Over the last few weeks, my blog posts have been focused on visual literacy, and this one will be no exception. I recently read The Visual Literacy White Paper, which was written by Dr. Anne Bamford and commissioned Abode Systems Pty Ltd Australia. Now, it can be no surprise that Adobe published a paper on visual literacy, seeing as they are the makers of photo editing software. That said, while the paper was obliviously designed to promote Adobe’s products, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements, it raises some interesting points.
One quote I especially enjoyed was:
“Visual literacy includes critical knowledge. This is best developed through exposure to interesting and varied images and through thoughtful and thought-provoking questioning and discussion.”
Also quote I found interesting was: “The idea that seeing is believing is now a naïve concept.” As teachers, I think it is very important that we show our kids just how easy it is these days to manipulate images so that they know that they cannot believe everything that they see, and therefore, must be critical readers of visual images. For a great list of questions students can use when critically examining images, see page 6 of the paper.
The Visual Literacy White Paper also gave some suggestions for visual literacy lessons which included:
- Looking at how the same book is marketed with different cover designs in certain parts of the world
- Creating an image resource about a passion the students might have
- Altering and manipulating photos
One message that has kept coming up in my readings on visual literacy is that in order for students to be visually literate, they need not only to view and interpret messages, they also need to know to create them. Before I give an assignment to my students, I usually try to do it myself first for four reasons. One, doing the task myself helps me to identify any potential problems, two, modeling helps my students understand the task, three, it helps my students to see me as a learner just like them, and finally, I usually enjoy doing the task myself. Digital storytelling is something I have been thinking about doing with my students for quite some time now, so, I set out to do some digital storytelling myself. Taking the suggestion from Adobe, I decided to create an image resource about a passion that I have.
In 2009, I learned about a charity in western Africa called the Ember Kenya Grandparents Empowerment Project during a visit to Kenya. I was very impressed by the work they were doing and decided to stay involved with the charity and help out as much as I could. In 2010, it became apparent that they needed a new website, so I volunteered for the task. After creating the website, I decided I needed to know more about the project. Thus, this summer, I went back to visit the charity again. The following is a presentation about that visit.
I decided to use Voicethread to make this presentation as I had heard about Voicethread at a PD workshop last year, and already had a bit of an inkling of how to use it. I logged into my account and easily was able to upload some slides from a PowerPoint presentation I had previously created. When I went to add sound to each image, however, I could not get Voicethread to record my voice. I tried troubleshooting recommended by the website to no avail. Frustrated, I decided to visit some other CoETaIL blogs for ideas. I visited Diana’s blog post called Digital Storytelling. She said she used VuVoux and Garage Band. I signed up for VuVoux and added all my pictures and then went to download Garage Band for the audio. It was then that I realized that Garage Band was only for Mac users. Being a PC users, I searched for an alternative and found Audacity. Unfortunately, I could get Audacity to record my voice either! I was ready to scream.
Then I had an epiphany – maybe I should try a plug in mic instead of relying on the one built into my computer. And Eureka, it worked! I then chose to leave Audacity and VuVoux behind, and head back to Voicethread. I made this choice for two reasons. First, I had seen Voicethread in action before, and secondly, Diana mentioned in her blog that with the VuVoux and Garage Band combo she had a lot of trouble synching the sound to her images.
In the end, I found working with Voicethread to be quite easy. Once I had the mic working, it was easy to record myself and to rerecord if I made a mistake. Because of its ease of use, I am going to give my students a chance to try out Voicethread in the classroom. Currently, my students are writing personal narratives. Once they finish writing the narratives, I think it would be really neat for them to find some images to express their stories and then have them record themselves reading their stories on Voicethread. Then, they could easily share their stories with friends and relatives around the world. Also, their friends and family could record comments on their Voicethread for them. I also might be able to use Voicethread during the poetry unit in second semester. As a culminating assignment, students must write their own poem using one of the techniques learned. After the students have written the poem, I might get them to find an image (or images) that represents their poem and then have them record themselves reading the poem. Then I could get their peers to listen to the poems and provide feedback.