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I have begun writing a paper on visual rhetoric. I sat on the 7:31 commuter train to St.Pancras and watched to commuters, hunched over their laptops, working in PowerPoint. Their screens, filled with words, varieties of fonts, and formatting tricks in abundance. These comprehensive essays in landscape, perhaps to be printed and distributed but more likely projected illegibly for a bewildered business audience later that day reminded me again of the fundamental misuse of a very powerful and effective technology. The same day I showed my wife a Prezi presentation that I was preparing for a workshop the following day. Her comment was that it made her feel seasick as I moved fluidly, but somewhat distractedly, from one block of text to another. I suggested the term ‘see-sick’.

So I began to consider the power of these visual tools in our classrooms and the very superficial understanding that I, and I suspect the majority of my colleagues have, of their use. In such circumstances I often find it useful to turn to Merlot or Aristotle. Since I had no Merlot I turned to Aristotle.

Aristotle, identified three branches rhetoric: judicial, epideictic and deliberative.  Judicial rhetoric is concerned with justice and injustice, the defence or advocacy of charge or accusation. Epideictic rhetoric refers to speech or writing in praise or blame. Perhaps the most familiar notion of rhetoric is that of deliberative, in which speech or writing attempts to persuade others to take or not to take some defined action.

Much of our teaching is the incitement to learners to do something, to take an action. Teaching may in many circumstances be considered deliberative rhetoric, an invitation on the part of the student  (as reader, listener or participant) to pause and consider in response to a carefully timed performance and managed argument, the pace and rhythm control, the deliberate self interruption, punctuated silence, exclamations, questions, punctuating gestures. The teacher’s role is not simply to highlight an argument but to ensure that if a vote were cast the learner might make an appropriate judgment.

Teaching in face-to-face contexts supported by presentational technologies, the ubiquitous PowerPoint or some more contemporary form of visual media, requires a new mastery of rhetoric - that of visual rhetoric. This branch of rhetorical studies that concerns itself with the persuasive use of images, in isolation or in harmony with words, is a powerful tool in the classroom.

We live in an intensely visual world, surrounded by images in advertising, music, news information and educational media. Arrangements of words, in tag clouds, Wordle (http://www.wordle.net),  or PowerPoint arrangements are visual objects. Text projected on the wall is either a visual representation, discursive, provocative, motivating or informative, or it is ‘just words’. Not every projected arrangement of light and dark on the classroom wall is easily inferred as a visual object, as visual rhetoric, “(W)hat turns a visual object into a communicative artifact--a symbol that communicates and can be studied as rhetoric--is the presence of three characteristics. In other words, three markers must be evident for a visual image to qualify as visual rhetoric. The image must be symbolic, involve human intervention, and be presented to an audience for the purpose of communicating with that audience." (Smith, 2005, p. 144)

Kostelnick and Roberts in “Designing Visual Language: Strategies for Professional Communicators”, detail six canonical criteria through which to interpret the rhetorical impact, primarily of written text. These six are: arrangement, emphasis, clarity, conciseness, tone and ethos.

  • Arrangement – is the organisation of visual elements to demonstrate structure (and relationships)
  • Emphasis – differentiates elements giving some prominence through changes in size, shape and colour.
  • Clarity – avoiding unnecessary elements to assist the reader in ‘decoding’ quickly and completely the ‘message’
  • Conciseness –appropriately succinct designs that serve a specific audience need
  • Tone – the writer/presenter/designer’s tone provides evidence of their attitude to the subject
  • Ethos – developing the trust of the audience

These six visual criteria provide a helpful starting point in beginning to see images as objects for visual rhetoric and appropriate interpretation.  (Kostelnick & Roberts, 2010)

Since Zaltman suggests that thoughts occur as images, which are essentially visual, there is a direct inverse relationship between the power of the visual to provoke an emotional non-verbal reaction, a thought. Research by Joy and colleagues using the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique suggest a range of interesting relationships between viewers sense of space and depth, related directly to the positioning of objects, to the juxtaposition (overlapping, transparency, distortion) of images in support of a narrative. They conclude, “(U)ltimately, images and words are separate building blocks in the telling of stories but the two amplify each other. Researchers need to enrich and supplement the abstractions that accompany visuals with the details and particulars that accompany the verbal.” (Joy, Sherry Jr., Venkatesh, & Deschenes, 2009, p. 566)

Back in 2001 I did (what I still think was ) some interesting work with Nicola Durbridge at the Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology looking at how to overcome some of the restrictions of text based discussion boards, the ‘drudgery’ of CMC (Computer Mediated Conferencing). I explored a simple ‘visual metaphor’ of a classroom so that individuals posting items to a forum did so ‘spatially’ as icons rather than simply adding the posting to list. (Atkinson, 2001). I have just scanned the resulting conference paper and it is work I would be keen to extend now in looking at Prezi and its use of visual rhetoric.

A Prezi that explores visual rhetoric is on its way.

......

Atkinson, S. (2001). Re-Tooling Online. In Book of Abstracts (pp. 154-156). Presented at the Online Educa Berlin 2001, Berlin: ICEF Berlin GMBH.

Joy, A., Sherry Jr., J., Venkatesh, A., & Deschenes, J. (2009). Perceiving images and telling tales: A visual and verbal analysis of the meaning of the internet. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19(3), 556-566. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2009.05.013

Kostelnick, C., & Roberts, D. D. (2010). Designing Visual Language: Strategies for Professional Communicators. Longman Publishing Group.

Smith, K. L. (2005). Handbook of visual communication: theory, methods, and media. Routledge.

I'm embarking on a research process that will look at institutional change and personal transformation amongst heritage educators. It is likely to be a four-year process that will explore the current state of education across the heritage sector in the UK, the influences on educators in this unique and colourful sector, and the impact that digital heritage, digital technologies, and digital epistemologies are having on individuals and their practice. Identity transformation is a difficult thing to measure; there are so many variables, so many factors that can impact on individuals in so many unique and personal ways. This fascinating field, one in which only an interdisciplinary perspective, and non-judgemental and open-minded approach, and the willingness of subjects to share, is likely to yield considerable insights. The extent to which Heritage Education can be analysed through a ‘Communities of Practice’ approach, through the use of interpretive repertoires, or through the theoretical lenses of transformative learning or activity theory, is yet to be seen. I look forward to sharing this research through this online space at a hearing the views of others. As a doctoral program it will have its own pace, its own problems, challenges, obstacles, boundaries and opportunities. But it seems appropriate that work looking at how digital spaces, new epistemologies, new models of interprofessional practice and emerging expectations of our heritage institutions might be researched effectively should be shared as much as possible along the way.

 

'How can Museums and Heritage Institutions bring in external live content in order to enhance visitors’ experience of in-gallery objects?'

The MCG website now has profiles of the projects moving forward from the LIVE!Museum Project. My favourite (I'm biased because I am on the development team) is I, Object.  

Whilst all the projects are concerned with enhancing the on-site museum experience  I, Object examines how the 'web' (in its broadest sense) can enhance the character of the object. Because the encounter with an object in a gallery should be a special experience, informational layers must add to, rather than detract, from that experience. This project seeks to reassert the "relevance of the object, its enduring significance and its contemporary relationships to in-gallery and other experiences".

The research question, and one now being developed into a funding proposal, is 'How can Museums and Heritage Institutions bring in external live content in order to enhance visitors’ experience of in-gallery objects?'

"What is imagined is an object-centred network that generates live content drawn from within, and beyond, the site itself in such a way as to enhance the visitor’s experience of in-gallery objects".

A proposal for workshops associated with devleoping the conceptual fraemework for his project are being discussed so hopefully we can benefit from a wider community imput into the idea in the next two or three months.

Version 1.2 of the SOLE 'Toolkit' has been uploaded today and a number of support videos (linked to from within the workbook) have been loaded onto www.YouTube.com/theSOLEmodel channel.

The original intention of the SOLE Learning Design model and its associated toolkit was, and remains, to embed academic professional development support 'inside' a learning development 'tool' and to embody good practice.

This isn't as simple as it sounds but I have to say I'm enjoying the attempt. The SOLE Model (Student-Owned Learning-Engagement Model) was first mooted at the end of 2009 and previewed at DEANZ in Wellington, NZ in April 2010. In July 2010 it was presented as a work in progress at the LAMS European Learning Design conference and a cloud floated on www.Cloudworks.ac.uk.

The response has been interesting, such a simple tool (Excel!) but an easy one to use, and for some, well suited to their approach. For me, the issue has been about producing a tangible product that the student will see, and potentially manipulate. That the student can see, and engage with the learning design is, I think, significant.

Screenshot
Comments within the Worksheets provide advice and guidance

Version 1.2 of the SOLE 'Toolkit' has been uploaded today and a number of support videos (linked to from within the workbook) have been loaded onto www.YouTube.com/theSOLEmodel channel. The inclusion student feedback on time spent, the inclusion of Intended Learning Outcomes on each student view, and the development of significant guidance and advice on each element of the model makes me feel Version 1.2 is ready! But, there is more work to be done on the advice and guidance in particular and I am considering how that may link in time to pages here on WordPress. I would like if possible to keep it very much 'self-contained' within the toolkit but user feedback may change that.

