The other day a student stood in the middle of my classroom holding his cellphone at arm’s length, pointing it at the white board. I was about to tell him to put it away, but then I realized what he was doing and it gave me pause to think…he was “taking notes” by snapping a digital picture of what I had written on the board. So I wondered, what if I asked him to use those images in his next essay? Isn’t this a way to integrate technology into the language arts curriculum—taking digital pictures and using them with text?
But really, when is the last time you asked your students to include images in their essays? Probably never, right? When students include pictures, it’s usually to adorn the cover of the essay beneath one of those annoying plastic report covers. But consider how many images the average student encounters in a day. Advertisements, all with images meant to persuade, appear everywhere from the internet and television to billboards and buses on the way to school. Images in ads even appear while they are texting or playing Angry Birds on their smart phones. As Louise Story of the NY Times points out, “Anywhere the eye can see, it’s likely to see and ad” and those ads are loaded with images. So shouldn’t we be teaching our students to interpret those images as part of a symbol system the way we teach them to decode letters and words? Better still, what about teaching them to use images themselves in powerful ways?
In the Classroom
Next time you design a writing assignment, consider teaching students how images can be used along with words to persuade. You can have them search for and choose images that will support the theses of their essays. For this, a Google Images search will garner millions of options. You might also have them create their own images and/or “infographics.” Worlde is a simple and fun text analysis tool that will create a word collage based on the frequency of words in any document. Students can upload an essay and Worlde will create an image that emphasizes the essay’s main idea. Also, Stat Silk is great for creating images to represent statistics. Creatly is another nice one, though the free version is limited. I hope you are inspired by these resources to try something new…