6. Multimodal Arguments: Teaching Argument with Visuals

My appreciation of art (which I consider to be anything produced as a visual medium) has already found its way into my lesson activities in the short amount of time I have been in the classroom. Thus far, I have used art as discussion and writing prompts, a strategy for teaching analysis, and as a means of teaching various literary devices. Recently, I encountered the concept of teaching multimodal arguments through the partnership of images with the claim, evidence, and warrant components of the Toulmin model of argumentation, and I fully intend on adding this to the list of ways I integrate the visual realm into my instruction. Although these visual arguments can easily be found in search engines (Pawel Kuczynski has some particularly great contemporary satirical art for this topic of instruction), I have found that producing these visual arguments myself has been an empowering and engaging use of my time that I feel students will benefit from in my classroom. There are dozens of tools that you can use to do this (and I’m looking for more recommendations!), but the educator tech platform that I experimented with for the purpose of creating the multimodal arguments about the dangers surrounding social media below is the free version of Easel.ly (https://www.easel.ly/).

Images and background provided in the free version of Easel.ly
Claim: You must teach children early to value affection from those who care about them more than the affections of those who don’t.
Evidence: The photo of a mother holding her baby affectionately while her baby is looking down at a superimposed image of a phone with a Facebook login represents the juxtaposition between the mother and the child’s focus and mood.
Warrant: Social media distracts children from the love of their parents and they become dependent on the attention and approval of others at an early age.
Images and background provided in the free version of Easel.ly
Claim: Social media can ruin and distract from significant, beautiful moments in a person’s life.
Evidence: A superimposed image of a Facebook screen on a phone over a bouquet of flowers illustrates a bride inhaling social media rather than the flowers she is holding. This indicates a lack of appreciation for a joyous moment as well as the beautiful flowers in her hands.
Warrant: When people focus on social media more than the moment they are living, they lose sight of what is important and the beauty of significant moments in life.

Ease.ly is an intuitive platform and has a variety of image categories, backgrounds, and tools to use. Although there was a large variety of categories to choose from, there were some limitations on how many images per category that were available for the free version so it might be beneficial for students to take their own photos and upload them to the website as well.

Tips for using Ease.ly and other Multimodal Platforms for Argumentation:

*Introduce multimodal argumentation through already created images first

*Provide collaborative brainstorming time for multimodal argument ideas

*Have students explore the various image categories, backgrounds, and tools on the platform before coming up with their own argument

*Have students hide their multimodal claim, evidence, and warrants and have peers guess each student’s claim and warrant using evidence they observe in the created image

Some Other Things to Consider:

Dr. Ryan Rish writes about the concept of double exposure, or the remediation of a photo with a superimposed image in order to create new meaning and the effects and controversies associated with the topic, in his blog post “Double Exposure” (2012). Some of the questions he asks teachers to consider (and to ask in their own classrooms) include when it is appropriate remediate, or change, an image in order to generate new meaning based on personal beliefs as well as accounting for meaning of the original image and the shift in meaning once it has been altered.

In creating multimodal arguments, I believe these type of discussions are important for us to have with our students and will further add to their understanding and appreciation of the narratives that visual images can and do provide for readers (and that they can create themselves).

References:

Rish, R. (2012, October 30). Double Exposure. Retrieved June 30, 2019, from https://ryanrish.com/2012/10/30/double-exposure/

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