In my experience, visual literacy has not been addressed as a type of literacy. It seemingly is viewed as technology and I don’t hear conversations regarding the distinctions or parameters set up for visual literacy. Erin Riesland states in her article Visual Literacy and the Classroom, “many students are expected to present complex visual ideas using a variety of multimedia applications without serious direct instruction.” In the article, How Users Read the Web shows that when people are looking for information on the web, they are skimming and scanning, looking quickly for key words and ideas. They do not read every word in the article. In other words, this is not an analysis of Thoreau where phrases, word choice and literary techniques are appreciated and discussed. So, should students be taught how to change their writing style and presentation for different situations be it a blog, tweet, or Power Point?
Recently in my 7th grade advisory I used Taylor Swifts’ You Tube video Mean to prompt a discussion regarding bullying. Not all students had heard the song previously and as a testimony to the power of music it was the quietest four minutes of the session. The song prompted a nonthreatening conversation about bullies and what to do about them. For me, it was a lesson that I did not to have to “produce” a document for them to work on and yet still resulted in a meaningful session.
As I read the articles it occurred to me that photos are used to share the tone of a period, time, mood, graphic information and to record history. The photos we choose to use teaching impart one or more of these. These two photos share how cultures are different around the world, but nonetheless children-caught in a photo. Visual Literacy Across the Curriculum with guest Elliot W. Eisner speaks to the power of photos.
The time spent selecting visual are well worth it, to yourself and your students.
It’s not only that you use a photo, it’s how you use it and why.