Thursday, March 3, 2016

Visual literacy in 5th grade

Visual literacy is a critical skill in the 21st century, defined by the Association of College and Research Libraries as follows:
"Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture."
Visual literacy played a major part in helping historian Scott Reynolds Nelson crack the mystery of the historical figure behind the tall tale as revealed in Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry, the young readers' version of his fantastic work of historical detection, Steel Drivin' Man.

The New York Times' Learning Blog runs a feature called What's Going on in this Picture? to help educators cultivate this skill. During our 5th grade Information Literacy classes we've been using their images to engage in online discussions that not only develop visual literacy, but also help students learn and practice appropriate digital citizenship skills.
Below are a few excerpts from our discussion of the photo above. The online format highlights a strength of technology: it allows all students to have a voice, including those who might be reluctant to speak up in a face-to-face discussion, and those who prefer more time to think before making a contribution. Students can build on one another's responses even after some have moved on to other thoughts. They also see that asking thoughtful questions is in itself a valuable contribution - it's not just about having answers!

"The two people are kind of on a Segway, why?"

"I wonder why one of the guys is barefoot. It looks like that he's either getting ready for a track meet or he's done with the track meet."

"I think that Usain Bolt accidentally tripped on the camera man and when this photo was taken it was probably in London in 2012 because his claim to fame is from the Olympics and the most recent one was in London. and by the clarity of the photo I can tell it was recent."

"Why are his cleats in his hands? Ideas?"

"I think that the camera man had the wheelie thing and was using it to video the athletic guy that was playing the sport. I think this happened after the race/competition/sport, because the athletic-looking person is holding his shoes, meaning he is either about to or just finished a race. He may have been playing on grass, because it looks like he has cleats. I think the man riding was riding because of his legs' positions."

"I think there's some kind of race going on, because the people are really sweaty, and they seem to be putting a lot of effort in. Also, I'm wondering what the big thing attached to the eyes of the guy who seems to be falling. Anyone have an idea?"

"I think the guy that has athletic wear is playing some Olympic sport. I think this because he is wearing Jamaican colors and has Jamaica written on his shirt. I think the other guy is a camera man who is filming the sport, because he has a big camera."


Alpha Selene DeLap said...

What an amazing assignment! Thank you for sharing.

Laura Simeon said...

Thanks, Alpha! They're really having fun with it!