Missed opportunities in teaching / Columns / The Foreigner

The Foreigner Missed opportunities in teaching. OPINION: Textbook pictures provide an immediate window into another culture in learning a foreign language. But just like words, they are not neutral. Images have histories; they can remind us of other pictures we have seen, or people we know. They have effects; they can portray people or things in a negative or positive light. Image makers have choices in how they present the world to us through choice of camera angle, lighting, cropping, etc. These selections play a large role in how images communicate. A close-up shot can help readers to create an imaginary relationship with the person depicted, while a long-shot distances the person represented from the viewer.

education, schools, stereotypes, books, curriculum, paywall



The Foreigner Logo

The Foreigner is an online publication for English speakers living or who have an interest in Norway. Whether it’s a glimpse of news or entertainment you’re after, there’s no need to leave your linguistic armchair. You don’t need to cry over the demise of the English pages of Aftenposten.no, The Foreigner is here!

Norske nyheter på engelsk fra Norge. The Foreigner er en engelskspråklig internett avis for de som bor eller som er interessert i Norge.

Google+ Google+ Twitter Facebook RSS RSS



Columns Article

LATEST:

}

Missed opportunities in teaching

Published on Saturday, 21st May, 2016 at 13:18 under the columns category, by Jena Habegger-Conti.
Last Updated on 23rd May 2016 at 21:03.

OPINION: Textbook pictures provide an immediate window into another culture in learning a foreign language. But just like words, they are not neutral.



Images have histories; they can remind us of other pictures we have seen, or people we know. They have effects; they can portray people or things in a negative or positive light.

Image makers have choices in how they present the world to us through choice of camera angle, lighting, cropping, etc. These selections play a large role in how images communicate. A close-up shot can help readers to create an imaginary relationship with the person depicted, while a long-shot distances the person represented from the viewer.

Textbook publishers also make choices when selecting images. These are not necessarily conscious, but they still communicate a set of values and beliefs about what we might think is a “nice picture”, who we think “looks scary”. One question we could ask, then, is why are immigrants so often presented from a distance, while others are not?

Masters student Cecilie Waallann Brown and I have examined four published books that are used in English-language teaching at Lower Secondary School level in Norway. Instead of reinforcing the one-sided stereotype of Mexicans as illegal immigrants and smugglers, one book in particular could have included some of the very positive things that Mexicans have contributed to the U.S. like food, music, literature, language; these have occurred throughout a long history of cultural border crossings.

But by choosing images that distance the reader and that portray stereotypes, the publishers have missed out on an opportunity. It is the opportunity to depict the rich and diverse blending of cultures in English-speaking countries; the opportunity that has uniquely resulted from different people coming into contact with each other over time.

They have also lost the chance to challenge students with versions of cultures other than the ones they most likely already know through stereotypes. The images don’t help students to be interested and motivated in learning about other cultures as intended and to think: These are people that I want to get to know.

The intention of our research was to raise awareness about the importance of critical literacy skills – skills in reading pictures for more than just their obvious content. The initial focus was meant to be on how we could better train teachers to help students “read” photos, not to point fingers at textbook publishers or uncover an underlying message of racism.

But it seems now that we have uncovered something other than we initially set out to do, and something perhaps more important: the need for meaningful discussions about race and culture in Norway.

The current situation in Norway and Europe with a growing number of immigrants and “differences” means that teaching respect and tolerance is of utmost importance today. Definitive stories – or stereotypes – have the effect of distancing us from people. Imagining someone as different is a way of excluding that person or those people from the definition of “us”.

It allows us to be more confident in our own views and ways of life, which we see as “normal.” It allows us to hide from the fact that the other person is a thinking and feeling human being too, just like us.

Telling just one story contains inherent dangers and missed opportunities.

Jena Habegger-Conti is Associate Professor of English at the University of Stavanger. She teaches a course on visual literacy in which she asks students to consider the choices made by image producers.




Published on Saturday, 21st May, 2016 at 13:18 under the columns category, by Jena Habegger-Conti.
Last updated on 23rd May 2016 at 21:03.

This post has the following tags: education, schools, stereotypes, books, curriculum, paywall.





  
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!