Archive for the ‘Document Design’ Category

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Multimodal Mondays: Radical Revision ~ The Sequel ~ Student Multimodal Hacks

posted: 4.27.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn. She continues her series on Radical Revision – and includes assignments and examples of student projects that you don’t want to miss!

In my last post, Radically Revising the Composition Classroom, I challenged others to hack their traditional, tried and true assignments.  I decided to enact this advice in one of my own classes this semester and gave the same challenge to my students, asking them to Radically Revise a collaborative class project through a multimodal lens.   [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Assignment Idea, Digital Writing, Document Design, Guest Bloggers, Multimodal Mondays, Peer Review, Revising, Teaching with Technology
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A Simple Starting Point for Visual Assignments

posted: 11.17.09 by Traci Gardner

It’s easy to give students assignments that ask them to create posters, magazine covers, and billboards. It’s somewhat harder to make sure they have the technology support that they need to complete the project. If you’re looking for a very simple starting point for this kind of visual assignments, BigHugeLabs’ toys and utilities is a good option.

On the BigHugeLabs site, you’ll find templates that make very basic images that you can save as JPG images. Some of the utilities offer printing services, but you do not need to purchase anything to save the images. Once saved, they can be added to word processing documents, slide show presentations, or Web pages.

Any of the following tools could be useful in the writing classroom:

In addition, the site has a number of handy utilities if you’re using Flickr extensively in the classroom, such as Flickr DNA and Mosaic Maker. If students are designing a slide show or Web page around a particular photo, the Color Palette Generator can “Automagically create a color palette” for them, based on that image. If you’re up for some fun and mischief, there’s even a Lolcat Generator.

For lots of classrooms, these basic tools are all you need to get students going on a visual assignment. Others, however, will dismiss these utilities as unsophisticated. It’s true that they give students a limited range of options. That limitation can be an actual benefit, however:

  • Use the tools to create “rough drafts” before moving to more sophisticated programs like PhotoShop or Aviary. They allow students to sketch out their ideas and get a mock-up without getting bogged down with the many possibilities of a blank document in more sophisticated tools.
     
  • Compare and choose the best text or image for a project. Students can quickly mockup multiple versions of their project with different headlines and ask peers which version best catches their attention. Or try the reverse and have students swap in different background images with the same text. This strategy also works if you want to discuss different students’ work.
     
  • Talk about the limitations and their effect on the rhetorical strategies students can choose. Ask students to think about which limitations would stand regardless of the graphical tool. For instance, the width of a billboard and the size of a magazine cover are fairly standard. You won’t get more space by switching to another program, but you can get more sophisticated layout options, for example. Use the limitations to teach students the value of choosing the tools you use wisely.
     

Regardless of how you decide to use the tools on the BigHugeLabs site, they’re a nice option for visual rhetoric activities—both when students create texts and when they are exploring the strategies behind how visual texts are made.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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The Persistence of Stereotypes in Visual Texts

posted: 10.7.09 by Traci Gardner

In my most recent Ink’d In column, I wrote about “Finding Hidden Messages in Visual Texts” and pointed to some World War II posters that demonstrated anti-Japanese bias as examples.  In my related classroom activity, I ask students to look for similar messages in more contemporary texts.

The Inside Higher Ed article “A Tale of Two Posters” provides a perfect contemporary example to use in class: a parody campaign poster that raised questions about racial stereotyping on Tufts University campus this fall. The stereotypes represented in the poster attack Asian appearance (“squinty eyes” and the exaggerated expression in the photo of In-Goo Kwak), Asian language use (use of broken English), and Korean culture (“kimchi”).

Students should easily see similarities if you show them the image of Tojo from the War Posters and the photo of In-Goo from the parody poster:

Tojo from WWII Poster, Hon. Spy Poster Detail from Photo by In-Goo Kwak

The Inside Higher Ed (IHE) article indicates that In-Goo, the parody’s designer, included the stereotypes specifically to counter what he saw as political correctness in the campaign poster of another student. Regardless of the intention, indeed perhaps because of it, the campaign poster lends itself to classroom discussion of how and why stereotypes persist in societies. You can use the WILCO mnemonic to analyze both campaign posters in more detail as part of your exploration.

