Craig E. Nelson on Fostering Critical Thinking


IMG_3324.JPGI had the pleasure of attending a presentation/workshop by Craig E. Nelson this morning. The Teaching & Learning Centre hosted the event, which brought faculty members from the various sides of campus together to discuss critical thinking and implications on pedagogy.

It was a really interesting session, with Craig telling stories and modelling effective use of the strategies and activities he was talking about (and getting us to talk about). My takeaway points from the session:

  1. there are no broken students, only broken pedagogies
  2. successful students are the ones who can adapt to repair broken pedagogies for themselves (spontanously forming study groups, connections, etc...)
  3. "shut up and allow for processing time" - give students a chance to move stuff from short-term to long-term memory. simple 2 minute pauses and asking questions may be enough to start this.
  4. "bulemic learning" - binge/purge of stuff, leading to mental starvation
  5. an educator's job is to educate students, not sort/filter them. The goal is not to enforce the bell curve, it is to maximize grade inflation through effective teaching and learning.

I was there (primarily) to take photographs. I've been wanting to record the activities of the TLC for awhile now, and finally just started doing something about it. This was the first "real" event I've photographed, so I'm sure I was doing many things awkwardly. But, the end result is something I'm at least not disappointed in. I learned some things:

  • for an indoor event, get a long, fast lens. the kit lens won't cut it. I used the zoom lens from our old D30 on my XT body, with ISO cranked up to 1600. Even at that, the aperture was too small to get decent shots. Fast, long lens is required. Something like this one would do nicely.
  • get a big CF card. Or two. Or three. I was using my 1GB card, so left it in JPEG/fine mode. It would have been better to be shooting in RAW so I could adjust white balance properly later. I was afraid of filling up the card too soon, so reverted to JPEG.
  • plan shots ahead of time. I was able to get some of the "best" shots by picturing in my head where Craig would have to be standing/looking, and where I'd have to be, in order to take advantage of (or reduce the effect of) background items in the room. It didn't always work out, but thinking ahead would help reduce background distractions like the overhead projector...
  • try not to distract. I found I was being extremely self conscious of the shutter noise, afraid I was distracting the other participants, or affecting the audio being recorded for the session. I refused to use the flash, because I didn't want the paparazzi effect. Work to find the happy medium between getting the shot and not being noticed.
  • I overplanned. I brought in my monopod (which broke on the way in this morning. crap.) I brought 2 batteries. I brought the extra lens from the office's D30, as well as my XT's kit lens. I brought lens cleaning cloth and brush. I brought battery charger. I brought vertical grip. I ended up not using the monopod, nor the vertical grip. But they were there just in case.

I wound up taking almost a hundred photos. Many were unusable due to the slow lens producing blurry or excessively grainy images. The survivors are available in a Flickr album.


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