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Shuntia Wallace

University of West Georgia

MEDT 7490

Dr. D’Alba

Final Reflections

Talk about perfect timing! This year, I will be returning to teaching visual arts on a high

school level- after a turbulent year of teaching elementary art for the first time in eleven (11)

years, at three (yes, 3) different elementary schools. At my first school, I taught art in a small

office space, with no sink; at my second school, I taught art outside in a trailer, with no sink; and

at my third school, I taught art from a cart! I rolled around, every forty-five minutes with paint,

clay, plenty of crayons… (And as you may have guessed), with buckets of water. By now, you

probably understand why I am excited to return to teaching high school. However, having access

to running water is not the only reason I am celebrating my return to teaching high school. After

completing the Visual and Media Literacy course, I am thrilled to return to the classroom to

experiment with an abundance of tools, knowledge, and experiences about teaching visual

literacy and enhancing instruction/ student learning with visual and media literacy. In this paper,

I will describe concepts and skills I have mastered during this course, explain how this course

has influenced my teaching practices and reflect on the issues and challenges of teaching visual


What I have Learned

“Look Ma- no hands”- Anonymous

Over the course of the semester, I have learned a variety of technical skills and

discovered new resources for using visual and media literacy in the classroom.

For example, in

module one, I learned how to create a professional website. Building a website is a huge

accomplishment for me, as a teacher and an artist. Over the years, my clients have asked, “Do

you have a website to sell your art?” Usually, I would say, “no” then follow up with an excuse

for not having a website. The truth was, creating a website was intimidating, and I did not want

to face my fear of getting it wrong. Fortunately, fate intervened- one of the first assignments for

this class required me to create a website

And to my surprise, I was capable of designing a

professional website even though, I was sure I could never create a website. I am proud of this

accomplishment, and I plan to create two additional websites: One for my students and one for

my artwork.

Building a website is not the only skill I acquired during my coursework, I also learned

how to create comics strips and graphic novels using stripcreator.com. I experienced the creative

force; that was set free by a series of photographs in module two. I learned the importance of

teaching visual literacy with Martin Scorsese.

I explored the fundamentals of copyright laws

and the fair use act in module seven. And I experimented with using infographics and posters as

teaching tools for my classroom- to help my classroom walls teach along with me. However, my

favorite assignment was analyzing commercials for persuasion techniques; the commercial I

selected used pathos to persuade the audience.

Influence on Teaching Practices

Although these activities were fun and engaging, I found the theories and principles of

visual and media literacy to be intriguing. Concepts such as Paivio’s Dual Coding Theory and

Mayer’s Multimedia Principles have influenced my perspectives on teaching and caused me to

improve my teaching practices. I have found myself sitting in countless meetings with educators

frantically debating how to increase student achievement and motivation. Some of the educators

believed teachers should be more animated when teaching and lecture less. Other teachers

thought the students should take responsibility for their achievement and student motivation

should be intrinsic. Both of these beliefs are useless in the urban school setting, where I am

accustomed to teaching. However, I can see the link between teaching visual and media literacy

and increasing student achievement and motivation. If incorporated, dual coding (introducing

materials visually as well as auditory) alone, would increase content retention by students and

lead to increased academic achievement and student motivation. I have already created student

assignments and strategies for implementing the Dual Coding Theory. I have also redesigned

most of my presentations to align with Mayer’s Multimedia Principles. Before this course, I had

developed a pattern of teaching that was similar to what I saw other teachers doing in their


Here is an example of my teaching style: Start with an introductory lecture;

demonstrate the project; allow the students to work individually; lead the class critique; collect

and grade work. However, after exploring visual and media literacy, my teaching practice will

look something like this:

Introduction, consisting of student explanations and questions about photos

Discussion, brief research and presentation on pictures, by students via Prezi

Demonstration of the project via YouTube video (which I will create)

Students work independently

Class critique, led by students

Assignment submission

Grade assignments and provide meaningful feedback, using a rubric

The content and ideas I have explored while learning about visual and media literacy have

influenced my teaching practices in a significant way. This course has been the rocket fuel I

needed to transform into a better teacher, for the students I serve.

Issues about Visual and Media Literacy

“We wanted flying cars. Instead, we got 140 characters.” – Peter Thiel

One issue discovered, while exploring visual and media literacy, is how out of touch most

educational practices are in relationship to our society and our students. The quote by Peter Thiel

accurately describes the gap between what the use of visual and media literacy (and technology)

could look like in the classroom versus reality. In most classrooms, we are not teaching visual

literacy and incorporating technology. Yes, we are using technology such as videos, iPads, and

computers- but we are mostly using them to complete traditional word processing tasks. Our

students are not using technology to create content- they are using technology only for research

purposes. We are not teaching students how to interpret visual images, and use visual images to

communicate their ideas; instead, we are assigning worksheets and using traditional teaching

strategies. We, teachers, are ignoring the visual world of Instagram, snap chat and Twitter, in

which our students are active participants. One of the reasons, we have not incorporated visual

and media literacy into our teaching practices is due to the lack of professional development in

this area. I have always noticed and desired to close the gap between where we are and where

we should be in education (with technology use), but until now, I did not know how; I could not

identify the missing link. Fortunately, the contents of this course have illuminated a path for

incorporating visual and media literacy into the classroom. First I plan to put the skills I have

learned into practice, in my classroom; then I plan to share this knowledge with my peers, who

are ready to try something new.

Overall, this course has been enlightening while engaging; I have acquired an abundance

of information and skills in a short amount of time. Time was the most challenging issue about

this course. This class was offered during the summer, and the content was compressed into a

few weeks, which increased the pace of the class. However, I enjoyed this class; I enjoyed the

assignments, discussions, and even the textbooks. I do not have any suggestions for improving

this course. In fact, I am thankful for the skills and knowledge I have gained, as a result of

completing this course. As I stated earlier, in the introduction, this course was offered to me at

the perfect time- as I prepare to transition back to teaching high school. I am thrilled and eager

to implement the skills I have learned into my teaching practices. The Visual and Media

Literacy coursework is the catalyst I need, right now, to start a new chapter in my career.