For centuries educators have explored and refined our understanding of literacy through a lens of words, print and dialogue. Consumption and creation of information through print has been an essential staple of the curriculum since the industrial revolution and has served teachers and students effectively in delivering the essential elements of reading and writing.
If you walked into a classroom in 1890 or 1990 the fundamentals of teaching and learning would essentially look much the same. The teacher was utilized as an educational ‘gatekeeper’ who introduced content and concepts to students and enabled the creation of new ideas and insights essentially through pen and paper.
The evolution of film as a Visual Literacy
In the mid 20th century the impact of film and television introduced new modes of information and entertainment consumption which dramatically influenced popular culture. For the first time ever we could tell a story simultaneously to three hundred people in a cinema as a shared experience in 90 minutes that previously may have taken weeks in isolation.
Whilst we rightly should explore the contrast between of books and films as storytelling tools the impact film has had on popular culture over the last century is incomparable.
In 1902 Georges Melies released “A Trip to the Moon” which is generally regarded as the world’s first feature film. At the time this creativity was probably only achievable by less than 10 people in the world.
Within less than a decade, films were being produced globally. Shortly thereafter the film and television “industry” employed tens of thousands of creative storytellers in Hollywood alone.
As a result VISUAL LITERACY evolved from the filming of staged plays into an immersive and engaging storytelling method which transformed storytelling from hundreds of pages of text into “lights, camera and action.”
In the second half of the twentieth century, we saw pockets of innovative educators draw upon film as a genuine area of study introducing students to new methods of consuming and creating narratives.
Today’s students would consume visual literacy over traditional text-based literacies by a factor of ten outside the classroom but we are still reluctant to teach it even though it is far easier, cheaper to create a video and share it to millions via YouTube than it is to get a book published and printed.
Furthermore, many of our students are completely uneducated as to the principles of visual texts and cannot effectively comprehend or decode a film or television show from an informed perspective.
WELCOME TO THE DIGITAL CLASSROOM
In the early 1980s teachers and students started seeing computers become commonplace in classrooms. Much like the early films of the 20th-century teachers and students stumbled and fumbled to find a practical application for the classroom computer for at least twenty years resulting in many ‘shiny’ but hollow learning experiences. This era of technical confusion would last almost two decades. Until something changed…
Well, many things actually… Fast forward ( and skip hundreds of really important technological breakthroughs ) to the mid-2000’s to a time when all classrooms became connected to the world wider web and the era of mobile computing moved from science fiction to reality.
This technological “golden age” would begin a new conversation around teaching and learning as students had the opportunity to become content creators with ease as opposed to just consumers.
“Collaborative Cloud Computing” and the capacity for every student to have access to a device at any time has had an enormous influence on those who have opted in.