Teacher Workshop – “Skepticism in the Classroom” – at The Amazing Meeting 8
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 19, 2010
**Update: If you’re interested in getting hold of some of the useful materials presented at the “Skepticism in the Classroom” workshop, then check out this link to the Critical Thinking Education Group.
In my last blog post concerning my time at The Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas, I wanted to take some time to outline the workshop called “Skepticism in the Classroom” which I helped to organize and run. Led by Michael Blanford, the JREF’s new point-man on education, the presenters in the workshop consisted of myself, Daniel Loxton, Barbara Drescher, with a brief bit of material presented on behalf of Kylie Sturgess. I was pleased to see that our workshop was very well attended, with about 150-200 people present (most of whom were teachers!) We started off with some comments by Michael, where he introduced all of us…
First off was Daniel Loxton, author of the new children’s book called “Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be”, where he spoke about using evolutionary science as a good vehicle to get kids to think more critically at a younger age. I especially like Daniel’s references to using a Scooby Doo kind of format to get kids thinking about things – the Scooby Doo cartoon was a very good one for kids to watch, back in my day, because it taught them to think things through and attempt to solve the mystery rather than be bamboozled by superstitious nonsense.
Next, I gave a talk titled “Teaching Skepticism – How to Get Kids to Think Critically” where I gave a lot of examples of lessons that I use in the classroom to get my students to think more critically about various paranormal & supernatural claims. I often present these lessons in the context of Occam’s Razor – by making use of the physics that I teach my students, I then show them how naturalistic explanations are much more plausible & sensible than other more woo-woo explanations. In addition, during the workshop I explained how on the very first day of every class I teach, I make reference to Carl Sagan’s famous “Dragon in My Garage!” story; I then shared a demonstration of a magic trick I perform on the first day of my classes using cards & some mentalism – there have been many teachers who have contacted me about the secret of this trick, and I promise to share it in a future post :)
Last, but not least, Barbara Drescher – the administrator for the website of the Critical Thinking Education Group (CTEG) – shared with us a presentation & lesson she gives to her college students regarding sensory perceptions and how our senses can lead us astray. Barbara included many examples of various illusions, including some pretty neat forms of pareidolia (both visual & audio versions) that both challenged and entertained our audience. Barbara finished up by presenting some material on behalf of Kylie Sturgess – author of the Podblack Cat blog – which discussed the ways to incorporate critical thinking and skepticism into a literature & writing class.
If you’re interested, you may click the image below to download a Powerpoint file with an embedded audio recording of the workshop, including some audience Q&A at the end.