So What Does it Mean?

As this week’s focus is all about visual images and last week’s was about layout in posts I have decided to incorporate all of the contenders from my search for an image to use in class. In the end, I opted to mashup two images in my class as I felt this was the best way to generate some good quotes from the students.

Now to begin. I love this definition from Teaching Media Literacy: Yo! Are you Hip to This?

“…definition of media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of forms”… including those little black squiggles on white paper. Media literacy includes reading and writing, speaking and listening, critical viewing, and the ability to make your own messages using a wide range of technologies, including cameras, camcorders, and computers. Media literacy is not a new subject area and it is not just about television: it is literacy for the information age.”

The example of a class in which a short, live TV ad discussion lead into a literature study was awe-inspiring. The kindergarten class discussing ads, then comparing them with class footage to highlight the narrow focus of not just the camera but the camera operator as well… fabulous.

Media literacy as a tool to build relevance into contemporary education, building links between the classroom and the culture, so that students will see how themes and issues resonate in popular culture as they do in the study of literature, history or social studies. Some see media literacy as a citizenship survival skill, necessary to be a thoughtful consumer and an effective citizen in a superhighway-driven media age. Some see media literacy as a kind of protection for children against the dangers and evils engendered by the excesses of television, and they also see media literacy as an antidote to manipulation and propaganda.

This was the first inspiring reading, or a-ha, moment for me in COETAIL course 3. I flipped back and forth incessantly paragraph after paragraph making notes for training sessions and classroom practice. This was a deeply inspiring piece.

In searching for an appropriate image to use with my class I avoided too many social networking logos as my class of grade sixes isn’t overly active in this area. I wanted to use something that could be tied too our project based learning LINK Skill-building exercises concerned with producing presentations of personal interest using some software or online resource such as Power Point or Prezi and then capturing them with Camtasia Studio 7 with narrations helped to set the scene for our unfolding project based learning journey. Prior to this, as another skill building exercise, they produced original, narrated presentations using a coat of arms to represent themselves with images for a school assembly.

Our rubric (naturally unveiled at the start of our work) focuses on the grammar of cinema and students are required to consider image selection, transitions, colour, video inclusion, use of text, scripting and background music. The culminating assessment is a whole class documentary expanding upon and explaining our Social Studies work to date. We have been going on research excursions to find information and create our own digital resource bank of primary sources. We now have photographic evidence, video clips, both videotaped and analog responses to interview and survey questions which were developed in English class and then, either conducted in person or distributed via paper and fax to a range of intended interviewees in the community and local government and storyboards created to focus our productions-to-become-united later. (As a new term this has NO chance of ever catching on!)

This is the image I ended up using. I chose it because of our recent integrated class work. To me this is sort of putting the cart before the horse as I would normally produce such items as this at the start of a unit as a provocation. I have found it instructive to go back to provocations later to see how different the responses are. At these times I have found Harvard University’s Project Zero Thinking Routines quite helpful for both giving the students thinking strategies and focus. For this particular image I am thinking about using the See, Think, Wonder routine . This is actually a combination of two separate images I found.

I may add a line since we have already begun our work. “I know..”

The ability to search out, use, re-arrange, combine, Mashup, bend, fold and, if necessary, mutilate images to increase visual literacy and enhance other learning outcomes is revolutionary to teaching. The fact that we are so better empowered to create and to build upon on what others have created old perhaps be seen as a new way of doing old things as teaches, nay, humans just do this instinctively. We are natural communicators and our ability to model and follow the modeling of others is the basis for our success as a a species (whoah…).


I have to confess to a major error here. I did use creative commons search to find these images and then was unable to go back later and “refind” them for proper attribution. It is transformative, for education and in no way hindering anyone’s copyright or potential income. I am still, however, a bad, bad boy.

About Sean Thompson

Sean has accepted a position as the Director of Technology at The Early Learning Centre, City School, in Bangkok. He is excited to be working with Giovanni Piazza and the rest of the staff to raise awareness of digital-age teaching and learning practice in this Reggio Emilia inspired environment. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader and a Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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2 Responses to So What Does it Mean?

  1. I really appreciated this recount of your journey through images Sean. Having been down this road a few times myself I appreciate how much time it can take and also how much it can be an exercise in compromise. When we through the ethics of creative commons into the mix options can be limited even further. As the hierarchy of digital competency suggests do you feel yourself being pulled toward creating your own imagery?

    While I am not there yet, this is something I have been gravitating toward. I love that the images I take/create myself can be custom made for the purpose and can be used guilt free. See you in class!

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