ERG SES G 03, Children and Education
Young children are naturally using whatever is at hand, when creating, interacting or making meaning in a situation (Kress, 1997). This multimodal ability could be an important skill in education where information is presented through a collaboration of illustrations such as images, models, sketches, animations as well as bodily-based actions, in order to introduce, clarify or repeat certain contents. The wide range of information, presupposes that children can handle visual, verbal and physical affordances often at the same time when grasping the content (Lemke, 2000). This also implies that one illustration affords exactly the same message to all individuals. However, researchers have stated that illustrations cannot be assumed to be universal or transparent, but rather depending on the person doing an interpretation and in the situation in which this is done (Kress, 2003). Further, it is also indicated that each mode provides various meaning potentials, which adds to the complexity of this matter (Jewitt, 2008) and raises questions about the wide range of explanatory illustrations in use in educational settings and the need to offer children opportunities to develop multimodal skills. Previous research in the literacy field, have actually highlighted difficulties, for example when elementary and high-school pupils are trying to make sense out of illustrations such as diagrams, flowcharts or cartogram (e.g., Ainley, 2000; Åberg-Bengtsson, 2006; Åberg-Bengtsson & Ottosson, 2006). These are important findings, but even so, we still know very little about younger pupils such as preschool children’s interaction with illustrations.
This paper presents a study of 4-5-year-old preschool children as they interact and make meaning out of illustrations afforded by guides at a Science Centre, as well as a follow-up activity back at the preschool. Both of these activities related to the Science-Centre themes; The Swedish Royal Ship of Vasa and Air has the power to lift and included a wide range of hands-on activities, dramas and guiding. The overall aim is to study how visual information is offered children via for example bodily-based illustrations and models. What can such illustrations afford children in terms of what they are intended to illustrate? What kind of meaning-making do they render? What learning is made possible through these illustrations and activities and what could be difficult to grasp?
Using a combination of sociocultural and multimodal theories, the analysis focus on the situated interaction between the children, the teachers and the guides at the Centre; both in terms of what is offered and what they actually are doing. By drawing on to these perspectives, the non-linguistic resources as well as verbal communication are regarded equally important and considered as situated in the actual learning environment. This implies that we make sense out of the illustrations according to the cultural context of which we are a part (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Meira, 1998; Rogoff, 1990; 1995). Stated differently, visual information cannot be assumed to be universal, but rather dependent on the person doing the interpretation and the situation in which this is done (Kress, 2003). The findings will be discussed through concepts of embodied illustrations, material affordances and learning potentials.
Ainley, Janet (2000). Transparency in graphs and graphing tasks: An interative design process. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 19, 365-384. Jewitt, Carey (2008). Multimodality, media, learning and identity. Medien Journal, 32 (1), 31-40. Kress, Gunter (1997) Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy: London:Routledge. Kress, Gunther (2003). Literacy in the new media age. London: Routledge. Kress, Gunther, & van Leeuwen, Theo (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge. Lemke, Jay (2000). Multimedia Literacy of the Science Curriculum. Linguistics and Education, 10, 241-271. Meira, Luciano (1998). Making sense of instructional devices: The emergence of transparency in mathematical activity. Journal of Reaserch in Mathematics Education, 29, 121-142. Rogoff, Barbara (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking. Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press. Rogoff, Barbara (1995). Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: Participatory appropriation, guided participatory, and apprenticeship. Ingår i Wertsch, James V, Río, Pablo del, & Alvarez, Amelia. (Red.). Sociocultural studies of mind. New York: Camebridge University Press. Åberg-Bengtsson, Lisbeth (2006). Then we can take half…almost? – Elementary students learning bar graphs and pie charts in computer-based context. Journal of Mathematical Behavior,25, 116-135. Åberg-Bengtsson, Lisbeth, & Ottosson, Torgny (2006). What lies behind graphicacy? Students’ results on a test of graphically represented quantitative information to formal academic achievement. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43, 43-62.
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