My teaching philosophy is student-centered in that the main goal is to create an inclusive atmosphere where learning is enjoyable and rigorous. To teach philosophy is to cultivate critical thinking and evaluation skills with a healthy respect for the quality and sources of evidence. The end goal is to encourage learners to become thoughtful, rationally engaged members of communities through two mechanisms: accountability and a participatory class ethos. To be practically accountable students are asked to take responsibility for their level of learning via the implementation of student learning contracts in each course.
Engagement is fostered by carving out the relevance of philosophy to “living the good life” in a practical and classic sense. While I strongly believe in the value of the liberal arts as a discipline with incalculable value, students report that they are most interested in ways that course material translates to everyday life. In response to those concerns, we examine extensive applications for aesthetics, ethics, intro and logic courses that are specifically designed to relate course content to practical decision making and problem-solving processes students will encounter in their communities and workplaces. For example, in the Intro to Logic course, we cover contract clauses, intellectual property, and non-compete agreements so that students can make connections when they are learning about categorical propositions. In aesthetics, fine arts students are asked to develop aesthetic theories that help them to situate their work in the context of trends surfacing in their major fields of study. In ethics, students are taught how to evaluate a potential employer’s ethical management style and business objectives in order to determine if a particular situation is a good fit.
Finally, the classroom environment must function as a healthy and inclusive community to make the classroom experience enjoyable. Throughout my career, I have been lucky to teach in diverse environments, at both public and private institutions, serving a range of students from dispersed global backgrounds. Creating a classroom space in which students with starkly different worldviews feel free to discuss ideas and share critiques with a sense of mutual respect is the first and most primary classroom goal regardless of the particular course at hand. Accessible, diverse classrooms with many voices provide a rich environment to cultivate civility, rational exchange and substantive debates that explore the links between philosophy and action.
As educators, we are preparing students to innovate, participate and engage with the most vital issues affecting their communities. We have both a deontological and utilitarian imperative to teach our students how, not what, to think. For philosophers this is a special obligation: our classrooms are incubators for the kind of rationality a “love of ideas” seems to dictate. If we don’t “walk the walk” and make our classrooms function as a place of inclusion, then democracy seems a pipe dream. It is with that sense of responsibility that I feel, we together, students and faculty, should create conscious, healthy classroom communities that respect and celebrate diverse views. Such a community is a fine counter to the debased rhetoric of political polarization dominating the airwaves and social media.
As noted above, my main objective in the classroom is to create a sense of community in a shared learning environment. This means that as a facilitator, I am also learning with my students. To that end, I employ a seminar method to discuss assigned guide questions designed to help students navigate challenging original sources in philosophy. For some sessions, students are asked to operate as mini-think tanks to address an issue from a philosophical or ethical perspective. At the close of think tank sessions, each group discusses its findings and the discussion is open to everyone. This allows students to mimic team environments they are likely to join once in the world of work.
Classroom think tanks also foster creative problem solving, teach Agile mind-mapping for groups and provide the insight that teams charged with an identical assignment may derive vastly different solutions based on their assumptions, backgrounds, preconceived notions, problem-solving methods, etc.. In logic courses, team problem solving is used to initiate discussion of how/when to employ various deductive and inductive techniques for the purpose of critically evaluating arguments.
Students are also asked to work together in teams to solve challenging problems and perform extended research that connects particular philosophical ideas to actions, situations, and events occurring in both our local and global environments. Teams evaluate each other and students perform 360 degree ratings on their team members and group effectiveness. These activities prepare learners for workplace challenges, most directly, to cooperate with one another to achieve shared project goals
All lecture content is presented via course-specific web sites and delivered through the use of Smart Board technologies in the classroom. Students can print out lecture materials at any time from the course web site and are expected to have digital or hard copies in class. Presenting via Smart Technologies allows for the simultaneous introduction of related materials from the web and other sources.
Student Evals & Written Feedback
Here are links to full student evaluation packages for the following classes:
- Introduction to Philosophy – Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2009
- Logic & Inquiry – Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Spring 2010
- Aesthetics – The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Summer 2008 – numbers only
- Introduction to Logic – The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Fall 2009
I hold a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Duquesne University and completed a post-doc project serving as a technology curriculum and network designer for the Tidioute Community Charter School. Click on the link to access my current vita (PDF). As a traditional academic, I taught a wide range of philosophy and technology classes at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Clarion University and The University of Pittsburgh from 1996-2014. In 2014, I left academia to pursue cutting edge technology development and open new markets for web-based education tools. From 2014 to the present, I’ve developed a wide range of education and engineering applications designed to solve challenging design problems.
My ongoing research interests focus on the intersection between phenomenology, identity, autonomy, surveillance and the ethical challenges related to the adoption of ubiquitous computing technologies (e.g., FICO scores, information architecture/access to databases, privacy-related laws, camera surveillance networks, social media). I am also deeply interested in the ways in which our phenomenological experience of reality responds to augmented and virtual realities.
As such, I am a co-founder of CodeReal, LLC. Our mission is to design AR/VR technologies for architecture/construction, education, engineering, manufacturing, research and training scenarios. Our company recently co-wrote a successful NDH grant with The Challenger Center at Wheeling Jesuit University to update a Natural Disaster Simulation exercise. The simulation goal is to teach natural science concepts and first response technologies to students in 7-12 grades. We are also engaged in exploratory discussions to perform brain wave research using VR technologies and EEG biofeedback to examine neuroplasticity and the ability to learn to control concentration states. CodeReal works with academic and industry partners to find funding or grants for white label technologies that will integrate AR/VR technologies.
When I’m not building VR worlds, I also enjoy hiking, photography, travel with family and watching my 13-year-old son, Kevin, swim competitively.