In addition, take advantage of the opportunity that the article provides to discuss the nature of stereotypes, prejudice, and language use. As always when you explore emotionally-charged issues, be sure to discuss the importance of respecting the feelings of others before your analysis. Once the ground rules are set, students are bound to have an opinion on whether In-Goo’s poster should have been allowed and whether Tufts University responded appropriately. Alongside the related World War II posters, the Inside Higher Ed article will lead to some lively discussion in the classroom.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Discussion, Document Design, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Free, Classroom-Ready Visual Texts from CreativeCloud

posted: 9.29.09 by Traci Gardner

Have you ever wondered what would happen If You Printed The Internet? According to the CreativeCloud site, you’d need 700 square miles of paper. No word on how many reams that would be, but it’s certainly part of a great visual argument.

At first glance, the page is just a clever meme, rethinking the size of the Internet in more familiar terms. The techniques that the author, identified as Tom, uses however are well worth a second look. The presentation lends itself to some great discussion about visual arguments. You might try these discussion questions with students after reading through the series of slides:

  • How did the author make certain words stand out? What makes them “pop”?
  • How does word choice matter? For instance, why is it “If YOU Printed the Internet”? Why use that pronoun?
  • How are images used? Why did the author choose general clip art images?
  • What underlying arguments does the series of slides present? What points is the author trying to make?
  • Why use comparisons to make this argument clear to the audience?
  • Does the presentation work? Would it work as well in another kind of document (e.g., an essay, a podcast)?

After exploring the presentation, you could ask students to make similar visual arguments on topics of their own choice.

Don’t stop with If You Printed The Internet either. There are a number of great resources on the CreativeCloud site. Be sure that you consider these other visual texts that can be used in class:

30 Sensational Print Ads From Around The World
Visit this treasure trove of unusual advertisements for outstanding examples of ad analysis and visual argument. The images are scanned from print advertisement. Some may be inappropriate for the school where you teach, so be sure to preview them in advance and choose those you want to use. After exploring how these ads work, students might look for other sensational ads in magazines they read or compare these contemporary ads to ads from the 30s to the 60s.
6 Massive Old School Printers (& How They Were Advertised)
Most of the students we teach today always thought of computers and printers as something that you could have in your home. Challenge them to compare today’s ads for printers and other technology to these great ads from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. According to a recent New York Times article, today’s technology ads focus more on benefits and friendly language than complex specs. Students can compare how benefits and specs were discussed in these older ads to the ads of today. If those ideas don’t pique your interest, these technology ads are ripe for discussions of race, class, and gender.
10 Beautiful Illustrations From Seriously Rare Books
Ask students to consider what makes the illustrations beautiful and what they add to the texts. Challenge students to visit the campus library and search out additional illustrations that they would add to the collection, or ask them to update the collection to show 10 beautiful illustrations from 20th or 21st century books.

There’s much more on the CreativeCloud site, and additional resources seem to be posted every month. Be sure to check the site periodically for new materials you can use in the classroom. Even if you don’t find something for class, you’ll find some interesting images like these 9 Amazing 3D Pavement Paintings or the 30 Amazing Pictures of Forest Fires.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Popular Culture, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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More Resources for Poster Analysis

posted: 9.23.09 by Traci Gardner

Earlier this week, I shared 16 War Poster Sites for Persuasive Analysis, but I know you need some additional resources before you can ask students to work through a poster independently. That’s today’s focus.

First, for a general overview of how visual documents work, visit the Purdue OWL’s Visual Rhetoric: Analyzing Visual Documents. The site focuses on how to write an analytical essay, but the general information will work for analytical class discussion as well.

To practice in class, use the visual analysis exercises at Bedford/St. Martin’s Re: Writing site. The Preview Exercises on Proximity from the ix visual exercises CD-ROM discusses how grouping and spacing elements in a visual design contribute to the overall message that a text communicates.

If you’d like a structured list of questions, you have several options. You can try the Document Analysis Questions from ReadWriteThink, the War Poster Analysis from the Truman Presidential Library, or the Poster Analysis Worksheet from the National Archive. All three sites outline questions that students can use or their own or that you could use to lead class analysis.

