I love the idea of reading vintage ads online, as we did, but what are other ways in which students can learn to engage with visual rhetoric, as well as hone their own fluency in this area? Here are three of the assignments that I did for 207, along with my specific goals for each focused on visual rhetoric.
One assignment was a rhetorical analysis of a website. In this, I specifically asked them to address not only the written rhetoric of the site, but the visual rhetoric that accompanied it. We spent some time going over the ways that images could be read, and we also spent time in class examining the impact that page layout, font, and other design choices can enhance or undermine the rhetorical effectiveness of a page. This was a fairly successful assignment, but I found that students really had a hard time doing detailed analysis of both visual and written content at the same time. The next time that I do a class like this, I may have them do them in two separate, smaller steps, and then edit the two documents together to finish.
The assignment immediately following this was an iMovie that was originally to be on any topic a group could agree on. However, luckily there was a contest on campus looking for videos about respect; this gave me the perfect opportunity to assign contest entries, giving my students far more motivation than they might normally have had. Clearly, in this assignment, visual rhetoric was key. I felt that the assignment was fairly successful, but I wish that I'd had more time for it, as I would have been able to spend more time on storyboarding. This might have led to more deliberate choices by some groups...however, there were some very good things turned in for this one.
The final assignment in the class was for students to pull together a multimodal document that addressed some issue related to writing. The consideration of visual rhetoric was key for this one as well, obviously...but some students still didn't make the connection between the text and the visual elements. In several cases, the final product was visually attractive but had little substance, or the visual attractiveness was completely unrelated to content. I'm not completely sure how this can be addressed in the future; one thought, however, would be to require all students to work with one specific category of text. If everyone was working on a physical artifact, or on a webpage, it might be easier to discuss ways in which text and visuals could work together in their documents as a class.
This was a major area of focus for this class, and I was pretty pleased with student understanding in this area for the most part...but I really want to refine my teaching techniques and ideas here for the future. The book we used, Picturing Texts, was a great help, but I'd still like to bring in other material. Any ideas, Kris/others?