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Critical Pictures: Page 6, Conclusion

Written by Mitch Nobis
April 29, 2013

Taking it to the authorship stage by making comics was clearly valuable.  Their written reflections demonstrated the creativity and insight they used in making the comics.  What on the surface might look like hastily drawn comics now look like thoughtful first drafts, or thumbnails.  I would love to see what they could create with more than one day to make the comics.

Also, as I watched my students work, I realized an unforeseen benefit to making comics instead of a different type of visual text like a poster or public service announcement.  Because comics feature a series of panels instead of one large picture, the students had to plan and consider the rhetorical impact of as many as ten visual designs instead of just one.  Making comics naturally provided them with repetition and practice.  We already know that practice leads to perfections, that student writers need to write often to become better writers.  There’s no reason the same wouldn’t be true with visual rhetoric as well.  By making comics and designing the numerous smaller visuals that make up a comic, students were able to refine their visual rhetoric within the space of a single assignment.

This unit leaves the students with a cursory introduction to visual rhetoric, but even a brief glimpse behind the curtain is better than none.  Another unintended benefit to moving the visual literacy study to accompany Thoreau is that it gets the visual rhetoric terms and concepts into my curriculum earlier in the year than it was before, so although the unit is short, we can now refer back to it for the remaining three months of the year instead of three weeks.  

It’s only a start, but it’s one that gets students thinking critically about the images thrust before their eyes every day.  Ideally, the next time a campaign ad tries to convince them that a candidate is evil by darkening the shadows and moving the camera angle, my students will recognize it as the visual fallacy that it is.  They will not be swayed by shoddy visual rhetoric, and maybe, just maybe, they will vote based on the candidate’s education platform and not the opponent’s advertisement.

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