Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bringing Visual Literacy into the Classroom

I suppose it’s okay now to admit that I did my math homework—even calculus—in front of the TV in our den watching “The Soupy Sails Show.” So, I’m not surprised by the results of a New Jersey Department of Education survey that indicates 57% of Jersey teens spend 3 hours each day doing some sort of electronic viewing: watching television, playing video games, and being on the Internet ("High School Students Devote More Hours to TV, Internet and Video Games," The Star-Ledger, July 3, 2009). In fact, I’m almost surprised that the statistic is so low.

However, if the teens we’re teaching, or the preteens or college students, are spending so much time watching electronic screens, what are we doing in our classrooms to help these students develop critical viewing skills? “The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies” calls for students to ”manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information” and to “create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts” in order to be literate in terms of this century. The companion guideline--NCTE’s “21st Century Curriculum and Assessment Framework”—gives us a way to look at how we work with students in our classrooms in light of the definition. Even so, sometimes it’s difficult to begin.

We might start with the news which is replete with articles about students and technology tools—how they’re using them at home or could be using them at school. The blog of NCTE’s Assembly on Media Arts is one place to keep up with this news.

We might also learn from the many teachers at all levels who integrate visual literacy into their English or language arts classrooms. Abigail Kennedy, 2007 winner of the NCTE Media Literacy Award is one of these teachers. Samples of her winning videos give us one of those a-picture-is-worth-1000-words glimpses into how we might use visual literacy in our classrooms.

NCTE has several resources on the subject.

Books: Lesson Plans for Creating Media-Rich Classrooms; Reading in the Reel World: Teaching Documentaries and Other Nonfiction Texts; Great Films and How to Teach Them; Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom.

Many articles in NCTE journals.

ReadWriteThink lesson plans.

A kit: Engaging Media-Savvy Students.

A CD-Rom: Study Guides for 12 Great Films CD-ROM.

An On-Demand Web Seminar: On Demand Reading the Media: Helping Students (and Teachers) Become Media Literate by Teaching 21st Century Skills.

How have you worked visual literacy into your classroom activities?


Frank said...

The recent cover images of President Obama on both National Review and The Week magazines provided me with some great material for a workshop I conducted today at the University of South Carolina with students enrolled in the "English for International Students." I invite educators to learn more by visiting my Visual Literacy web page, part of the Media Literacy Clearinghouse website:

Anonymous said...

Knowledge Quest published an issue on visual literacy - some content is free, like "Visual Information Literacy" by Debbie Abilock: