Seventy Plus Ideas for Viewing and Representing
(And they’re not just for language arts!)
Deborah L. Begoray
University of Manitoba
Although the ways through which we learn in the schools have traditionally been centered on reading and writing, researchers and scholars have begun to suggest that we need to consider more strongly other ways of understanding as equally important. Many teachers and librarians have used visual materials in their teaching for decades, not because of curricular mandate but out of a sense that students benefited from and enjoyed such work. Now, however, there is a large-scale development of educational interest in visual approaches as evidenced by their appearance in curriculum documents in the language arts. The newest English language arts curriculum framework mandated by the Common Curriculum Framework for Basic Education in English Language Arts (Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Yukon Territory, 1998) expanded the list of language arts to six with the addition of viewing and representing. Viewing, that is, acquiring information, appreciating, and criticizing ideas visually conveyed, and representing, or communicating ideas visually through a variety of media, thus officially join the traditional ways (reading, writing, listening, speaking) in which students must demonstrate learning.
Such approaches have only recently been embraced in the educational mandates across Canada (with the notable exception of Alberta, with viewing in the language arts curriculum since the 1980’s) and the United States. However, most teachers, parents and students have long realized that today’s student lives in a world dominated by visual communication, at least outside the school walls. We need to understand more clearly how to develop the strengths and interests students already possess in viewing and representing and how to harness them as approaches to learning.
Most teachers have had meager assistance with the task of broadening and deepening the literacy level of their students in this new world of visual representation. In the past, educators have included occasional forays into the arts, for example by inviting students to create skits in response to novels in language arts or building models in science or social studies. Others included media studies in language arts with units on newspapers or advertising, or in social studies students may have discussed political cartoons. However, teachers often proceeded with some concern about the advisability of such approaches. Some felt guilty at spending time away from reading and writing. Others wondered if they were knowledgeable enough in the visual domain. Many persisted because they saw students becoming more involved in learning both cognitively and affectively.
During the 1980’s, educators became interested in the work of Gardner (1983) on multiple intelligences, Gregorc (1982) on learning styles and Dunn & Dunn (1978) on learning modalities. Each of these researchers suggested that people have differing ways of interacting with the world. Many teachers were eager to reach more students by appealing to, for example, those having "musical intelligence" (Gardner), those who learned in "concrete-sequential" ways (Gregorc), or those who learned best through a "kinesthetic" mode (Dunn & Dunn). Taxonomies of learning styles proliferated however, and teachers began to realize that rather than adapting work to individual students, it was best to provide a variety of learning approaches to all students.
In the 1990’s, some researchers began to suggest that including other ways of knowing as equal partners with reading and writing would be beneficial for all students, "not so much as talents that some may have and others may not have [but] as potentials by which all humans might mean" (Leland & Harste, 1994, p. 339). Educators began to look at other ‘sign systems’ such as those used in music, art, film which could be analyzed, appreciated, criticized and created by all students. Ontario already had a media program acknowledged as the best in North America, and third worldwide behind the United Kingdom and Australia (Pungente & O’Malley, 1999, p. 11). Other Canadian regions quickly moved to catch up, and the late 1990’s have seen all provinces and territories include viewing and representing in their formal curriculum documents. (This may seem slow to readers familiar with Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s internationally famous work on media in the 1960’s!)
Our theoretical conception of literacy is undergoing a metamorphosis. Where once it meant an ability to read and write, often to some arbitrary level (Grade 4 perhaps), we now understand that our society demands both more sophisticated ability in traditional print text (words on the page) but also the skills of other sign systems such as visuals (another kind of text). Our newest goal, then, is to expand our notion of literacy to include an ability to use whichever sign system is appropriate to the situation.
If it can be ‘said’ most effectively with painting, then students should paint. If written language will do the best job, they should write. If gestures can help students to capture meaning, then drama or movement should be an alternative students know about well enough to communicate effectively. And since so many of these sign systems are now mediated electronically, students need to interact with computers, scanners, and digital cameras. They need also to study and produce multi-media as found in films, web sites and music videos. These offer a variety of texts, composed of many messages with many possible interpretations, transmitted in a rich (sometimes overwhelming) array of symbols, in oral, print and visual forms.
All of these interests and approaches to entertainment and information, and the formal appearance of viewing and representing in curricular documents lead to increased demand for professional development. In the summer of 1998, I was involved in an institute with three arts educators (Francine Morin, Ann Stinner and Liz Coffman) on implementing these "new" language arts using music, movement, art and drama. Forty-eight teachers from across Manitoba attended and talked about the joys and challenges of attempting to use viewing and representing in their classrooms. I wanted to know more about implementation in classrooms and therefore set up a project which would lead to in depth understanding of one school’s experience in viewing and representing.
The Viewing and Representing in the Middle Years Project (1998-2000)
For the next two years, I was involved with four teachers, one student teacher and over two hundred grade 6 to 8 students in the Viewing and Representing in the Middle Years Project. The teachers ranged significantly in age, experience, education, and subject area specialty:
Sam* -- a grade eight language arts and social studies teacher with 28 years of experience in teaching, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees.
Don* -- a grade eight mathematics and science teacher and Sam’s teaching partner, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degrees, ten years of experience in the classroom as well as leadership training in mathematics at the school division level.
Mary* -- an after degree teacher candidate (student teacher), Bachelor of Science degree, worked with both Sam and Don as her cooperating teachers, only part of the project in the first year.
Colleen* -- a grade six teacher in a self-contained classroom, teaching all the core subject areas (language arts, mathematics, science and social studies), Bachelor of Education degree, a first and second year teacher during the project
Dennis* -- a grade seven teacher of language arts and social studies, teaching for 20 years, Ph.D. in Educational Foundations.
I was recording their efforts to expand their notions of content area literacy to include viewing and representing approaches (along with the more traditional reading and writing, listening and speaking strands) in language arts, social studies, science and mathematics at a suburban middle school. (*All names are pseudonyms to protect the identity of the teachers and the school.)
It was my hypothesis that even the best teachers would encounter significant challenges in assisting students to use viewing and representing in order to demonstrate curriculum outcomes, and that such difficulties might lead them to avoid such approaches. Professional literature in education suggests that curriculum implementation is the most problematic step of instructional change. Official curriculum documents can suggest or even mandate new ideas without any assurance that teachers will actually implement them in the field. Therefore, teachers’ instructional approaches in the development of student’s ability to view and visually represent in the light of new curricular demands need to be examined and further professional development of teachers planned and instituted. In addition, we need to investigate the responses of middle years students to such approaches.
What I discovered, in short, was that these teachers at least needed very little encouragement to adopt, adapt and integrate visual literacy into their repertoire of teaching strategies. The research project, which focussed on twenty weeks over two years, seemed to provide most of the impetus necessary to motivate them to begin their own professional development. Under the auspices of the project (and an enthusiastic and supportive principal), they gathered in groups, read articles, traded ideas, reported and reflected on their efforts both in journals and on videotapes. By year two, they were dealing with challenges, planning strategically, reading research transcripts, critiquing research presentations, and devising their own experiments and multi-teacher projects—all with viewing and representing at the hub.
It is these approaches—seventy-two in all—which I would like to discuss in this article.
Now as language arts teachers, you may at first wonder why I would include social studies, science and math in this list (and even a brief glance at band and physical education). I urge you therefore to consider the following.
Let us consider, then, viewing and representing activities implemented by four teachers in just twenty weeks (five focus weeks in each of four semesters). I will look at some general principles and discuss some specific examples under three headings: viewing, representing, and both viewing and representing.
Some readers may question my categorization of activities under these rubrics. Although there is room for debate, in general I encourage teachers to consider the list as a general set of ideas. As organizational criteria, if an activity involved students primarily in analysis (comparing, contrasting, looking at details), appreciation (considering impact or significance) or criticism (evaluating) I called them viewing. If students were involving in creating visuals, or combinations of visual with print and oral texts, I judged them to be representing.
Readers will also notice many more language arts and social studies activities than science and math ones. Teachers involved in the study had the greatest amount of time to devote to the humanities according to their teaching assignments (for example, three of the four participants were assigned language arts as at least part of their teaching load, and only one had any responsibility for science). Such disparity in numbers is therefore not surprising.
|Viewing||1. Analyzing elements of fiction in a film|
|2. Predicting future events in a film|
|3. Viewing pioneer artifacts and predicting their use|
|4. Analyzing how picture book illustrations contribute to mood, theme, plot|
|5. Using photographs to generate vocabulary of emotional states|
|6. Analyzing slide show for emotional impact|
|7. Analyzing videos of student seminars|
|Representing||8. Performing skits to demonstrate change in point of view|
|9. Re-telling stories by drawing a series of illustrations|
|10. Assembling collages on themes of novels|
|11. Performing tableaus of literary events|
|12. Creating documentary and narrative videos to report results of inquiry projects|
|13. Painting characters and events from favourite books|
|14. Sketching to respond to teacher's oral reading|
|15. Drawing personal living spaces imagined for literary characters|
|16. Creating storyboards to plan video|
|17. Visualizing while listening to songs|
|Both||18. Analyzing humour techniques in cartoons, creating cartoon characters and comic strips|
|19. Analyzing and creating print advertisements for school magazine using publishing software and scanner|
|20. Analyzing and creating picture books|
|21. Discussing and comparing visual images imagined during reading|
|22. Analyzing slide shows|
Viewing Activities – A look at the list of activities where students were asked to look closely at visuals reveals first of all that these are not passive activities. Teachers at Pickford School* learned that they sometimes had to overcome inappropriate student attitudes. As the grade six teacher observed "I still see a few of them, as soon as we do anything like that [viewing and representing], it’s their time to just sit and relax . . . students see viewing as free time and not an exciting/easier way to learn". In language arts, however, most of us are wiser than we were when we expected students to read or listen (those other so-called receptive arts) in silence, hands folded on desks. Students, however, have learned passive behaviour from somewhere. Pointing fingers at watching television, or at our less sophisticated colleagues, profits us not. In our classes at least, we can resolve that viewing will be brainwork.
One way to encourage active viewing is by instituting a plan which some teachers call BDA – before, during, after (this, of course, works for reading and listening as well). Make sure students know what to look for before they begin viewing. Give them something specific to do during the viewing time. Follow up after the viewing. For example, students analyzing pioneer artifacts were engaged in conversations about their reading about pioneers and pioneer activities. They were then shown a number of artifacts, asked to look carefully at each one and predict what their function might be. Afterwards, they wrote about the artifacts, describing them and explaining what they might be for and why they thought so. These ideas were posted with the artifacts and considered by the class. The teacher concluded by praising their ideas and revealing the actual use of each implement.
Representing – Like writing and speaking, representing gives learners and teachers an opportunity to demonstrate learning. Perhaps the best analogy for language arts teachers is to composing in writing: planning, drafting, revising, editing and polishing for some products; creating quick first and only drafts for other learning activities. Major activities such as theme collages involved a number of activities. Students began by reading and discussing stories, emphasizing the ‘big ideas’ which the author wanted to convey and considering what these ideas meant to each of them in their own lives. They then discussed how to represent these often abstract notions (such as ‘isolation’ in Go Ask Alice which might be shown by a small scrap of faint colour in on a dark background, or by a single deer surrounded by a pack of wolves). Next they divided into groups, collecting pictures, thinking about visual clues to message (size, colour, placement, shape), arranging and re-arranging images, making final decisions, all the while guided by the teacher who circulated from group to group. Sketching while listening to a reading, however, was a less elaborate strategy that involved students listening carefully and drawing quickly what they could see in their mind’s eye as they listened to a teacher’s reading. This focussed them on the story and prepared them for later discussions—with the sketches serving as visual notes.
Both Viewing and Representing — More elaborate and longer projects in language arts often involve viewing exemplars first and then creating representations that build on these samples. Picture books were analyzed for use of image and print text to communicate mood, plot and character development to a specific audience (a grade eight teacher, a grade six teacher and a librarian worked together on this project). Students then planned and completed their own picture books. Videotaped records of these books will serve as exemplars for next year’s classes to analyze, because, as the grade six teacher observed, visual examples are powerful: "Last year I videotaped a whole bunch of lessons, and I keep them and show them to the class following, and I find that I get ten times more quality".
Visualization is an especially important part of reading or listening. Here we see students involved in creating representations in their minds. Viewing follows as each student describes the picture in her own ‘mind’s eye’ and compares it with those imagined by her classmates. Effective readers create images and this is a skill which can be developed (Wilhelm, 1995; Michel, 1999) by working on the pictures in the mind or by creating more concrete referents:
[Visualization techniques] really helped my weaker readers learn to conceptualize, learn to see pictures in their mind as they read. I never thought of it as a viewing and representing sort of thing. Adept readers do that naturally, and they don’t even realize that those pictures happen in their heads when they read, but weaker readers tend not to have anything happening -- they feel the meaning is all embedded in the text (Grade eight teacher).
