So… still thinking about the connections between images and reading and writing. Kress (2006) discusses shifts in power as we become (re)producers of multimodal texts and he explores differences in the reading paths created as we move between closed densely printed pages and new media representations. Look at Dusty Boots Line (1988) by Richard Long. A straight line in the landscape. A simple scuff from A to B which could be anywhere or nowhere. I’m conscious that I can present texts to be read in this decontextualised and linear way.
Kress describes the creation of ‘open paths’ in new media. I wondered whether we can encourage students to produce ‘open path’ texts in order to offer a way into their reading of the densely printed page. We need to be able to shift between reading both text types but perhaps I can encourage students to make more conscious use of images.
Shirley Brice Heath ‘Seeing our Way into Learning’ is an interesting read and I may have referred to this paper in earlier postings. I keep coming back to it because it offers some compelling arguments about the relationship between images, text and the development of thought processes. It made me think about how I can encourage my students to read. She says:
…it would seem that seeing and attending to specific features of perceived images engage us in calling up information we have stored through prior experience and can now recall and recount verbally.
In the gallery incident referred to in the previous posting, the engagement with the visual experience appeared to enable an enhanced connection with the theoretical text. Reading and talking about the text prior to the visual experience appeared to prime the observation – students got more out of the gallery experience but also appeared to have a better understanding of the text because there were connections with their lived experience. Students appeared to be participating in ‘collaborative theory building’ but importantly Brice Heath talks about creating the visual as well as reading images.
In ‘seeing and attending to…’ Brice Heath appears to be referring to observation – looking with intent. Engaging students with images still potentially positions them as receivers. We can’t just include any old image with text and imagine that this might create richer conditions for reading (I’m mentally scarred by the proliferation of over literal poorly produced clip art images). Enabling students to produce images in relation to texts appears to have potential. Sanders (2007) details a project where students produced photographs of their observations. The extent to which focused observation is connected with the development of critical capacities is usefully explored here in that it enables students to make connections with their own ‘life worlds’. Sanders also makes the distinction between a descriptive use of images and ways of enabling students to develop ‘skilful observation and reflection: to encourage critical thinking’ in geography. Of course this is a subject that demands an engagement with the environment and it may be less clear on how connections might be made in other disciplines.
Brice Heath S. (2000) ‘Seeing our Way into Learning’ Cambridge Journal of Education 30:1 p121-132.
Kress, G. (2003) Literacy in the New Media Age
Sanders, R. (2007) ‘Developing Geographers through Photography: Enlarging Concepts’ Journal of Geography in Higher Education 31:1 p. 181-195.