For classroom discussion, I find the analysis questions can make things a bit too stiff and scripted. I devised a mnemonic to guide our conversations. Once we’ve worked through all five letters, I know we’ve touched on all the aspects of a basic analysis:

Mnemonic Example Discussion Questions
W: Words What words are there? What is their tone? How do they relate to the other information on the poster?
I: Images How do the photos and illustrations contribute to the message? Are they polished? Formal? Informal?
L: Layout How does the arrangement of the words and images work? How are the components grouped? How do they coordinate or contrast?
C: Color What colors are used on the poster? How do the colors affect the message?
O: Overall What is the overall impression of the poster? How do the different parts combine to communicate a message? How effective is the poster at its purpose?

In addition to working for more informal discussion scenarios, these areas that the mnemonic covers, like the Preview Exercises on Proximity, are more general than the structured lists. You can work through the different areas of WILCO with any poster (not just war posters) as well as with other visual documents like PowerPoint slides, billboards, or Web pages.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Popular Culture, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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16 War Poster Sites for Persuasive Analysis

posted: 9.22.09 by Traci Gardner

unclesamWhat’s the most famous poster in the world? Many would say it’s James Montgomery Flagg’s 1916 Uncle Sam poster. Since World War I, Flagg’s poster has been persuading men and women to join the U.S. Army.

Posters supporting America’s war efforts demonstrate basic persuasive techniques in direct ways that students can readily identify. The messages behind the posters are rarely abstract. The National Archives exhibit Powers of Persuasion, quoting the U.S. Office of Facts and Figures’s How to Make Posters That Will Help Win The War, explains why: “War posters that are symbolic do not attract a great deal of attention, and they fail to arouse enthusiasm. Often, they are misunderstood by those who see them.”

What does the Uncle Sam poster do to attract attention and arouse enthusiasm? The answer lies in Flagg’s understanding of visual rhetoric. It’s based on understanding the use of color, text, symbols, and illustrations. You can step through an analysis of the poster with the ReadWriteThink Analyzing a World War II Poster Interactive, either working together as a class or having students work individually. The tool is free.

Don’t limit your analysis to the Uncle Sam poster, though. Just visit any of the fifteen sites listed below. In addition to recruiting posters, you’ll find posters encouraging people to support American troops, asking women to enter the workforce, and urging citizens not to spread rumors. There is some overlap among these free sites, but each offers some unique material.

  1. “A Summons to Comradeship”: World War I and II Posters and Postcards from the University of Minnesota
  2. The Art of War from the National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom
  3. The Art of War: World War II Posters from West Texas A&M University
  4. Mobilizing for War: Poster Art of World War II from the Truman Presidential Library
  5. Posters on the American Home Front (1941-45) from the Smithsonian Institute
  6. Rosie Pictures: Select Images Relating to American Women Workers During World War II from the Library of Congress
  7. Sowing the Seeds of Victory: the World War I Poster Collection from Indianapolis Public Librarty
  8. Unifying a Nation: World War II Poster from the New Hampshire State Library
  9. U.S. Navy Recruiting Posters from the U.S. Navy
  10. The War on the Walls from Temple University
  11. War Posters Collection from the Enoch Pratt Free Library
  12. War Poster Collection from the University of Washington
  13. War Posters from the Boston Public Library
  14. War Posters from the Ohio Historical Society
  15. World War II Poster Collection from Northwestern University
  16. World War II Posters from the University of North Texas

Watch later this week for some analysis tools you can use with these sites.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Popular Culture, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Using Current Events to Discuss Writing and Visual Rhetoric

posted: 9.17.09 by Traci Gardner

On the local news tonight, I heard a story about a letter sent to all Virginia Tech students outlining the precautions being taken on campus to avoid an outbreak of swine flu. On the other side of the U.S., Washington State University reported that 2500 students have contracted the H1N1 virus since classes started in August. Somewhere on your campus, you’ve probably heard or seen similar news and advice on avoiding swine flu.

All these stories make excellent texts for the classroom. Obviously, we want to share the information with students to help ensure a healthy fall term for everyone. In the composition classroom, these news stories and public notices also give us current texts we can dissect for use of persuasive techniques and visual rhetoric. Combined with similar materials from the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, these materials give students the chance to consider how rhetorical techniques are adapted to fit the times.