The teacher modelled the technique by describing in detail what he ‘saw’ in his mind, what the picture caused him to recall from his own life ("I remember being separated from my mother in a forest and I kept turning around. The trees were so tall and keep swirling above me as I turned . . .") or from other more indirect experiences: "I would especially stress to them movies and TV, because I knew that might well be their more prevalent experience."
|Viewing||23. Reporting current events accompanied by photograph|
|24. Analyzing videos using anticipation guides|
|25. Analyzing samples of former students' visual projects|
|26. Analyzing analogy, caricature, bias, style and accessibility, and cartoonist as social commentator in political cartoons|
|27. Analyzing newspaper photographs as constructions|
|28. Analyzing information and emotion portrayed in television newscasts|
|29. Analyzing information on news agencies' web sites|
|30. Analyzing videos with concept organizer|
|31. Analyzing political cartoons for symbols, analogies|
|32. Comparing strengths and weaknesses of visual presentation types: overhead, posters, videotape, PowerPoint|
|Representing||33. Creating models of aboriginal life|
|34. Note-taking by sketching|
|35. Synthesizing literary descriptions of individual sites into town maps|
|36. Creating life size props for skits of historic events|
|37. Creating drums with personal symbols|
|38. Creating a promotional video|
|39. Inventing outdoor games to show understanding of historic events|
|40. Creating electronic spreadsheets to represent data from research|
|Both||41. Creating and analyzing collages of newspaper photographs|
|42. Constructing collages of newspaper headlines|
|43. Analyzing graphs from newspapers for choice of graphing type and creating graphs to represent GNP|
Viewing – Social studies often does a better job than language arts does of inviting the real world into the classroom (teachers who integrate core subjects, of course, help their students to benefit from the various strengths of each area and make their classrooms a place to experience academic subjects in authentic ways). Whereas language arts often takes literature as its content, and the techniques of the arts (art, music, drama) as its viewing and representing approaches, social studies more often uses current events as content and mass media studies to suggest its visual processes. Here then we see students considering visuals as constructions, created by someone to influence our opinions of news events. Newspaper photographs, television newscasts and web sites are analyzed and criticized and students encouraged to ask questions about what information is presented and what omitted, how viewers are expected to react emotionally, what the value of visuals is to fulfill personal research projects. A picture from a newspaper can be cropped or framed in various ways – to isolate a single face, for example, or the background expanded and students asked how the message changes. Is the emotional impact different if the photographer shows us only a small child smashing a window rather than the group of adults who accompanied him? If we are allowed to see just their faces and raised hands or also their bodies and ragged clothing? Is it different if the background is concealed or revealed as famous store? If the focus on the window reveals television sets or bakery items? Language arts might learn to involve more of these approaches and use nonfiction as well as narrative materials.
Representing -- Social studies representations often help students to retain knowledge by having them render print text into visual forms. Asked to create collages on a happy event – the establishment of Nunavut and on a sad event – the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch: "One student was perceptive enough to point out how these collages (like some of the videos we have seen this year) help us understand the people behind the headlines" (Grade seven teacher). Grade six students read descriptions of early French Canadian settlements and used them to complete plans. The representation became an aid for studying. Teachers of language arts and social studies also used literature to teach mapping skills—with accuracy as the main assessment criteria. Even physical education proved to be useful as a way to involve viewing and representing. Students created a game of the Patriots and the Loyalists using the expertise of a teacher skilled in creating games and their textbook descriptions of the events following the American Revolutionary War which they had already read and discussed. They wrote and drew directions for their games and decided on physical education equipment (such as balls, hoops, bean bags) which would be used.
Students put their ideas to the test outside on a bitterly cold spring morning, reading, organizing equipment, playing the game and changing their ideas. As students commented while they attempted to develop their games so that another group could play them and so that they would demonstrate their understanding of social studies concepts: "I think that doing a game is better [than copying notes or reading], because you have to make it up, so you obviously have to know more things about this topic to be able to make up a game" (Alan, Gr. 6) and "This way we can actually like get involved in what other people think how the Loyalists and Patriots traveled" (Bruce, Gr. 6).
Both Viewing and Representing – Social Studies teachers also integrated viewing and representing effectively. After students analyzed visuals, they created technical representations. Borrowing from mathematics curricula, one teacher displayed examples of various types of graphs: pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs. Students considered which type might best represent different types of social studies data. For example, the percentage of ethnic backgrounds in the Kosovo population (pie charts) or the change in the number of two income families in Canada over one hundred years (line graph). Then they were asked to create a graph for their research project on gross national product and be prepared to defend its use. The products proved especially useful in assessment of student understanding: "One of the offshoots of this [graphing] lesson was our [student teacher and my] observation that a lot of the kids didn’t understand the concept of proportion. One of the positive results of this is to identify gaps in previous learning" (Grade seven teacher).
