor when I teach the Research Seminar next semester. What makes something funny? Is the same thing funny across cultures?

I am quite impressed with the accuracy of recent dictation software (that converts my speech into text), and I’ve recently been interested in comparing the accuracy of different language translation software apps and browser extensions. Here is one of many situations where I can be helped immensely by my international students and friends.

How good are these translation programs? Are we ready to solve the space alien communication issue which science fiction author Connie Willis so cleverly described in her hilarious novella “All Seated on the Ground?”

I thought about attempting to tell a joke in English and then seeing how well it “translated” across languages—without emoticon smiley support. Alas, the Muse of Funny Jokes Appropriate for Cross-Cultural Sharing and Language-Translation-Software Bench-marking (just TRY Googling that!) did not appear to me tonight when I called upon her. So, I ‘ll try using some aphorisms which might be more culturally universal or at least literally translatable. James Geary delightfully explores aphorisms in his book The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of Aphorisms. Here he is in his own words.

Here is an aphorism about education from Mark Twain:

The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that can not read them.

Here (I take on faith) is a traditional Chinese translation using the InstantTranslate extension for the Chrome Browser. (The extension also allows for hearing the spoken translation.)


Here is a translation from English to Lithuanian.

Žmogus, kuris neskaito knygų neturi nei žmogui, kuris negali jų perskaityti pranašumą.

Here is a translation from English to Turkish:

Kitap okumaz adam bunları okuyamaz adam üzerinde hiçbir avantajı vardır.

Here is a translation from English to Polish:

Człowiek, który nie czyta książek, nie ma przewagę nad człowiekiem, że nie może ich odczytać.

Here is a translation from English to Spanish:

El hombre que no lee libros no tiene ventaja sobre el hombre que no puede leerlos.

And, for my Chinese whispers telephone game test, here is the resulting translation from English to Lithuanian to Turkish to Polish to Spanish and back to English. I’ll leave to my students the challenge of investigating  all the possible differences with different orders of translation.

“This is a man who does not read books, you can read an advantage.”


Curious David

Curious about Curating

One of my favorite reference books is the J. I. Rodale’s  The Synonym Finder.  I am forever fascinated by shades of meaning of words. Tonight, as I sit down to begin revisiting all the courses I shall be teaching a month from now —in a different time frame (70 minutes, three days a week) rather than as I have taught them the past 34 years (50 minutes, 4 days a week), I am distracted by the word curator. Among the synonyms tendered by Rodale are guardian, custodian, concierge, protector, preserver, steward, and manager.

To what degree is a professor a curator? Without doubt one role I play as a university professor is sifting through vast amounts of content, ideas, and ways of knowing and of learning about specific topics  (e.g. my area of expertise, social psychology) and attempting to share with others in a coherent way what I have learned. There are myriad tools available to discover and manage digital content. I’ve recently focused on the utility of two such content curation tools identified and explained in Jane Hart’s marvelous A Practical Guide to the Top 100 tools for Learning. allows one to create a daily newspaper consisting of stories shared by persons followed on Facebook and Twitter and other online news sources. Therein lies both its strength and its weakness—one must carefully curate and be wary of the credibility of the sources. Still, just for fun I created a daily newspaper to follow events in Lithuania. allows one to create an online magazine and discover others’ curated online magazines. To experiment with it I created an online magazine of Technology Tools for Learning. The challenge would be maintaining it (updating and adding value through thoughtful comments). Another use I made of it for my own purposes was to gather together information on Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo in preparation for his September 4 Opening Convocation talk. I’ll not share my results here before our new freshmen have a chance to read the book!