Throughout this course, we have been challenged to expand our horizons about what we think about when we focus on “literacy.” Initially, all this meant to me was the ability to read and write in the form of letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and so on. This is because reading and writing are two very important subjects in the education world and it’s a system that is used widely throughout the world. But learning about multiliteracies, including visual literacy, is eye-opening because of how broad the idea of “literacy” actually is.
As educators, we need to take a long look at visual literacy as a tool to engage students just as much as written information. I think it is safe to say that we have all, at one time or another, appreciated the concise and well-constructed diagram or graph over reading pages and pages on a single subject. For example:
This is a timeline about the major events that happened during World War I. It’s not as descriptive as a text book could be on the same subject, but it certainly informs the reader about the war and sequences some of the most critical moments. Students might find this sort of visual text more appealing and informative, especially if they are struggling readers or are more attracted to visual learning.
From the Visual Literacy Assignment, I read about exploded diagrams and learned how great of a source this specific kind of visual text can be. An example of an exploded diagram is this:
If a person has never seen an image like this before, that person would likely be very confused at the beginning. After all, exploded diagrams can be confusing and overwhelming if you’re not used to them. But after being taught and understanding what the picture and words represent in the picture, it can be a very powerful form of visual text. With this example of the exploded diagram, you might have no idea what is being expressed in the image, but after making meaning through the separate parts of the deconstructed chair you can see the visual text in a way that makes sense.
That is the most crucial part about understanding visual literacy and its place in schools. As Arwood, Kaulitz, and Brown said, “Visuals offer varying kinds of information to different learners” (2009, p. 14). This requires the separate but connected interpretations from the person who creates the source and the person who is consuming it.
And I believe that is one of the major takeaways from learning about multiliteracies, which is offering many different modes of learning to reach the most students as possible throughout their lives. As future educators, we have to make an attempt to include as many children as possible, no matter what their abilities are and no matter their impairments.
This brings me to Ron McCallum’s Ted Talk. At 11:41 of his speech, he talks about a way so that people everywhere around the world has the access to the materials they need to participate. McCallum is blind and has the technology where he can access certain websites that his technology can process. Unfortunately, not all websites are coded the same way and therefore he cannot access all websites, but what is there was a universal standard for websites so McCallum could read from any site that he chooses?
So isn’t that the point? We have to expand our knowledge and understanding on what being “literate” truly means and we have to involve all different forms of literacy. Having a greater understanding of many avenues for information is purely more beneficial than just being taught one. As Moline puts it, “By becoming familiar with the advantages of the different tools at our disposal, we are more likely to choose the one that will do the job best” (2012, p. 44). If a student is struggling in reading, then engage in alternate forms of text. If a child has difficulties sitting through an independent reading period, then have everyone get up and participate in a sing-a-long session. If someone can’t articulate their answers in an essay, have them paint a portrait.
In closing, there is more than just one way to show that you are literate. That is why we are all literate.