One of the questions I that I feel has been lurking at the back of my mind over the course of this project, but that hasn’t really gotten much screentime, is that of pedagogy. I’ve thought about how visualizations inform and engage their viewers, but that has been fairly tightly focused on Creator+Image versus Image+Viewer, rather than the question currently on my mind: how exactly can we use visualization in the classroom?
The impetus for thinking about this question comes from an article I read last week: Five-Picture Charades: A Flexible Model for Technology Training in Digital Media Tools and Teaching Strategies. It posits a certain kind of visualization production known as playing charades–using cameras and photoediting software, much of which is free, to give future teachers a way to integrate both technology and exciting activities into the classroom.
I was taken with it as it represented yet another way to create images out of literature but in a manner that seemed to embrace some of the…let’s call them features of visualizations that I have been struggling with. As you may recall from previous posts, we’ve all thought about the problem of meaning making in visualizations and how the images we create always tell us far more than they tell the viewers. The act of creating the visualizations educates far better than the seeing of it. The game of charades is predicated on this point. First of all, it involves the students (or, in this case, teachers experimenting with it) in the actual production in a way that is fun and that forces them to think about how to translate their impressions of the work into another medium. But, perhaps more importantly, it actually takes advantage of the disconnect between the creator and the audience. Charades is focused entirely on conveying information through a visual format, so the creators need to think about whether they’re doing the best job they can at conveying information, while the audience also needs to work to understand the visualization. By turning visualization into a game, the viewers become participants.
So does this help bridge the gap between creator and viewer, introducing this new kind of ludic element into the mix?
And what do you think about these kind of classroom visualizations? Are they helpful education tools or gimmicks to replace engagement with entertainment? (And does that question depend on how old the class is?)