I’ve gathered online resources that range from library exhibitions on the 1918 pandemic to current U.S. government materials on the H1N1 virus. You can supplement these materials with information distributed on your own campus and in the local community as well as from the Reuters Worldwide Coverage on H1N1. Here are four ideas for classroom activities to get you started:

  1. Much of the way we think about global pandemic, whether the spread of the H1N1 virus today or the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, is shaped by materials distributed by the government. Explore how these government sites present information on the 1918 pandemic: The Great Pandemic: The United States in 1918–1919, Influenza of 1918 (Spanish Flu) and the US Navy, and The Deadly Virus. Ask students to consider how the different sites blend historical facts and figures about the 1918 pandemic with more personal reports of the effects of the disease. Have students consider why these government sites exist and how they relate to the public health efforts related to the current H1N1 virus.
  2. Read these personal recollections of the 1918 pandemic, all in the form of transcribed oral histories, focusing on their use of specific details. Ask students to identify the details in the oral histories that make the stories vivid and authentic and to discuss what the specific details add to the oral histories that more general information would not have captured.
  3. Focus on visual rhetoric by looking at the posters and public service announcements. Use the Visual Rhetoric resources from the Purdue OWL to guide your exploration. For a historical twist, compare the techniques used in posters urging health and safety during the 1918 pandemic to those created for the H1N1 virus.
    As part of your exploration, students might design their own posters or videos.

  4. Tap the language expertise of ESL students you teach. Ask second language speakers to focus on how the same message is communicated in different languages. Are there significant differences? What cultural information must change to communicate the same basic message. Use the Stop Germs, Stay Healthy! posters from King County in Washington or the World Health Organization Documents on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 to start discussion.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Campus Issues, Document Design, ESL/multilingual writers, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Illegal 21st Century Research Skills

posted: 4.13.09 by Traci Gardner

Sure, you probably knew “There’s Something Terribly Rude About Texting on a PDA During Conversation.” But did you know that there were times that picking up that Blackberry was actually illegal?

In a number of recent cases, jurors have caused legal problems by consulting digital resources during trials. It’s not that they are checking on their own email messages that’s the problem. Instead, they hear or notice something in the course of the trial and decided to look for more information, either on their cell phone there in the courtroom or later at home on their computers.

Unfortunately, it’s not legal. Juries are expected to make their decisions based solely on the information presented at trial. Increasingly, however, that’s not what’s happening. Consider these stories, which tell of jurors who took things into their own hands:

So here’s the conundrum: We know that students need to develop digital research skills, but how do we help them understand when not to use them? Once people learn to search out answers on their own, how do we convince them to turn that kind of thinking off?

I don’t have any easy answers. What I do know is that these so-called “Google mistrials” could yield some great classroom discussions:

  • Ask students to read some of the articles and then debate what seems reasonable behavior and what does not. Get the issues out in the open. The articles could lead to great conversations that might culminate in a persuasive paper assignment or a letter to the editor assignment.
  • Brainstorm and discuss similar situations when digital research or discussion might be illegal or ill-advised. You might start with questions like these:
    • Is it okay to Twitter during an exam? Consider the difference between posting the answer to question 42 on your biology exam and posting a message that says the exam is hard and you wish you studied more.
    • Can you use your cell phone during a test? How will the teacher know if you’re checking the time or checking a cheat sheet in your notepad?
  • Consider the difference that digital access makes in these legal cases. Is digital technology a scapegoat? What if people looked up information in an encyclopedia at the library or a college textbook that they had on hand? Is “Google mistrial” more interesting than “Encyclopedia Britannica mistrial”?
  • Supplement your discussion of the drama 12 Angry Men with some of these articles. Does everything that the jurors do seem strictly legal? I keep thinking of the scene in the movie where the Henry Fonda character throws the duplicate knife onto the table. Was searching for that knife conducting research?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Discussion, Document Design, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Notetaking for Visual Learners (and Everyone Else)

posted: 3.25.09 by Traci Gardner


SXSWi 2009: Sketchnotes
Originally uploaded by Mike Rohde

Someone else’s notebook usually leaves me B-O-R-E-D, but the ReadWriteWeb post on Mike Rohde‘s notes from South by Southwest Interactive has me glued to the screen.

I want to read every image (and fortunately you can see them one-by-one on Flickr). I’ve considered printing them all out so I can add my own annotations. If I were a better Delicious tagger, I’d add them all and mark them up so I could find them later.

