"Okay, everyone please take out your cell phones."
This is my highly anticipated first line of the unit's execution. It is important to make students feel immediately engaged. Starting off the entire unit by asking them to take
their phones (the opposite instruction making up most of what they hear regarding their favorite possessions), will hopefully have a lasting effect on their engagement for the unit. This instruction begins an activity which will have the students researching pictures on news Web sites that tell a story better than words would themselves. A possible problem here would be the rare student who does not own or is not in possession of a cell phone. I have experimented with this particular lesson activity in several classes, and I have yet to encounter this problem, but a contingency plan – like having classroom computers as backup – is advisable.
Students may begin by quite simply enjoying the synthesis of information and art through pictures. My school is an art school – each student dedicating daily time to an artistic discipline (either visual art, creative writing, theater, dance or music). I will be incorporating each art (or the students' choice) into lesson activities in the unit.
Over the course of the unit, students will be working with pictures to accomplish an understanding of their significance in relation to language – interpreting in writing what certain pictures mean and committing to image their take on certain writings. Students will explore many different Web sites as our learning begins to focus on the modern information age, and at that point their understanding of the significance of pictures will drive their focus on how to use this to navigate information on the Web. Students will be able to analyze the effectiveness of pictures on the Web as compared to text on the Web. This is of growing importance as an academic generation grows weary of lengthy texts – even text itself.
article "Nation Shudders At Large Block of Uninterrupted Text" satirizes our nation's growing distaste for reading large blocks of text. Modern blogs and "news" of any kind being presented in list form, using more pictures to communicate the message than words, are growing in popularity. We will focus on whether the conclusion of said article is a sign of a growing national passivity when it comes to collecting information or simply a shift in how we receive and interpret information.
Among the products of this unit will be an informational article that students create themselves – using an image of their own discovery or even a photograph they've taken themselves (rare would be the student to shy away from an opportunity to use his or her smart phone for an assignment) and as little text as possible. The goal for this assignment is for students to match form with meaning – to create a product that actually is
of what they're studying. Their work, when completed, could become part of this modern canon of expository images, outlining their study of analysis of pictures to convey language. For this project, students will be able to utilize their study of pictures in order to conceptualize and create their own, offering written explanation as to their significance. This activity will also begin their introduction into the use of pictures to present researched information.
Once they have contributed to modern culture with said photo-journalism project, students will utilize their skills in discerning valid information to construct a research paper. They will take what they have learned during the course of the unit, utilizing pictures to navigate the information they have in front of them, and apply their skills to research – i.e., how to know which sources on the Web, and in media, they can trust to be valid sources of information.
To do this, students will continue their exploration of the Web. This will include a lesson on research and the conventions by which valid sourcing is upheld. We will explore different Web sites, both valid, invalid, and the gray area in between. Exploring the reliability (or lack thereof) of Web sites like Wikipedia, and ways around them – for instance, utilizing the links at the bottom of Wiki articles, or opting altogether for more valid alternatives like encyclopedia.com. Additionally, it will be advantageous to spend time emphasizing the importance of using sites with URL's ending in .edu or .gov rather than .com.
The students will then venture into a study of the history of pictures to convey information. Using the image's effectiveness in catapulting social media sites like Instagram to the top of the world's social application downloads as a basis, students will move on to view the history of images, and even their use to effect political change.
At the completion of this unit, students will be able to apply their study of pictures and their significance as tools of communication in order to navigate the World Wide Web for valid research information.