See the SOLE Model pages for Version1.2

Serendipity perhaps. Yesterday I found myself looking at an article by James Davies  (2006), 'Dialogue, Monologue and Soliloquy in the Large Lecture Class', International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 19 (2) 178-182) which wonderfully articulates the difference between large class teaching delivered for, and to, an audience and the ruminations of a speaker in their own world on stage. Last night on the BBC Magazine website there was then a wonderful 4 minute clip of actor/director Samuel West describing the different manner in which that Shakespeare's famous soliloquy from Hamlet "To Be or Not to Be...." might be performed. The two sit beautifully together as a little staff development package for academics, and I for one intend to use them that way!

Back in August I attended a 'sandpit', brainstorming workshop at School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. This was the second of three such sandpits forming the  LIVE!Museum project, led by Dr. Ross Parry at Leicester’s Museum Studies. LIVE!Museum  (more detail on the Museum Computer Group website) is an AHRC / BT funded initiative, led by Parry,  to create viable research projects exploring ‘live’ content.

On the 14th September we held the Research*Mart, a 'final  stage', drawing together work from 3 earlier ‘sandpits’. Details will appear on the Museum Computer Group site in due course. There were some 40 people present from curators and conservators, to academics and researcher, commercial museum designers, sound designers, software developers and educators. It was a thrilling day, but having contributed to early discussion of 'SmartSpaces' and 'LiveTAG', my passions definitely lay with 'I, Object' (possibly to be renamed) which explored the idea of the  individual museum object or artefact  being made ‘live’. The project seeks to explore the idea that the object can 'draw in' live content about itself, its semantic relationships, and its contemporary relevance in response to visitor interaction.

The educational opportunities, for learner (visitor) directed and initiated meaning making are significant and we know have to work out where the funding for this interesting work might come from.

New YouTube videos from the European LAMS Learning Design Conference 2010

Finally this weekend got around to putting the slides to the audio that was recorded at the European LAMS & Learning Design Conference 2010. I've uploaded the presentation to YouTube in two parts. Part 1 essentially introduces the Student-Owned Learning-Engagement (SOLE) model itself and Part 2 highlights the recent version of the toolkit in Excel.

Part 1: The Model

Part 2: The Toolkit

Back in 2007, Kevin Burden at the University of Hull and myself (then at Hull) were writing a chapter for a book by John O'Donoghue called 'Technology-Supported Environments for Personalized Learning: Methods and Case Studies' (2010).

o'Donoghue (2010)

The chapter was based on earlier work, mostly by Kevin and Theo Kuechel, with the (then) QIA and a variety of colleges in Further Education. The project explored the synergies between the DiAL-e Framework and the GloMaker. We haven't followed that work up but the GloMaker tool caught my attention again with conversations at the 2010 European LAMS and  Learning Design Conference in Oxford last month and I've been exploring. I have created a new DiAL-e 'pattern' file for GloMaker2, editing the XML template to provide a DiAL-e 'process flow' to GloMaker. I'm impressed by the ease of use of the tool now, but less so by the two existing default patterns. Will be interesting in the coming weeks to see if DiAL-e patterns make sense to others. Will share them here and at the GloMaker community wiki in due course.

It's been a rather hectic summer personally. Arriving back from New Zealand in mid July I have been organising all the personal issues that go with a 12,000 mile move and starting a new job. My new role at the London School of Economics and Political Science is with the Teaching and Learning Centre and is concerned primarily with helping to support, develop and deliver of the in-house PGCertHE.

I'm looking forward to getting into my own research, and writing again with Kevin Burden as well as extending the work of both  the SOLE Model and the DiAL-e framework over the next few years. The LAMS Learning Design conference in Oxford in July was inspiring but there is a lot to do to reorient my own understanding to fit the work of the UK sector. I have had a lot of interest expressed in SOLE since Easter, and have begun exploring the opportunities of the GloMaker tool to provide DiAL-e framework learning patterns so there will, once I'm settled be more resources and more activity here on WordPress.

Release of the SOLE Toolkit

With thanks to colleagues form the GradDip Primary programme at Massey University who yesterday provided some great feedback, comment and criticism on the Student-Owned Learning Engagement model. I presented briefly the SOLE model and explained the underlying rational and then showed the 'rough' version of the excel workbook that constitutes the 'toolkit'.

The toolkit (see 'pages') is in some respects rather simple but appears to have captured the imagination of the group and as such was a spur to further development. So after incorporating some minor amendments I've taken the plunge and have released version 1.1 to the world! I have also created a shirt YouTube video to explain the basic structure and plan to develop some other resources soon.

Here's video - a new channel has been created at http://www.YouTube.com/TheSOLEmodel

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