Spark a Discussion: What’s Going on in This Picture?

"What's Going on in This Picture?" featured NY Times image of woman surrounded by a crowd with cameras.

In a day-to-day class, it can be difficult to think of new ways to get students out of their “comfort zone” to look at course topics or a discipline with new perspectives.

The New York Time’s Learning Network has a daily feature that might give you some new ideas.  “What’s Going on in This Picture?” is a weekly post of a Times image without a caption.  Students are encouraged to think about the image with a series of prompts, then post responses to the prompts in the comments.  Information on the image is revealed later in the week and students reflect on the caption and the image’s back story.

Images related to your own discipline could be used in a similar way in class sessions.  Images that are ambiguous ,or have some type of surprising quality that don’t fit with preconceived notions, can be useful to prompt students to think about evidence, cultural contexts, or interpreting data more closely.

You can view previous “What’s Going on in This Picture?” columns at the New York Times website and a “best of” collection for ideas, or talk to a CIT consultant to discuss this or other activities in your classroom.

Photo credit:  Damon Winter, The New York Times,

Randy Riddle

Author: Randy Riddle

Randy A. Riddle consults with faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences on integrating technology into teaching. He has been a CIT consultant since 2000. His professional interests include e-learning, social networking, online productivity tools, video and multimedia, and visualization. Randy's current work includes management of the CIT's Faculty Fellows program, consulting on Coursera course design and exploring areas such as e-textbook authoring. His other interests outside of work include restoration of vintage recording formats and broadcasting and film history. He volunteers for the Old Time Radio Researchers Group and maintains an ongoing blog on radio history research.