Are you a Refractive Thinker®? Do you follow the crowd, or does the crowd follow you?

The term "refractive thinker" has been popularized in recent years, and I'm curious if YOU would consider yourself a refractive thinker!

They are insatiable with their curiosity, and not satisfied within current conventional parameters or the prevailing wisdom. They are frustrated by provincial thinking or analysis. They do not follow the crowd. Instead the crowd follows them. (You can check out the link below for what is now defined as a "refractive thinker"!)

How about you? Do you prefer to not only test the limits but expand well beyond them? Do you have any personal examples, or ones you have witnessed...

- Dr. Cheryl
Beyond the Box Thinkers on Facebook

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Okay, so I'm not big of labels but boy does "refractive thinker" do a nice job of describing how I often feel...


"insatiable with their curiosity"

"not satisfied within current conventional parameters"

"frustrated by provincial thinking"


I was thinking that I haven't always been a refractive thinker; I have spent most of my life living on the periphery.  Now I wonder, though, if I chose to live there because of my frustrations with what was expected of me...a kind of acceptance of living inside the box. Over the past six years, however, I've discovered a whole new me and to be honest, I credit technology for my new view.  It has, in many ways, leveled the playing field; I now have access to all kinds of information, ideas, people at any time.   I am, for the first time in my life, a real honest-to-gosh learner.  


Not sure if any of this makes sense but your post really resonated with me, Cheryl.  Thank you so much for sharing with us!  I look forward to hearing what other people have to say! 

I think many of us credit technology with what I've been calling a "personal cognitive revolution."  Love the thoughts, Cary.
Thank you for taking the time to reply and share your thoughts Cary.  I am thrilled when our writing and concepts resonate with people.  There are a growing number of us who are not satisified with the status quo.  We follow in the constructs of Peter Senge (1990) "You cannot put new ideas into old constructs" Einsten offers that you cannot use the same conciousness to solve a problem that created it.   We all seem to be on the same page.  A Socratic thinker may ask why, while a refractive thinker asks why not?   Cheers!  Cheryl

I'd really like to get Peter Senge on my show.  I think I'll reach out!

Fascinating.  Reminded me of a book I just read, Polarity Management, which I thought well described the current "boxes" that the education reform discussion is in.  Curious to learn more.
Interesting that you mention the current education reform in this discussion about being a refractive thinker; as I have delved deeper and deeper into supporting and enhancing learning with technology, my frustration at current educational practices just continues to grow.  I find it difficult to have conversations with people when they continue to talk about the "same old, same old" practices that simply don't work.  I often feel as though I am speaking a foreign language and I suspect am often written off when sharing my thoughts and ideas about rethinking the way in which we create learning experiences for students.  Anyone else have a similar experience?
I remember how hard it would have been to convince me 5 years ago that talking on the cell phone made me a worse driver.  Now, I can't imagine how I didn't "get" that.  I think we are seeing a similar phenomenon with how we think about education--we are going to be really surprised to look back and recognize how hard it was for us to shift our perceptions.
Indeed Steve.   Thank you for your thoughful posts.  Change is difficult for many.  I was initially of the opinion it was the actual change--the behavior itself.  Now I know that it is simply the process of change (whatever it is) that is the point of fear as many simply find comfort in doing what they've always done.   There is comfort in sameness.  The challenge is convincing them of the benefits of the new way and showing why the new way is better.   This is where the Law of Primacy somes into play.  The first time anyone does anything, this becomes the standard-good or bad--from which they judge the world.  The secret is having something worthy of being followed--the first time.  *grins* 
I also think we have to see rewards that 10:1 outstrip our current benefits to change--there is some statistic to that effect.  I also think it's more than just "change," but it's change from one "polarity" to another.  Meaning, it's not just a shift in technique but in philosophy.  And that's where I think we are going to have some major challenges ahead.  :)

Indeed Cary.


I have often challenge those I worked with and for with this same idea. Many are simply too afraid of change and going too far beyond their comfort zones. Often my students will have no idea why they do what they do, they simply have 'always done it that way'.  My goal is to have them question why they have done it this way for so long, and whether what they are doing still works.  By asking the right questions, the answers will come.  Cheers! 

"By asking the right questions, the answers will come."


This has been, by far, one of my greatest challenges.  While I truly believe in constructivism, I find my impatience with the status quo leading me down the path of "telling" rather than "drawing out".  In a couple of hours, I will be working with teachers to understand how blogs can be used to support learning.  My goal is to provide them with resources to construct their understanding of Blogging with a capital "B".  (Versus the kind of blogging that simply mirrors what can be done on a piece of paper.)  Starting my day off with this threaded conversation will help me focus.  Thanks!


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