Visual information is a central component of today’s information ecosystem, whether it is used to supplement other formats or as a stand-alone method for communicating. Visual information itself can come in many formats, including graphics, tables and figures, multimedia, and photographs.
Visual literacy, the ability to interpret, analyse and create visual material, is an increasingly crucial skill for today’s graduates. However, this importance has not yet led to its teaching being widely introduced into the third-level curriculum. This study uses a constructivist and social constructivist approach to introduce a visual literacy element to a business curriculum.
In 2007, film critic Kevin B. Lee began publishing “video essays,” which he described as videos that “take footage from films and reconfigure them using editing, text, graphics and voiceover to reveal startling observations and insights, visualizing them in ways that text criticism can’t,”1 on his blog Also Like Life. When I started working at the University of Maryland’s Nonprint Media Services Library (now Library Media Services) in 2013, I knew I wanted to incorporate this technique into our instructional efforts. Traditionally, NPMS’s instruction had focused on finding audiovisual materials; our new objective was to teach students how to create something new from the items in our collection.
Expanding upon my poster titled “Art Instead of Just Images: Training Students to See Beyond the Screen” presented at the 2016 ARLIS/NA + VRA Third Joint Conference in Seattle, I detail the current journey of my project to create a practical guide for student employees to understand and manipulate images of art.
The university archives are so often the domain of “dusty historians” or serve as a source for nostalgia to encourage potential donors. As any archivist will tell you, however, these collections are cabinets of curiosity for the 21st century, containing ephemera and visual material that span the course of the institution. Engaging students with these collections can promote information and visual literacy objectives, as well as encourage retention by strengthening personal connections to the university itself. This article explores two assignments designed for studio art students using the archival resources at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and describes their results.
Just as one-shot information literacy sessions can be implemented in college classes to improve students’ research capabilities, similarly-styled sessions on image research can increase their visual literacy skills. The desired outcome of teaching an instructional session is to provide students with the tools and confidence they need to effectively use high-quality visual materials in their undergraduate years and beyond.
The article reports on the adoption of standards for competency in visual literacy by the American Association of College and Research Libraries in 2012 to prepare students in higher education and career guidance. Topics discussed include the analysis and communication of messages, coordination of elements for personal expression and training of students in the examination of images. Also mentioned is the access to the National Archives Tool Box for Primary Sources.
In response to the growing call for authentic learning and content creation in the information literacy setting, librarians at Emporia State University have created assignments and activities that utilize an iOS app called Comic Life to create photo comics. Students in a for-credit course created photo comics as information literacy narratives, while First Year Seminar students worked to build library guides. These activities encourage honest, meaningful reflection by students and allow them to demonstrate metaliteracy skills in an engaging and creative manner and can allow for both individual and group-created content. Students at Emporia State University have expressed high levels of satisfaction and engagement when participating in these activities.
“The importance of images and visual media in contemporary culture is changing what it means to be literate in the 21st century. Today’s society is highly visual, and visual imagery is no longer supplemental to other forms of information. New digital technologies have made it possible for almost anyone to create and share visual media. Yet the pervasiveness of images and visual media does not necessarily mean that individuals are able to critically view, use, and produce visual content. Individuals must develop these essential skills in order to engage capably in a visually oriented society.”