Images & Academia

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Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter etc all heavily rely on image to communicate. There are the aspects of visual stim and illustrated understanding.

Many colleagues complain about the student body’s over-reliance on images; I keep it in mind. The hesitation and many times resistance toward using image in Writing classes could produce two or more outcomes. One, it may challenge the students to compose one-dimensionally, which ironically, is actually more difficult for them in this bloom of multi-media. Two, it may create a thick, gloppy barrier between the Professor and his/her pupil. I use the adjective gloppy, instead of firm, because I observe that the students still retain the information but in a less defined way.

In the other direction, welcoming the use of image in Writing lessons could produce the following: students that document their communication in more than one medium/dimension, such as an illustrated essay, or students may learn only what they “have to” about writing, in order to pass the course, spending more focus on the use of vibrant images; in the same manner that they check their phones incessantly.

The fear in allowing the use of image in the Writing classroom stems from the fear of loss, the fear of degradation, decay. Is it that we will lose the art of complex, academic writing? Will thinking become less efficient with its reliance on image? If this fear or conveyance of resistance to youth culture is sensed in the classroom, students (as all other mammals might) react to as well as reflect the fear with anxiety and/or resistance.

As with most other intellectual conflicts, a pedagogy that is structured around both options could help– a rope of reassurance for the writing-only Composition professors and an overt validation for the multi-media Comp professors.

Today, it seems like our field is an intellectual battle between preserving the traditional sense of Composition and flowing alongside society’s evolutions. The fissure is exhausting not only for those on either side of it, but for the learners who feel unsure about the opposing strategies and techniques.

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My photos above are from the interior of the Oldest Schoolhouse in our oldest colony, St. Augustine, FL.

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