On teaching: Visual media in modern textbooks

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In modern times, as a consequence of advertising and the invention of the Internet, we are often exposed to visual media, such as images, videos, infographic designs, emoji, colours or fonts.

If we compare two textbooks, one published in 1978 and one in 2010, the difference will be visible immediately, the latter is colourful, with photos, drawings, various tables and colour-coded grammar points, and it has CDs attached to it. The same will happen when we compare historical and modern dictionaries, magazines or newspapers.

When working with textbooks or newspapers, it’s becoming important to analyse (when preparing for lessons and with students) not only words, but also other modes, images, info-graphs and designs. Why is it so important? All those modes can have various functions and each mode can be significant, even if its presentation is marginal. The multimodal (= all different modes) approach can lead to questioning the status quo, to discussions on ideologies, gender inequalities, difficult historical events or globalisation and, consequently to improving students’ critical thinking and analytical skills. Multimodal analysis can also influence teachers’ choice of learning material for their students and language tutors can be more aware of the hidden meaning within the multimodal texts. Multimodality can also be a tool to inspire students to create or engage in multimodal activities that can potentially allow students to question their linguistic identities.

The above gives us some indication as to the importance of interpreting not only the verbal discourse, but also the visual. This can be applied to all teaching material, textbooks, online resources, as well as paper magazines or newspapers.

What’s your experience in conducing multimodal analysis of your teaching material? Let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

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