RIT Logo
RIT Home Search A-Z Index Directories myRIT
College of Science
COS Home
About the College
Academic Programs
Cooperative Education
Advising/Student Services
Student Life
Research Partnerships
Alumni Services
News & Events
Departments & Contacts
Admission & Financial Aid
Matthew H. Schneps Distinguished Speaker Series
Open to the Public Thursday, February 12 , 2009
4:00pm in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science Auditorium 76-1125


Dr. Matthew H. Schneps, Director
Laboratory for Visual Learning,
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

The Power and Pitfalls of Visual Thinking
Two decades ago a short video called A PRIVATE UNIVERSE raised concern in education circles by demonstrating that even the very best instruction (even from prestigious institutions like Harvard) can fail to alter seemingly indelible non-scientific beliefs students tend to hold. Student beliefs that disagree with prevailing scientific views have been pejoratively referred to as "misconceptions." But scientists working at the cutting edge of knowledge also formulate naive ideas, but in these cases we call such ideas "mental models," visual metaphors essential to understanding. Metaphorical representations such as Einstein's elevator, Feynman's diagrams, or students' naive ideas, visually, and for better or worse these visually formed ideas are both powerful and tenacious. We suggest that the power of visual thinking, so important in science, stems from the visual system's capacity for concurrent processing, that allows the construction of memory through visuospatial priming: a mechanism that may undergird the power and pitfalls of visual thinking in science.


Dr. Matthew H. Schneps Director, Laboratory for Visual Learning, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Schneps has diverse research interests that include cognition and learning, astrophysics, science education, learning disabilities and dyslexia, television media, eyetracking and vision, computer image processing, and K-12 science learning. Schneps, is the Executive Director of the Science Media Group, responsible for producing over 200 hours of nationally broadcast television programming on science learning, much of it on collaboration with the Annenberg Foundation.
Schneps produced (with P. Sadler) the award-winning video on science learning; A PRIVATE UNIVERSE, and MINDS OF OUR OWN; well known for their depictions of Harvard and MIT graduates who are unable to answer grade school problems in science (such as the causes of the seasons). Prior to his involvement in science education, Schneps was co-Director of the Wolbach Image Processing Laboratory (WIPL) at CfA, where he created capabilities for computer animation. Prior to his work at WIPL, Schnepscarried out astrophysics research (star formation and galactic distance scales) with J. Moran and M. Reid, using aperture synthesis techniques.
Schneps received his Ph.D. in Physics from MIT (1979).

Interpreting services available upon request subject to availability. Please submit request at http://cbgs.rit.edu

This event will be video taped.