Friday, August 16, 2013

The Age of the Image: review

Stephen Apkon's The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens compels teachers to revisit the definition of literacy. His book traces the evolution of the concept of literacy as an extension of communication. It first began with signs and sounds, advanced with speech, moved to pictures as evidenced by cave paintings, to formal written languages. From there inventions such as papyrus based paper and the printing press advanced literacy. In the modern era, television and computers have combined the written and pictorial world so that communication is instantaneously possible across the world. Thus for Mr. Apkon, literacy includes all forms of communication: reading, writing, speaking and video production and interpretation.
One of his interesting facts involves the idea that 85% of our brain is involved in the visual processing system (p. 79). This means that we have massive innate capacity to interpret visual images. It is the most powerful way of understanding the world around us. The adage a picture is worth a thousand words could, perhaps, be transformed to the idea that a minute video is worth a million words. If our students do not understand the conventions of video literacy, they miss much of information presented. He presents several questions for a viewer to ask:
  • What was happening before or after the camera was recording and how might that footage change the story?
  • What is outside the frame that might tell a different story?
  • Who is shooting the footage, and who is distributing it, and what agendas might they have? (p. 113)
Some of these concepts are the concepts we want students to understand when we discuss propaganda, persuasion and advertising. These questions neatly fit into Common Core anchor standards of:

·      CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1   Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
       CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
       CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
       CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
       CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
      CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
         CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
      CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
         CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
     CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
         CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
      CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
       CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Since our curriculums are aligned, integrating visual literacy into our classes should not be seen as an option, but as a necessity. The author states that "the magic of persuasion comes from the seductive quality of a pleasing image" (p. 141).  In order to be literate then, students must become able to interpret the image and create the image. Technology becomes an integral component of the learning.

Apkon states that "we are slaves not to what we know, but to what we see" (p. 122). This is proven out in education when we acknowledge the research that says that people are more likely to believe what they see in a film than what they read and are more likely to hold on to that belief in light of further documentation that disproves it if it was viewed rather than if it was read. If we want our students to be responsible citizens, knowledgeable consumers and not victims to "information" fads, we owe it to our students to teach them to be careful watchers.

While the author recommends further research in order to teach filmmaking and interpretation, he does do a good job of providing an overview of the concept and vocabulary. Although specific software is not discussed, how to capture worthy images is. His description of preproduction and editing fits beautifully in with our writing process idea of prewriting, editing and revision. If we identify these parallels and teach some specific guidelines, students can generate video content to demonstrate learning in a motivating manner that meets the CCSS.

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