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Visual Literacy in the EFL Context:

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Sabrina Devitt

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of Visual Literacy in the EFL Context:

Visual Literacy in the EFL Context:
By the end of this training module, you will...
be able to discuss visual literacy in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) context in Southeast Asian countries.
be able to apply critical and rhetorical analysis to various types of visuals.
be able to apply what you have learned about visual literacy to EFL classroom instruction.

What is visual literacy?
Implications for the EFL Classroom
Visual literacy holds several implications for the EFL classroom:
Course textbooks are often irrelevant.
Learning occurs across several modes.
Visuals are an integral part of creating meaning.

Applications in the EFL Classroom
Concluding Thoughts
You should now...
be able to discuss visual literacy in the EFL context, particularly in Southeast Asian countries.
be able to apply critical and rhetorical analysis to various types of visuals.
be able to apply what you have learned about visual literacy to EFL classroom instruction.

What do you already know about visual literacy?
Please take a moment to reflect on the questions on the next slide to assess your prior knowledge of visual literacy.
What various types of visuals are found...
in the EFL classroom?
outside of the EFL classroom?

What purposes do these different types of visuals serve?
"...social, cultural, and historical meanings in images"
Take a moment to consider what you know, or can intuit, about this image.
Visual Literacy is...
...based on a viewer's ability to detect "...social, cultural, and historical meanings in images" (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009) and to apply basic critical and rhetorical principles to understanding visual argumentation (Birdsell & Groarke, 1996).

Principle 1
Students must be able to identify internal features which influence a viewer's perception
Principle 2
Students must have knowledge of the image's context
Principle 3
Students must maintain consistency in design and interpretation of images
Principle 4
Students must recognize how viewer's perceptions change over time
"...apply basic critical and rhetorical principles to understanding visual argumentation"
There are four principles to apply when analyzing images and understanding an image's visual argumentation (Birdsell & Groarke, 1996).
"ability to detect..."
Most people, without consciously applying effort, can identify the previous image's social, cultural, and historical significance.

However, not all images we come into contact with are iconic, like the Tiananmen Square photograph.

With this in mind, we now turn to the principles of understanding visual argumentation.
Let's apply the four principles to this image.
(StudentUniverse.com, 2013)
Principle 1: "...identify internal features which influence a viewer's perception"
How might an 18-year old student from the UK view this girl's clothing, hairstyle, accessories in this image? How about an 18-year old student from Vietnam?

What features would influence how the two students might view it differently?

Principle 2: "...have knowledge of the image's context"
What is the context of this image?
What activity is the girl taking part in?
Why is she doing it?
Who typically does this type of activity?
Where does this activity usually take place?
Principle 3: "...maintain consistency in design and interpretation of images"
Does this image align with design elements of other images of backpacking?

Are the perceptions evoked by this image consistent with other images of backpacking?
Principle 4: "...recognize how viewer's perceptions change over time"
Backpacking has only recently become popular (Cohen, 2003).

Think of how a middle-class mother in the 1950s would view this image.

How would her perceptions of this image vary from the perceptions of a middle-class mother in 2013?
Implication #1: "Course textbooks are often irrelevant
According to Gee, "Discourses are ways of being in the world: they...integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identity, as well as gestures, glances, body positions and clothes"
Consider the following scenario:
You are teaching an Adult General English class and the theme is "making future arrangements."
One of the activities requires students to assume a famous person's identity.
You give each student a picture of a different celebrity, only to discover that they do not know who the celebrities are.
What went wrong?
How could the problem have been avoided?
What went wrong?
In the previous scenario, the students viewed the images without prior knowledge of who was being represented.

Sturken & Cartwright assert that visual representation involves more than showing us something in the world, but that the viewer is actively involved in creating meaning: "The capacity of images to affect us as viewers...is dependent on the larger cultural meanings they invoke and the social, political, and cultural contexts in which they are viewed" (2009)
How could the problem have been avoided?
As teachers, we need to be aware that an image is never viewed in a vacuum. A student will always bring their social, political, and cultural selves into viewing any visual.

One way to avoid the problem in the previous scenario is by allowing students to choose a persona which reflects their own values. Personalizing visuals is one way to promote engagement. And engagement is an important part of learning.
Course textbooks need not be irrelevant.
Reflect again on the image of the backpacker. There is a similar image in the Oxford University Press "Solutions: Intermediate 1st Ed." textbook (Heck & May, 2006).

Imagine you are about to teach this module to Vietnamese EFL students. Knowing that backpacking is not a common activity for Vietnamese young adults, in what ways can you provide your students with relevant images?

