IMAGES IN EDUCATION
I write this brief article in light of what my students have been discussing over the past few weeks: how Constructivism has informed better ways to use technologies in and out of the classroom for better learning experiences. In addition, over the last few months I’ve been involved in an exciting project where the use of images for instructional purposes has become more and more apparent.(and an issue!)
Our world is full of images and they bombard us everyday. Yet, little do we complain, don’t we. Why? Because somehow they serve a purpose and because we need them. Just imagine driving or walking the street on your way to a party with new friends. How would you know the street where you’re at?, if you’re driving, how would you stop or give the right of way without those signals of STOP and YIELD?
On a more personal note, remember your graduation, or when someone in the family got married or someone was born? Remember your best vacation time… ? What did you do… ? Didn’t you take pictures… ? Yes, you did or someone else did so for you. You look at them from time to time, don’t you?
Now, think of TV or the Internet. Much of the language used there is image-based.
Coca-Cola’s logo has never been changed and it’s used all over the world. No matter the language you speak … we can all recognize a Coke when we see its logo. And on the Internet, have you ever downloaded a song or any file from a Chinese or a Russian website… ? If you have, how did you go through the process without mastering either language…? Because the icons were easy to recognize most likely! (among other variables out of scope in this posting)
There’s the old saying, an image can say a thousand words. Yes, it’s true. On the other hand, an image can say nothing. So when using images for educational purposes, and especially in the field of language learning, we need to be aware of how meaningful an image can be or not.
Images represent part of our reality. Often times they do not represent the whole; however, they help us and help our learners to focus on a significant part of our life experience.
What do images do ?
Images help us keep memories. However, they also allow us to represent what we want for our future, or what we’re doing at the moment. Perhaps you’ve sent an image to a friend or your significant-other through your cell-phone!… didn’t that save quite a few words? Didn’t that mean a lot more than what you could express in a written text?
Images, in educational settings have an extraordinary power. They help your your students situate themselves in a given context. Students can activate prior knowledge, remember past events, or imagine something likely to happen in a remote place or in the future … just by simply observing that image you have selected. By showing an appropriate image you can save yourself and your students tons of time and money. Imagine you would have to ACTUALLY TAKE your student to walk in the park, or to a restaurant, or the airport… for him or her to become engaged in what you’ve planned for your lesson… it would be ludicrous. For example, by putting together a set of images, you can create a virtual tour to the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, in New York City.
Who is our audience for educational images?
All of our learners. However, please do keep in mind that images along with the right input are extremely important for beginners and intermediate learners of a language. These students are much more dependent on context & situation and on motivating strategies in order to further their language competencies than advanced students.
More advanced students usually look to verbalize their experiences and interact with their instructors in real-world activities and they will prefer just -in – time training as opposed to scaffolded instruction required by lower level students.
When is it appropriate to use them ?
If we think of images as pictures or videos, they are best suited at the beginning of your lesson and also at the end. Warming up your student and then later wrapping up your time with them are key moments when students will need to first explore a context and then later, by then end of your lesson they will need to situate themselves in that context to produce significant language and work on important real-world interactions they are facing or that they are soon to face in their foreign language.
However, the concept of images can be a little tricky.
Remember the examples of the STOP and the YIELD signs? They will need know where exactly they are standing at a given point in your lesson. So it’s wise for you to design a set of icons for stages in the class, such as pre listening activities or formal language instruction, assessment and wrap-up. Also, when giving feedback, make sure you have shared a set of icons to this effect. In the case of writing, you might not want to cross our students’ mistakes and write on top of that what should be ‘right’. Instead, you may want to have your students see areas where they need to pay closer attention according to categories of language mistakes or misuse of vocabulary, for example. Use arrows, circles, flags, question marks, waves, broken lines, solid lines, etc to draw your students’ attention. Have them figure our their own mistakes and learn from them.
Next time you meet provide assistance and correction, only after they have attempted to figure out what went wrong with their language delivery.
Why can images be so relevant in the EFL experience of teaching and learning?
Please check John Black’s articles on mental models and the representation of knowledge. Also check out Howard Gardner’s Project Zero and his theory on Multiple Intelligences – MI- . I’m sure you will find answers to this questions when you research on these two authors.
When discussing the issue of migrations, what would these images bring about in your classroom? Why?
How do we get those images?
This is the reality-check question. It’s not easy to find the right image for the purpose you have defined in your lesson. You can use Google images by entering a short phrase that comprises what you’re looking for. However, you will find a bump in the road. Most images are licensed. This means that you can use a limited number of images for personal purposes, but you cannot share them with a large audience and forget out posting them in your instructional website.
So find royalty free images whenever possible. Also resort to educational sites where images are posted by other peer teachers, so you are free to download them and use them always for educational purposes. Be extremely careful when using pictures of people. Those images must be absolutely royalty-free or you will need permission from the individuals in the pictures to capture them and use them.
ICONS, ILLUSTRATIONS AND IMAGES, FREE TO USE
PROFESIONAL PHOTOS – NEED TO PAY
COMMUNITIES – at you own risk, but worth the try