Pedagogy of the Visual

[A]ny application of technology introduced into the classroom should make significant strides toward achieving what may be done differently than if the technology was never used at all. (Rice, The Rhetoric of Cool 151)

This is a main point that Rice is arguing/discussing/proving. How are the essays we teach our students any different now than they were when they were handwritten or typed?

I remember when computers first came into the classroom (1991 at my present university) trying to incorporate images into traditional student essays. I asked for them. The students incorporated them. But they were not particularly well done and I was not particularly comfortable with the assignment of them. Eventually I returned to a “standard” college essay.

I do, however, once again have students incorporate images into texts. I have my business writing students do it with their white papers or research projects. They must include images and/or tables/figures within the body of their papers. These inclusions change the length of the required texts and the compositional aspect of them as well.

The assignment reads 10-12 single-spaced pages, if images are incorporated, or 10-12 double-spaces pages, if images are not at least 1/4 of the paper. My students were appalled when they first read it, as they stopped with 10-12 single-spaced pages. However, when I moved them along in the reading and they saw that they could use images (I do limit images to 2/3s of the paper), they were satisfied (some even happy, while others were simply relieved).

Rice says the technology we use in the classroom tends to most closely mimic print-based culture (151), so PowerPoint slides–mostly words–are just outlines with color.

However, there is also the element of interactivity, of the visual, of association, that he has talked about earlier and so this argument’s foundation is less sturdy than most.

I think that, yes, we are most likely to engage with the technology with which we are most comfortable and as instructors from before the computer was ubiquitous (even if only by a few years) then we are most likely to present computer-assisted compositions that closely resemble print-based compositions. That does not mean that we are engaging only with that.

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