What is a mode?
Visuals are especially significant in learning
Language learning materials often emphasize the linguistic mode
Since visuals are a prevalent aspect of our lives, and predicate speech or written acts, then consider the following implication for a linguistically-centric EFL classroom:

How can we adapt language learning materials to provide the best opportunities for second language acquisition?
Addressing muItimodality in the EFL classroom by exploiting visuals
There are many ways to exploit visuals in the EFL classroom, some of which include;
preface a reading or listening text with a series of visuals for students to construct the story (Royce, 2002),
encourage students to create a personal narrative using multimedia, such as digital storytelling (Gregori-Signes, 2008),
and, lead students through a critical and rhetorical analysis of an image, in which students recreate the image based on their interpretation (Ajayi, 2009).

Implication #2: Learning occurs across multiple modes
Take into account that we encounter visual imagery in a variety of formats every day;
print (ex. books, magazines, comic)
digital (ex. photographs, video games, websites)
film (ex. movies, music videos, documentaries)
signs (ex. billboards, road signs)
Visual capacities developed before verbal capacities
Beyond Palmer, others theorize that visuals are part of our innate capacity of cognition:

Barry tells us that "because vision developed before verbal language, images are a natural part of our primal sense of being and represent the deepest recesses of ourselves" (Britsch, 2009)
We sense first, verbalize later
As infants, we come into contact with the world, yet we have no way to articulate the sensory impressions we receive.

Thus, we know a cat by its appearance, texture, "meow," and other cat-concepts. Only later do we know to call the thing a cat.
Associating visual concepts with the target language
Visual concepts are a strong representation of students' relationships with their existing social, cultural, political, and historical selves (Hull & Nelson, 2005).

Studies have shown how students who were encouraged to create visual narratives created richer narratives than those created with words alone (Hull & Nelson, 2005).
Common assumptions of visual incorporation in EFL
Many teachers believe that supplementing course material with such things as graphic organizers and images suffice to engage students' at the visual cultural-cognitive level.

These items merely serve as peripheral supports and ignore the central role of the visual mode (Britsch, 2009).
Effectively using visuals in the EFL classroom
In order to most effectively use visuals to promote second language learning, the visuals must incorporate the following elements:
They must be relevant and reflective of a student's own ideals.
They must be creative (i.e. created by the student).
They must be incorporated with other modes, such as kinesthetic, verbal, and auditory.
(Ajayi, 2009; Britsch, 2009; Royce, 2002)
Implication #3: Visuals are an integral part of creating meaning
Previously, we noted that visuals are regularly encountered in a variety of formats.

We also took into account the ability of images to convey social, cultural, historical, and political ideals and the role of the viewer in creating meaning.
Here, you will apply what you have learned about visual literacy thus far to an EFL classroom scenario.
Your goals are to;
critically and rhetorically analyze the images presented using the four principles.
determine ways to create relevance to engage the students,
and decide which modes and methods will most effectively promote learning.
You are an EFL teacher for a private language school in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

You are preparing a lesson for a Pre-intermediate Adult General English class.

The module concerns the functional language of making polite offers and requests, and the context is "interacting with your neighbors."
Consider the image in the reading text below.
Critical and rhetorical analysis of the visual element
Some things to consider are the following:
What internal features stand out?
What is happening in this picture? Why?
Does this image reflect the culture of interaction with neighbors in Vietnam?
How do the gestures of the women differ from general etiquette in Vietnam?
Based on your analysis, would you;
change the image?
choose to analyze the image with your students?
supplement the image with images related to Vietnamese culture?

Also, what kinds of follow-up tasks would you use to incorporate multimodal learning?
(Infante, 2013)
Thank you for taking the time to explore visual literacy in the EFL classroom.

I feel this is an incredibly important area of inquiry into promoting engagement and facilitating second language learning.

I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions. Please feel free to use the comments area following the end of this presentation.

Sabrina Devitt, graduate student of Northern Arizona University's M.A. General English, Rhetoric & the Teaching of Writing program.
References (use the "Zoom" function to view)
A mode is, simply put, a way in which we receive and process information. Commonly, modes are synonymous with the senses, such as those addressed in educational settings;
kinesthetic, and
(Britsch, 2009; Hull & Nelson, 2005)
Visual is a "primal" mode
Britsch references cultural linguist Geoffrey Palmer in her study researching the efficacy of visual literacy training for English as a Second Language teachers:
"...language is the play of verbal symbols that are based in imagery...Our imaginations dwell on experiences obtained through all the sensory modes, and then we talk" (2009).
Implications for Multimodality in Southeast Asian Learning Environments
Understanding the definition
The next few slides will focus on clarifying the definition of visual literacy.
In addition, you will be introduced to four principles for applying critical and rhetorical analysis of images.
Full transcript