A Thousand Words: Promoting Teachers' Visual Literacy Skills

By Burns, Mary | Multimedia & Internet@Schools, January/February 2006 | Go to article overview

A Thousand Words: Promoting Teachers' Visual Literacy Skills


Burns, Mary, Multimedia & Internet@Schools


We live in a visual world. Images and graphics have revolutionized the way we receive and process information, both within and beyond the classroom.

AS early as 1964, Marshall McLuhan spoke of the social evolution from "typographic" man, who relied on text as the primary means of information delivery to "graphics" man,1 whose thoughts, beliefs, and values were forged by images. Within this "revolution," as McLuhan called it, the camera replaced text as the ultimate authority.2 Through television (and now the Internet), the viewer could experience a major event in real time. The danger, McLuhan warned, was that the viewer could become a passive recipient of information, accepting the veracity of all visual representations without critical reflection.3

Our students, among the youngest members of this "graphics" (or, more accurately, "multimedia") world, are surrounded by a plethora of images-on billboards, in magazine, on TV, in films, and in computer games-which they also often passively absorb. The messages and values conveyed by these images define norms and ideals of dress, behavior, and beliefs. In comparison with their earlier counterparts, contemporary American students are probably far more comfortable with, place greater value on, and derive much of their knowledge from images-as opposed to text. Little wonder that so many of our students are visual learners.

In contrast to the society in which they operate, schools continue to be very text-focused places. In almost all content areas, students are consumers and producers of text-based products. Granted, the presence of multimedia technology has caused some shift from text-based to visually based learning within the classroom, but this has spawned a new set of instructional challenges for teachers. Many teachers are more comfortable with text-based instruction and communication and may feel ill-equipped to harness the learning potential of visually based learning. Although advocating "visual literacy," state standards may offer little guidance in terms of instructional specifics. Yet, text-based proficiency-reading and writing-is still the standard by which academic success is measured. The result is that schools often do not help students make meaning of and critically reflect upon the powerful images that so influence their lives.

To succeed in the academic and vocational world, students must be proficient in both reading and writing-they must be literate. But to navigate the real world, they must also be visually literate-able to decode, comprehend, and analyze the elements, messages, and values communicated by images.

DEVELOPING TEACHERS' VISUAL LITERACY SKILLS

How can teachers help students develop visual literacy skills that complement and deepen phonemic literacy? How can teachers help students develop critical thinking skills so they can analyze, reflect upon, evaluate, and make inferences from the images they see and not be the passive recipients of visual information that McLuhan critiques?

The answer in part is to help teachers develop these conceptual, instructional, and technical skills so that they also feel comfortable incorporating visual learning into traditional learning-and so they too begin to critically evaluate the images to which they are exposed. The remainder of this article focuses a series of professional development activities-some created through Southwest Educational Development Laboratory and at the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico City-that have been successfully used with teachers and students to help in the development of visual literacy skills. These activities address the following:

* Understanding visual literacy as a counterpart to phonemic literacy

* Helping teachers to "read" images

* Help teachers to "write" visual images

* Understanding how visual literacy techniques can be used across all subject areas4

Each approach is summarized below:

UNDERSTANDING VISUAL LITERACY

So much of professional development around and in visual literacy immediately leapfrogs to the technology- focusing on software use-PhotoShop, Flash, or PowerPoint-or on overtly technical concepts (pixilation, resolution) while ignoring visual literacy as a concept and a prerequisite for critical thinking. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Thousand Words: Promoting Teachers' Visual Literacy Skills
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.