Lecture Hall


In this image I see the next generation of professionals being exposed to the knowledge of both present and past learners. I also see the learning process accelerating, facilitated by the rapid and global flow of information involving many more people making more connections than ever before.

Going forward from the industrial revolution, we acquired knowledge about how the human senses, particularly sight and sound can be expanded, improved upon and extended far into the cosmos through the use of microwave and radio telescopes. Intricate surgeries are being successfully performed by robots acting under the control of surgeons at a distance. Animals are being cloned. Technology growth is advancing exponentially. And individuals by the millions are communicating globally and simultaneously. I look at this image and wonder if considerations of more and faster are also producing better results. Does more knowledge, better tools and increased capacities result in higher quality—more competent, ethical, responsible and caring human beings? More secure, economically sound and vital societies? In some cases “yes,” in other instances “no.” When it comes to tools of any kind, what matters is how we use them.

Certainly it’s easier, faster and more financially profitable to direct the flow of information and knowledge toward external changes, more so than addressing internal changes, those relating to the qualities of consciousness and character, which are neither sexy nor profitable. Reflecting on these qualities in relation to learning, I wonder what we’re educating for—at every level. And toward what ends should we be applying what we’re learning?

Constructive jobs and the professions are part of it. Wisdom born of hard experience is another part, necessary for intelligence and creativity to be channeled into understanding, improvements, health and well-being. And then there’s knowledge that contributes to personal growth and social development. Might there be less crime and corruption, perhaps even less political polarization, if more people understood the many ways in which all of life is interconnected and interdependent? And that all choices have consequences—for the whole as well as the individual.

I was a students in this very lecture hall. Back then, we took notes with pad and pen. And the focus was more on the teacher than projected images. Beyond the name of the teacher and the course, I have only a vague memory of the lessons that were taught in that hall. I do, however, vividly remember the teacher and his passion for the subject. He captured our attention, not only because he had expertise and experience in the field we aspired to; he lived it. We listened and watched because he provided the model for what we could expect at the executive level in the broadcast industry. And it proved to be an accurate assessment.

Years later, as a university professor myself, I learned that education is only partly about the conveyance of knowledge and information. Students can get that on their own. And they will pursue certain subjects when they’re sufficiently motivated to do so. What’s more difficult for them to acquire are the qualities of character that contribute to a life well lived with meaningful contributions, qualities that are best demonstrated rather than talked about.

Technologies in the classroom are essential resources, particularly for learning the externals—how the world works and how to enter into it. Equally, I think attention to the internals, the qualities of consciousness and character, is essential. And for that we need positive role models—parents, teachers, professionals and leaders in every domain.

The process of creating intelligence is not merely a question of access to information. Would that learning were as easy as diving into a swimming pool of information or sitting down at a great banquet table for an info-feast. Rather, education, which comes from the Latin educaré, meaning to raise and nurture, is more a matter of imparting values and critical faculties than inputting raw data. Education is about enlightenment, not just access. 

David Shenk

About This Image

Title: Lecture Hall

File #DC 4090

Zimmer Auditorium, University Of Cincinnati

Whenever I expect to be photographing interiors with available light, I much prefer shooting with a digital rather than a film camera. The ISO number (sensitivity to light) can be adjusted higher than film without significant degradation to the image. This same image photographed on film would have been very grainy and I would have needed a tripod for the long exposure.

My camera is usually set on “Daylight” color balance. Seeing how yellow the light was in the hall, I changed the setting to “Tungsten,” which produced the better looking image on the viewing screen. Next, I set the camera on “A” for aperture mode in order to maximize the depth of field so objects both near and far would be in focus. And then, because I was hand-holding the camera, I set the shutter speed at 1/500th of a second to minimize movement. Combining these factors, the camera indicated that I needed an ISO of 1500.

As usual, I bracketed the exposure by shooting several frames: normal, over and under the camera’s recommendation. Using Adobe Lightroom software, I increased the exposure to bring out more detail on the projection screens and reduced the overall contrast by boosting the shadows.

I invite you to visit my portfolio site: David L. Smith Photography




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