|Viewing||44. Responding to videos with questions and anticipation guides|
|Representing||45. Creating mind maps with illustrations instead of words|
|46. Presenting inquiry project results in visual form (posters, PowerPoint, games, videos, models)|
|47. Diagramming vocabulary words|
|48. Creating posters of food chains|
|49. Designing board games to demonstrate understanding of research|
|50. Creating posters of plant products|
|Both||51. Analyzing human heart and creating 'alien' heart|
|52. Creating and analyzing skits to illustrate parts of the cell|
|53. Analyzing and creating experiments in lifting and pushing to explore force|
Viewing – Science does a better job than language arts does in inviting the natural world into the classroom. Science also has a long tradition of close observation and detailed recording in many sign systems such as linguistic, visual and mathematical notation. It looks to the natural world as content and the systematic pursuit of answers to questions as its method. Science educators labour under a heavy load of information necessary to pursue authentic inquiries. Students also frequently harbour misconceptions about scientific phenomena which must be directly confronted. It is perhaps not surprising then that viewing is primarily an opportunity to gather precise information, guided by pre-defined questions and viewing aids such as anticipation guides (Readence, Bean and Baldwin, 1981). Anticipation guides offer students statements that ask them to examine their prior knowledge on a given topic both before and after viewing (or reading or listening) and to discuss why they think as they do.
Representing – Visuals created in science classrooms are conceived for purposes of explanation; that is, they ask viewers to take a primarily efferent rather than aesthetic stance (Rosenblatt, 1978). Creating mind maps with illustrations, for example, demands that students consider carefully how objects relate to one another, and how such relationships can be shown in a technical representation (using lines, arrows, hierarchical positions). Language arts might also borrow such expository devices from science, as some teachers do, for example, in mapping character relationships.
Both Viewing and Representing -– As in language arts and social studies, science invites the analysis of text followed by its creation. Students who had read about the parts of the cell and examined diagrams, for instance, used drama. They then formed groups and created skits where their body movements suggested the cell parts, in this case one group moved like tunnels to illustrate the endoplasmic reticulum. On another occasion, a class studied the human heart, also by reading and viewing diagrams (including animations on web sites) and were then asked to create "alien hearts" accompanied by explanations of its parts and functions. The teacher candidate (student teacher) involved in the activity commented:
I did not think this would be that difficult a task. However, in designing their alien hearts, I found that students had considerable difficulty in identifying what the various heart parts were used for...This activity made me see the value in having students really stretch their understanding, and use hands-on material, and see where understandings were breaking down. This activity really impressed upon me the value of finding activities which make students create to understand.
|Viewing||54. Analyzing probability by taking coloured candies from a cup|
|55. Analyzing computer-loading strips to understand percentage|
|56.Doing visual estimates followed by actual measurements of perimeter of classes and school|
|Representing||57. Representing results of probability experiments on graphs|
|58. Creating mind maps Pythagorean theorem concepts|
|59. Building 3D models (solids, shells, skeletons) of geometric shapes|
|60. Representing data on charts|
|Both||61. Analyzing problems and creating fraction strips|
|62. Analyzing addition/subtraction of fractions by creating representations using graph paper squares|
|63. Analyzing equations and using algetiles to solve equations|
|64. Analyzing Pythagorean theorem and representing it with graph paper|
|65. Analyzing and representing geometry concepts using geo-boards|
|66. Analyzing and creating charts of the properties of geometric shapes|
|67. Analyzing and creating analogy for equation solving using a balance beam|
|68. Viewing government statistics on web page and graphing data|
|69. Analyzing and creating square root representations using alge-tiles or graph paper|
Viewing – Like language arts, mathematics has recently undergone a curriculum renewal. Mathematics deals with a world of abstractions expressed in a sign system not common in students’ everyday lives, although number sense is a necessary part of daily living. One of the main features of the new curriculum has been in using real world examples to anchor number sense. The technologically sophisticated students at Pickford School watched with understanding when their teacher used a cardboard mock-up of a loading strip from a computer screen to demonstrate percentage. Asked to show how the strip would look when 47% of a program had down loaded, they were easily able to create the proper representation. Afterwards, the mathematical notation system was introduced to complete the transfer of understanding.
