Visual Narratives: Creating Opportunities for Telling Stories: Children Have the Right to Make Their Own Mark, in Their Own Way, Using Their Own Ideas, with Accessible Tools/equipment, Whatever Their Ability Level or Challenges May Be

Article excerpt

We need to recognise that our students are multimodal in thought, word and action; adept at interpreting, thinking about and reading information. One only has to observe them watching a football match on television in which they are not only exposed to the actual game but simultaneously to a continuous barrage of items (scores, replays, analysis of play, injury reports, other events, etc) being flashed across, onto, below, above and around the game. Additionally, it is most likely that they are also engaged in other activities while they watch the game. They can also be working on the computer, as they listen to their iPod music and do their homework. They have become agents of simultaneous activity and therefore see this as the norm. Kress (2000) notes that literacy debates now include visual modes of communication as a result of the rapid movement from the printed medium to an age of visual images and greater access to technologies. Children from very young ages are computer literate and masters of multimodal multiliteracies, using a range of modes and mediums in their meaning making and in their documentation of that meaning.

In classrooms around the world, we are facing some students becoming disengaged and disenfranchised in ways that make it difficult for teachers and students alike to stimulate, motivate, engage and access teaching and learning. No longer is the traditional 'chalk and talk' appropriate nor relevant to the world of education nor to the lifeworlds of students. Gee (2003) notes the disparity between in class learning and the real world; and highlights the need for educators to utilize out of class learning strategies such as those in video games to enhance in class learning outcomes. In his analysis of computer games he recognises the qualities within the game structure that would be ideal if channelled into education as well, including scaffolded learning, progressive learning that continually has incentive to keep moving on; stimulating learning scapes, engaging multimodal scenarios that empower the user and provision of a sense of achievement at a range of levels. Allowing students the opportunity to visually tell their stories incorporates many of these successful practices.

As teachers we now recognise that there are a range of learning preferences and styles within our classes. Most teachers work hard to incorporate knowledge of this diversity to enable students to be engaged and successfully navigate their own unique learning journeys. Of concern however, is whether teachers are incorporating this understanding into their assessment tasks, their activities and ensuring that there is provision for multiliterate and multimodal means of documenting learning. In particular there is a need to incorporate opportunities for students to be taught and engaged in a range of ways; but for this to be effective it also means educators must allow students the opportunity to tell their stories in a range of ways. Providing these opportunities will enable more students to actively participate, actively engage and most importantly actively tell their stories in authentic and meaningful ways.

Each child is a dynamic being and sees the world differently from the way that he represents it and, as he grows, his expression changes (Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1975).

Research into brain compatible learning clearly recognizes the need for both right and left brain activities. However schools have tended to focus on the logic side of learning and to a lesser extent on the creative side of learning. Such creativity would promote new ways of seeing and doing, thinking beyond the norm, creating and making unique contributions, and laterally thinking to combine and create newness (Schirrmacher, 1998). Creativity is a normal brain function that builds fluency of ideas and functions, flexibility, originality and problem solving. All of these attributes would help students to navigate and document meaningful learning journeys and stories. …