What the Thinking Cafe is all About

   As a mother and college professor, I am in the business of teaching and learning.  One of the things that I have noticed over the years is that students are sometimes reluctant to think when faced with challenges that have no easy answers.  I have worked on helping my students and my own children develop their critical and creative thinking skills through thoughtful collaborations and activities that promote the use of reflection, imagination and innovation.  This webiste is dedicated to providing resources, ideas, thoughts, and areas of collaboration for learners and parents/teachers everywhere.  
   Great teaching is a dynamic and transformative practice.  It fosters an environment that encourages students to actively engage with content while thinking critically, creatively and cooperatively.  At the same time, teaching is an active learning process that requires reflection, flexibility and empathy from both teacher and learner.  According to esteemed philosopher and academic, John Dewey, “knowledge is created through the transformation of experience." As a teacher and parent, I try to provide my learners with transformative experiences in the classroom that challenge their thinking and problem solving strategies while capturing their imaginations and stimulating their emotions.  According to Paulo Freire (1970), the Brazilian advocate of critical pedagogy, to become "fully human" involves thinking and taking action based upon reflection.  With this in mind, I seek to create a learning environment where the freedom to think outside of the box, thoughtfully reflect on issues, and take responsible action are encouraged.  
   I have been inspired in my teaching by increasing evidence from neuroscience that reveals the interdependency of the body and the brain in learning (Immordino-Yang & Damasio, 2007). It seems that the more we learn about the brain, the more we learn about how important our emotions are to learning, and how we can affect our learning by enhancing and understanding the brain/body connection. Mindsets and mindfulness have become important considerations to academic and social success both inside and outside of the classroom. I have also been inspired in my teaching by the ideas offered by the Habits of Mind (HoM).  These critical thinking habits encourage flexibility and creativity, two conditions I consider essential to a robust education.  The HoM are primarily applicable when individuals are faced with a problem for which the answer is not immediately known (Costa & Kallick, 2002) By using many of the HoM as a foundation for teaching activities, my learners become accustomed to thinking critically and are encouraged to analyze and expand their thinking. 
   Parents and teachers must be innovators.  New technologies and the opportunities offered by the Internet provide a potentially valuable source of learning and communication.  Learners are eager to use digital media to enhance their learning experiences and quick to adapt to new learning platforms that actively engage them and build upon their interests and inclinations.  In addition, social media can be used to enhance effective communication among learners while actively promoting global engagement with diverse linguistic and cultural communities around the world.  Through the use of the Internet, learners can create relationships with their counterparts in diverse cultural contexts offering them a window on the world that is different from their own. As a teacher and homeschool mom, I strive to continue learning and adapting to new ideas and tools so that I may always offer my learners every opportunity to discover and engage with novel concepts.  
   My hope is that The Thinking Cafe will be used by parents, teachers and learners as a source of information, inspiration and collaboration.  
Aixa Perez-Prado

Mother, teacher, writer, social scientist, traveler, thinker and founder of The Thinking Cafe. 

​Habits of Mind certified trainer and Educational Consultant