Why am I so entertained by scans of a plain, old-fashioned notebook? Some of the notes make me giggle. Take, for instance, “Kindle is like a cassette for an ATARI 400” (on Flickr). “Exactly,” I want to shout through my snickering.

Other notes impress me with how well they capture what appear to be the key events and comments at different SxSW presentations. Consider “CONNECTIVITY will be an indicator of poverty rather than an indicator of wealth” (on Flickr). Yup. We technorhetoricians have been saying that for over a decade. And how about “The minute you open up Microsoft Word you are constrained” (on Flickr). No argument there.

More than anything though, it’s that the notebook is so real and honest. No question that Rohde (the author) was there, that I’m jealous of his skill, and that I wish we could send him out to document CCCC, WPA Conference, and the Computers and Writing Conference. If I can’t be at a conference, I want a notebook like his to show me what I missed.

How would you use these great notes in the classroom? It doesn’t matter if the topic of the pages isn’t relevant to what the class is studying. Use the notebook to talk about techniques. The pages are a treasure chest of ideas for visual cues, attention-getter techniques, and readability. Together and in small groups, students can identify techniques that help make the ideas clear and concise.

And that’s not all. Ask students to notice the kinds of things Rohde records. For instance, have them consider when he writes down direct quotations and when he paraphrases or summarizes. Rohde’s notes are a great example for those embarking on research projects.

Finally, you might encourage students to recast notes from a recent class they’ve attended into a format similar to one of the pages in Rohde’s notebook. If students aren’t comfortable with paper and pen, suggest they try playing with layouts and style options in a word processor. Suggest clip art illustrations for those uncomfortable with doodling their own caricatures. Ideally, provide some other options that allow for different learning styles—students might create podcasts, videos, slide shows, or posters, for instance.

No matter what they come up with, it’s bound to be more fun than the customary notetaking we see in the classroom!

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Categories: Document Design, Learning Styles, Professional Conferences, Student Success, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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5 ways I approach visual argument in the classroom

posted: 4.17.08 by Barclay Barrios

Visual argument (or, more generally, visual rhetoric) seems to be an increasingly important part of the composition classroom. I’ve never taught a class devoted to visual argument, but I have given visual argument assignments and I often ask students to consider the role that the visual plays in culture. There are of course whole textbooks on visual argument, but since the visual plays only a supporting role in my course, I tend to use a variety of websites instead. For example:

1. PostSecret
PostSecret is my favorite way to have students think about visual argument. This public art project started when its founder, Frank Warren, invited people to design and submit postcards that revealed secrets their authors had never shared before. Each Sunday, Warren posts a new set of secret-revealing postcards; in the process, he offers a wide-ranging display of visual argument, as each postcard design reflects the secret it contains. I’ve found that students can analyze these visual texts readily, providing them good practice at reading, decoding, and then designing their own visual arguments.

2. Ikea
You may be familiar with this home furnishings company from Sweden if you’re lucky enough to have an Ikea store near you (we’re getting ours here in South Florida this summer—yay!). But even if you’re never heard of Ikea, the company’s website offers a great way to explore cultural assumptions about design. That’s because it has separate sites for countries around the world. Ask students to explore some of these different sites (such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia), taking note of how language and culture influence visual argument and design. Ask them then to view the site for the United States and look for the same sorts of cultural assumptions. This assignment, of course, could be done with the main site of many global corporations. I choose Ikea to help students see that globalization is not purely an American phenomenon.

3. The Ebay Conceptual Art Gallery
Justin Jorgensen turns photographs of items auctioned on Ebay into a kind of found art. Have students explore the site and consider questions of both visual design/arrangement and art. Then have them explore Ebay itself. What’s the relationship between design and sales? What’s the economic impact of a good visual argument?

4. MySpace
Chances are your students are already familiar with MySpace. Many students have pages on this popular social networking site, using it to keep in touch with friends old and new. Yet most the pages on MySpace are designed extremely poorly. But in doing so, they also make important visual arguments about the person making the page. Ask students to locate or bring in examples of overly designed or badly designed pages. How does the design reflect and represent the author of the page? How does effective visual argument diverge from effective visual design?

5. Comeeko
Comeeko allows you to upload photos and add captions to create a web-based comic strip. Students can use this tool to create compositions in the style of graphic novels.

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Categories: Argument, Document Design, Learning Styles, Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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