Representing -- Mathematics teachers are introducing more concrete, hands on activities to assist learners to think about abstract concepts. Early years teachers have used manipulatives for many years, and now teachers of older students realize that equipment such as algetiles and geoboards help to scaffold students’ development of abstract concepts in algebra and geometry. "I know that many of the kids need manipulatives to see the shape and spatially many people, including myself when I was younger, have difficulty visualizing something in their head and then putting it on paper. Whereas if you can actually have a model that you can build, it’s awfully helpful..." (Grade eight teacher).
Once again, as in science, when students have to build accurate representations of learning, the teacher can easily assess their understanding. Students, however, still like to ‘play’ with materials such as modeling clay and straws. One teacher addressed this response by allowing 5 minutes of playtime before mathematical representations of three-dimensional shapes began.
Both Viewing and Representing -- The teacher was enthusiastic about the extra attention he garnered in mathematics, especially, but not only, from students who frequently struggle:
Viewing and representing is helpful to ALL students, but what I found in particular is [that for] the ones that don’t do as well, [viewing and representing] assisted them in learning the material to a greater extent than a [non-visual] approach.
Students had to analyze statistical material on government web sites, choose and create graphs to represent the material. This activity was an authentic real world application of mathematical knowledge and a good example of the importance of viewing and representing in this subject.
|Grade Six|| social studies
|70. The Patriots and Loyalists Game|
|Grade Seven|| language arts
|71. Creating Graphs|
| social studies
|72. Remembrance Day|
|Grade Eight|| language arts
|73. Inquiry Projects|
Finally, viewing and representing offers new ideas for teaming with other teachers. By the second year of the project, teachers in the research group were working with each other and drawing other teachers into their learning approaches. Remembrance Day, for example, offered the social studies teacher a chance to direct his students’ attention to the band concert and slide show on war (excitement of preparation and the horrors of the aftermath). They chose three slides to write about afterwards and clearly had no problems identifying with the people they saw:
[A] young man on his knees . . . had something that looked like duct tape over his mouth and eyes. His arms were tied behind his back; he was in a field. There was a soldier behind him with a rifle aiming to fire at him. When I saw this image I thought of trying to put myself in his shoes. I would be scared out of my mind, never knowing when I was going to die (Amy, Gr. 7).
Once again we see the power of the visual to evoke an emotional response. This activity, which integrates photography, music, writing, also reminds us that viewing and representing is important in every subject and can certainly assist more traditional forms of expression.
The integration of reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing and representing was also powerfully demonstrated by the grade 8 inquiry projects which involved three teachers and all four core subjects. Students had to research by reading material, using web sites, reading and viewing magazines, taping interviews, visiting job sites and shadowing experts. They demonstrated their learning in a number of ways and chose a variety of genres, many of which offered a combination of oral, print and visual texts such as charts, brochures, television and radio newscasts, and PowerPoint presentations. Teachers combined their blocks of class time to allow for extended periods over three weeks. With the combined expertise of teachers and students allowed to choose their own groups and topics (within the theme of Careers), both products and processes were exciting and demanding. Visuals figured prominently in the projects, and students were observed to be making exciting strategic decisions by the teachers. One teacher commented of his grade sevens after a discussion on the options for sharing information: "they already have a beginning understanding of the strengths and drawbacks of these three options: video taping, overhead presentation and PowerPoint...they have some sense of how to use this technology and, of course, it didn’t even exist when we were that age".
Although the Viewing and Representing in the Middle Years project had the advantage of being a long term, intensive look at the teaching behaviours of teachers implementing visual literacy, it still involved only four teachers and one teacher candidate. This was, in addition, a newly constituted middle class suburban school (the school was brand new for the first year of the project) with a faculty dedicated to middle years philosophy including an emphasis on the needs of the young adolescent students. Nevertheless, the activities listed and discussed above were teacher tested and proven effective with the middle school students in this study. Teachers will have to judge for themselves whether these ideas are worth trying in their own classrooms.
We know that merely informing teachers does not bring about reform. Teachers in this project had the support of an enthusiastic principal, a university-based researcher, and each other. They were also supplied with professional readings, both books and articles. Teachers seeking their own professional development in viewing and representing might consider forming a support group, calling their local university, and winning over their administrators. Change can be a challenging process. Viewing and representing, however, offers exciting opportunities to learn with students and with colleagues. Let us conclude then with a summary offered by one teacher during the final interview of the project:
It’s becoming more of a natural process for me when designing lessons or I want to change something I’ve done in the past. I know the results I’ve gotten from viewing and representing...so I think about that a lot more than I did, you know, two years ago. I’m much more aware of the importance of viewing and representing, and not just viewing and representing as a strand in language arts, because we know that it crosses all subjects.
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