Visual Essay: Sharing

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Nov
  • 30
  • 2007

With the Visual Essay (VE), the images need to communicate the bulk of the message because words can’t. That’s not to say that words don’t play their role, but images make up the difference between the words and the meaning. The visuals should help students come to terms with what our two authors (Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harold Bloom) mean. The VEs will serve as a resource to help students come up with ideas as they sit at home composing their own written essays on a similar topic.

That’s the idea. I don’t think it actually went down like that, but at least I gave my students the chance to use that resource. They’ll eventually use them the more I make such things available. Or they won’t.

All Together Now

Screenshot to show how tags help organize thingsWith all projects emailed to me, I stuck them on SlideShare. Some tags kept things organized. Every one of these projects received the “mrseal” tag. Each project was also tagged with the period: period4, period5, etc. I could have gone one further and tagged these with “bloomemerson,” but let’s not get carried away.

Using links to tag archive pages, everyone started off on the page showing all slide decks from the current period. This worked as a sort of gallery walk. I wanted students to use the computers more like kiosks, but groups were content viewing presentations at their own pace, parked right in front of whatever computer they started at. After we looked at this period’s work, we moved out to viewing all projects that came in.

All Mixed Up

Did questions come up about why images were used and what message they communicate? Nope. That’s partly on me, though. I now see that I should have been projecting a few of these in front of the class and asking for feedback, prompting questions and answers, giving my own running commentary in order to stimulate ideas.

Overall, I was kind of disappointed. No one seemed to care much about what other groups put together. While creating, the group conversations surrounding which image to use was great. I wish that same conversation happened during our debrief, but at least it was there at one time.

I think I didn’t provide enough structure for that to surface, though. Having some way to record ideas or maybe even to vote on the best one might bring us a step closer to the ideal. Maybe informal presentations, with all computers tuned in to a specific slide deck, would have done that, too.

I picked pretty rough texts to do this on. Next year, I’ll start this off dealing with easier texts. For our next VE, it will be something a bit more straightforward and likely revolve around theme and plot. The Crucible is up next and that looks like a good candidate for another one. We should even be able to get it in before Winter Holiday (21 days and counting).

I also should have kept track of page views the day before the essay was due. That would give me an idea of whether or not students are using this in order to help them write. Sure, traffic could come from elsewhere, but it’s a fairly safe bet that most people viewing these are my students.

Two of these presentations made it to the “Featured” spot on the SlideShare home page the day after they were uploaded. Can you believe that I didn’t play that up enough to get all classes excited about it? Some periods thought it was kind of cool, but I should have done a better sales job. In part, I didn’t quite understand what the email SlideShare sent me meant and I only later found out that they were on the home page for a while, but I know now.

Why Go

Students have read two complex texts, one with extensive help from me and the other almost completely on their own. They have then gone on to reach some understanding of both authors. Further, they found images to represent and communicate that understanding. Finally, they’ll articulate that understanding in written form via the accompanying essay assignment this is all attached to. This visual component (hopefully) allowed students to form their own opinions about what these two authors are saying. This is prewriting.

I encouraged conversations about font color, face, placement, size, background. You’d be surprised how many of these presentations used the default font color and face: black Times New Roman. But those students that got it, got it. Arial communicates a different message than Georgia. And please don’t get me started on Comic Sans.

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