Today I used this picture for the visual critical thinking skills discussion in today’s class. Please do click on the llink and see the picture before proceeding.
The students were given 2 driving questions to ponder over - What they thought was going on in the picture with evidence to support their ideas, & To use observations and inferences to explain what they thought was happening in the picture.
Shahul observed that the picture showed a group of people working on a rotating grinder and not like scientists.
Izzy stated that it looked like a factory setting where the people were sanitised and wore masks. He concluded that they were making cheese in a factory and all were looking at ripe cheese. They looked like Asians while one looked Chinese as observed from his facial features.
Ruqayya concurred with Izzy that it looked like a cheese factory as the people all wore gloves as they were handling cheese. The big container looked like where the whey and curd/cheese were separated. She observed that the parts sticking out from the big container looked like spinners on which the container spun around. She noticed the racks at the back which could have been used to store the cheese and that the cheese wasn’t done yet. She noticed that the visitors were taking down notes but was unsure about what. She also had no idea on the purpose of the posters and bottles seen in the background. She also observed one of the people wore headphones while few wore masks and gloves.
Mooz declared that they looked like scientists visiting a science lab in a different country for they had visitor badges on their coats. Although they wore masks, there was no social distancing and they might be testing and checking a cure for some kind of virus.
Cessie said that they looked like medical students or maybe scientists with two of them being visitors while the others were doctors and volunteers. She assumed the two visitors were from another lab or university who had come to observe an exhibit or some new discovery as they wore masks and gloves and took notes while the others observed. She noticed some posters in the background on the walls that mentioned something about a Cold Box, Tail and Product but had no idea about it.
Afrah disagreed with Izzy and Ruqayya. She mentioned that the men looked like chemists with two among them being visitors from maybe a university as the badges on their coats revealed. They seemed to be observing and writing what seemed like an experiment. The setting was more like a lab which consumed electricity as there was a big electric box in the background. There may be something contagious, the reason for their wearing gloves and masks, for they may be looking for a cure for some disease.
When I asked them to observe what was sticking out of the machine with what looked like an opening or outlet in the big container, only Afrah articulated that they looked like huge copper nuts and bolts. She believed that it was part of some circuit and couldn’t be a grinder or cheese separator. She remarked that the people were not lookng inside but away from the machine, probably observing some output on a screen in the distance.
I asked the students whether it was possible that a factory could have one machine without any other machinery in sight and whether the door behind the room could be open if the process involved dairy products. Afrah also noticed that the sign on the wall about a cold box had a yellow triangle which usually meant something hazardous which is only possible if the setting was a lab rather than a factory.
At the end of the class, I revealed the caption to them that they were inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency at a nuclear site south of Teheran. The article mentioned that Iran had begun to conduct work on advanced centrifuges- the equipment that spun at supersonic speed to purify Uranium, a fuel for nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
We concluded that in all probability what was seen might be a centrifuge used to purify uranium. Ruqayya was sad that she couldn’t guess accurately because of her lack of knowledge on history or nuclear power. Mooz, Cessie and Izzy weren’t too happy either that they hadn’t been even close to guessing the right answer. Afrah was sure that she knew from the beginning that it was some kind of a lab with chemists working and was well pleased that she was close to the outcome of this activity but was surprised to note that what looked like a huge Idly grinder could actually spin at supersonic speed.
To be able to keenly observe and modify one’s thought process, based on different perspectives presented by peers, is a skill. Today, I was impressed by Afrah – she demonstrated critical decision making which involved calmness, clarity, and conviction in her inference. Additionally she was able to explain her observation, reasoning and conclusions in plain language to her peers.
Note : Student chosen aliases have been used instead of real names. The link to the article with the actual picture has been provided below: