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Photography and Technical Writing

posted: 12.16.14 by Traci Gardner

Earlier this month, Edutopia’s post on Literacy Through Photography for English-Language Learners explored photographs’ potential for analysis, reflection, and organization. The article was focused on younger, English language learners, but the ideas made me think about possibilities for my technical writing students.

I have used images in my technical writing classes before. Students can include photos with their professional biography statements, for instance, and I typically ask for illustrations in their instructions. Could I do more? How could photography help students describe and discuss issues in their projects?

I think the “Perspective Taking” activity in the post has potential to improve students’ technical descriptions. A photo of a beaker from different angles probably won’t lead a student to talk about how the perspective makes the object look more powerful (the example in the Edutopia post), but it could lead to great discussions about ethics, if the perspective is misleading or it hides important details.

The “Telling a Story” activity reminded me of the struggle students sometimes have with instructions. If the assignment began with taking a video or stills of the process students were writing about, perhaps they would have an easier time including all the steps and mentioning all the important details. Better yet, if students took their own photos, their projects would be less likely to include mismatched illustrations they sometimes gather online.

After thinking about those two options, I wonder if there are other places I can use photos to encourage students to explore their ideas earlier in their projects. Have you used photographs to help with brainstorming and invention? Do you use photographs at other points in the writing process? Tell me about your experience by leaving a comment below or dropping by my page on Facebook or Google+.

[Photo: Graduated cylinders and beaker filled with chemical compounds by Horia Varlan, on Flickr]

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Categories: Activity Idea, Traci Gardner, Visual Rhetoric
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